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It seems like there’s a new exercise craze every month or a trendy workout will suddenly get a ton of attention and praise. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of jumping on fitness bandwagons only to be disappointed time and again. What I need is a workout program that is serious rather than gimmicky and guaranteed to show results. Frankly, I don’t have time for anything else.
Since I’m pressed for time, I want to train fast and hard and I definitely want to look and feel fit. So, when I heard about circuit training, I was intrigued, yet somewhat skeptical. Do you want to know what happened after my first few days?
I was hooked.
What is circuit training?
Circuit training involves working different muscle groups at a time with a minimal amount of rest in between. The idea is to keep your heart rate up to build muscles as well as stamina and strength. As long as you push yourself and commit to your workout routine, you can see real results, whether your goal is to burn fat, lose weight, or build muscle.
The workouts are at least 20 minutes and involve a variety of exercises (sometimes called stations). You do between 10 -25 reps of each exercise before moving on to the next with little to no rest, taking a break only if your body demands one.
Circuit training vs other workouts
Circuit training, interval training and strength training are not the same thing, although it’s understandable why you may not know the difference.
In a nutshell, circuit training is one continuous workout; there are no breaks whether it’s 15 minutes or 45 minutes. Since each exercise focuses on a different part of your body—for example, first legs, then arms, then core—your muscles are able to get sufficient rest before they fire up again.
Interval training alternates between high-impact exercises and low-impact moves and even includes rest periods.
With strength training (also known as resistance training), the overall goal is to boost strength endurance, and muscle mass using resistance bands and dumbbells, among other tools, along with your own bodyweight.
Weight training, which is actually a type of strength training, seeks to improve the size and strength of skeletal muscles. To do this you use weighted bars, dumbbells, and weight stacks, among other equipment.
Benefits of circuit workouts
At each station, you’ll do up to 25 reps of one exercise and then quickly move on to the next. The stations may take 30 seconds to complete or up to 3 minutes, depending on the exercise.
For example, you may do 25 squats, then jump rope for 60 seconds, then hold a forearm plank for 1 ½ minutes, then switch to walking lunges, then do kettlebell swings, then biceps curls and so on, in a single training session.
Can I do this at home?
You can absolutely do at home circuit training. In fact, there are loads of training options and fitness classes available online and on DVDs because so many folks are committed to doing this in their own space rather than seeking out classes in gyms or studios.
Nowadays, at home circuit training is a totally viable workout option, not to mention the money you save by skipping that gym membership.
What’s great about these training workouts is that you can add in any exercise you want: renegade row, goblet squats, overhead presses, bear crawls, squat jumps, etc. And at the end of the day, it’s a total body workout.
Do I need special equipment?
There’s no required equipment, which is a major reason to do this workout at home.
Of course, you can always add in dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, etc., but you can also rely on your own body weight to provide all of the resistance you need to get a full-on workout. The only things you need are enough space to move freely, a bottle of water, and determination!
Do I need a trainer?
If you’ve never done anything like this before, you should absolutely check out introductory videos online. It’s super helpful to know what to expect and to become familiar with some of the terminology.
In addition, before you dive in, make sure you understand the proper way to do each exercise; you won’t be getting into shape if you aren’t doing the moves correctly.
What does a circuit routine look like?
The key to a good circuit routine is to work one muscle group while another muscle group rests.
In other words, you could start with triceps-dips followed by lunges, followed by pull-ups, without resting in between. Ideally, you have 8-10 stations to complete, which you can repeat as often as you like.
For example, here is what an 8-station circuit might look like:
You would figure out how many of each exercise to do in order to work out for a minimum of 20 minutes. Obviously, the number is different for everyone because it depends on your skill and fitness levels.
If at any point you feel the exercises are too easy, go ahead and add free weights. Remember, with added weight, you should expect to do fewer reps than before.
What’s not to like?
Whether you’re hoping to whip yourself into shape this summer or simply spice up your current workouts, circuit training is definitely worth trying. Incorporating a circuit training workout into your daily schedule together with healthy eating can help you transform your body.
Since you can tailor the exercises to match your skill level, it’s a great option for both beginners and hard-core athletes. What’s more, it’s one of the most efficient total body workout programs that’s well-suited to a home gym or even your very own living room. In other words, what’s stopping you from giving it a try?