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Circuit Training Exercises

Woman stretching before her workout
If a lack of time is the main reason why you don’t exercise more, then circuit training may be the perfect workout for you since you

It’s a new year and people all over the world are excited for what’s to come in 2022!

One survey found that over 75% of people around the world think 2022 will be a better year than 2021. And another recent survey showed that upon reflecting on the pandemic and their health over the past year, 62% of Americans said they are expecting to enjoy better health in 2022, with 89% of people planning to continue new habits developed during the pandemic.

The survey found that the top habits Americans plan on practicing in the new year are to: spend more time with family (51%), maintain an exercise routine (47%), and continue stress management practices (43%). Exercising more and losing weight are also two of the top three resolutions that people set for 2022, according to another survey.

So, whether you’re eager to continue the new habits that you developed during the pandemic, or you’re planning on making healthy lifestyle changes in 2022, such as exercising more and losing weight, it might be a good idea to incorporate circuit training into your fitness program, especially if you want to switch up your cardio routine.

What Is Circuit Training? 

Circuit training combines cardio and strength training exercises for a quick, efficient workout that focuses on improving muscle tone and definition, as well as cardiovascular fitness.

Circuits usually range from six to 10 exercises, which target all of your major muscle groups. The exercises within each circuit are usually separated by a brief, timed rest interval (up to 60 seconds), or no rest at all between exercises.

Once all of the exercises in a circuit training workout have been completed – either for repetitions (a certain number of reps) or time (typically ranging from 30 seconds to three minutes) – you may rest for a longer rest period (from one to five minutes). Then it’s time to repeat the exercises again since circuits are typically completed one to three times total.

5 Benefits Of Circuit Training Workouts 

1. Circuit Training Workouts Are Short AND Effective

A survey found that “I don’t have time” is the top reason why Americans don’t exercise more frequently. So, if a lack of time is the main reason why you don’t exercise more, then circuit training may be the perfect workout for you since you can fit in an effective, total-body workout in 30 minutes or less. In fact, most circuit training workouts can usually be completed in 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Circuit Training Workouts Can Be Designed For All Fitness Levels

Whether you’re a fit mom who exercises regularly or you’re someone who hasn’t exercised since high school gym class, circuit training is extremely versatile and can be designed for all fitness levels.

Many gyms offer a variety of circuit training classes, which are designed for different difficulty levels. Plus, personal trainers can also design circuit training routines for you based on your health and fitness goals.

3. Circuit Training May Promote Weight Loss

 The combination of weight training and cardiovascular exercise makes circuit training one of the best weight loss workouts.

While aerobic exercise is usually what most people do when they want to lose weight, it’s not necessarily the most efficient exercise you can do for weight loss. Yes, cardio is important to lose weight, but for best results you need to add in some exercises that build your muscles, as well.

In fact, one recent study suggests that we can lose around 1.4% of our entire body fat through strength training alone, which is similar to how much we might lose through cardio or aerobic fitness.

“A lot of people think that if you want to lose weight, you need to go out and run,” the senior author of the study said. “But our findings show that even when strength training is done on its own, it still causes a favorable loss of body fat without having to consciously diet or go running.”

Also, with circuit training, you can burn a lot of calories, which may help you lose weight.

4. Circuit Training Improves Muscular Endurance (And Can Help You Do Daily Activities Better)

Muscular endurance is your body’s ability to sustain exercise for a period of time.

To help you sustain each exercise longer, circuit training involves the recruitment of slow-twitch muscle fibers. That’s because you usually perform a high number of reps for each exercise when doing a circuit training workout.

So, over time, not only will you be able to perform better in the circuit, it can also help you with other activities in fitness and your daily life by allowing you to use your muscles longer and more effectively.

In fact, a study, “Aerobic or Resistance Exercise, Or Both, in Dieting Obese Older Adults,” published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded: “Of the methods tested, weight loss plus combined aerobic and resistance exercise was the most effective in improving functional status of obese older adults.”

5. Circuit Training May Improve Your Mood

Our moods fluctuate on a daily basis, but staying active helps boost your mood, especially after a stressful day.

So, if you’re feeling stressed, do a cardio workout, resistance training, or a circuit training session. That’s because both forms of exercise found in circuit training – cardio and strength training – have been shown to help improve your mood by releasing feel-good endorphins.

The Difference Between Circuit Training And High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

If you’re a fan of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you might be wondering right now: What’s the difference between circuit training and HIIT?

While circuit training and HIIT are two workout methods that include aerobic and strength training components, and can also be completed in a short amount of time, probably the most important difference between circuit training and HIIT is that a HIIT workout is done at a maximum effort. In circuit training, you’re able to control the intensity of the session.

How To Build A Circuit Training Workout

The types of exercises included in a circuit training session will vary based on your health goals, fitness level, and mobility, as well as several other factors, such as whether you’re working out at home or at the gym.

Step 1: Start With A Quick Warm Up

Before you begin any exercise session, it’s extremely important to do a quick warm up.

Why do you need to warm up? Well, warming up helps prepare your body for aerobic activity by gradually revving up your cardiovascular system – raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Warming up may also help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury.

Some exercises that you can do for a quick and effective dynamic warm up are: arm circles and shoulder shrugs, jumping jacks, bodyweight squats, lunges, swinging toe touches, leg swings, and hip raises.

Step 2: Pace Yourself, Especially At First

 Circuit training workouts are based around a set number of exercises that you’ll repeat until your time runs out. That’s why you need to know how much time you have for your workout ahead of time. This way, you can determine the number of circuits you’ll be able to complete and how hard you’ll need to work in the time that you have.

Since you’ll be alternating the parts of your body and the muscles that you’re using during your circuit training workout, you may not need to rest for very long between exercises. That said, if you’re new to circuit training, you might need more rest between exercises than someone who has been doing circuit training for a long time, which is completely normal and to be expected! Then once you’re more familiar with circuit training, and are in better shape, you can shorten your rest periods.

Also, since circuit training can be intense, give your body a break between workouts.

Step 3: Familiarize Yourself With The Different Types Of Circuit Training Exercises

If you’re creating a circuit training workout for yourself, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with upper-body circuit training exercises, lower-body circuit training exercises, total-body circuit training exercises, and cardio circuit training exercises.

Then based on the amount of time that you have for your circuit training workout, you can decide how many (and which) circuit training exercises you’ll be doing from each category.

Here are some examples of upper-body, lower-body, total-body, and cardio circuit training exercises that you can choose from.

Examples Of Upper-Body Circuit Training Exercises:

  • Shoulder Press
  • Bent-Over Row
  • Standing Dumbbell Curl
  • Triceps Dip
  • Push-Up

Examples Of Lower-Body Circuit Training Exercises:

  • Forward Lunge
  • Sumo Squat
  • Calf Raise
  • Single-Leg Deadlift
  • Hamstring Curl

Examples Of Total-Body Circuit Training Exercises:

  • Mountain Climbers
  • Bench Hop Overs
  • Jumping Lunge
  • Dumbbell Squat To Shoulder Press
  • Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing

Examples Of Cardio Circuit Training Exercises:

  • Running
  • Jumping Rope
  • Rowing
  • Cycling
  • Stair Climbing

You can also go to a circuit training class at your gym led by a professional fitness instructor, ask your personal trainer to create a circuit training routine specifically designed for you, or you can research different circuit training workouts on your own.

Step 4: Complete Your Circuit Training Workout

To get you started, here’s a sample circuit training workout plan for women, which features six exercises.

Sample Circuit Training Routine For Women:

  • Dumbbell Squats (20 reps)
  • Push-Ups (12 reps)
  • Dumbbell Rows (12 reps)
  • Machine Calf Raises (15 reps)
  • Lunges (10 reps)
  • Swiss Ball Crunches (25 reps)

Perform all six exercises one after another in a continuous manner (or with a quick rest break, if needed) to complete one full circuit. Once you’ve completed one full circuit, rest for a minute, or as long as you need. Then repeat the exercises once more in order to complete two circuits in all.

Step 5: Cool Down

Cooling down after a circuit training session will help reduce some of the stress your body has experienced. That’s because a post-workout cool down will bring your heart rate down gradually, reduce your body temperature, lower your blood pressure to baseline, help clear lactic acid from your muscles, and prevent blood pooling that occurs if you stop exercising suddenly.

At the end of your workout session, you can do static stretching (holding a stretch for a length of time) as part of your cool down routine. The benefits of static stretching, include: relief from cramping, improved range of motion in the joints, decreased risk for injury, and a decrease in the delayed-onset muscle soreness.

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