Circuit training and why you should give it a shot

Circuit training (CT) is very popular among the fitness community and for a good reason, but I sill meet a lot of people who think that this type of workout is not consistent with their goals or they are too unfit or even too fit for CT. It’s quite the opposite really and whatever your goals and current fitness level are, the right circuit training can always benefit you. Unless you are an Olympic athlete trying the beat Bolt’s world record. In this case you might look at some other training options…

In a nutshell, CT is a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and it is normally made of a set of several exercises (usually 6 – 10) that are completed in succession with minimal or no rest. If that sounds brutal to you – yes, it indeed can be and it is the main purpose and beauty of CT! You bust your ass and you get the best results. Such high intensity interval training burns a huge amount of calories both during and after the workout, it improves your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, agility, improves your body composition…. I can go on forever, so you might just believe it – circuit training is a great form of exercise and it can easily be scaled up or down depending  on your fitness level, so you don’t really need to be a six-packed muscle machine to do it.

I find that circuit training complements my overall weight training and running/cycling in a great way and I can definitely see improvement in my performance and body composition. I usually do CT only once or twice a week and it still gives me great results..

Who will benefit from circuit training:

  1. Someone who wants to lose weight and improve body composition, as circuit training is a real furnace for fat burning. I regularly run 60+ km weeks, but these long runs do not even stand close with the fat-burning and body-shaping capacity of a short intense training session.
  2. Total beginner who simply wants to get fit.
  3. If you are limited for time but still want to squeeze in a good workout – a tough CT session might be just right for you.

What CT cannot do for you:

  1. It cannot help you bulk up and build muscle mass, you will need to do a different muscle hypertrophy routine.
  2. It will not help you lift heavier, though a total beginner will definitely get stronger.
  3. It might not be very useful for improvement of specific athletic performance, unless the circuit is designed as such.

There are really no limitations to the types of exercises you can do here, you can totally rely on the body weight workouts (air squats, press-ups, lunges, hops, etc.) which is great when you are limited for space and do it at home, or you can utilize different gym equipment and weights.

The usual downside of doing such CT at home is that it can be really hard to push yourself to the maximum. We tend to stop and take rest, thinking that we can not go on any further, while in reality our bodies are capable of much more. I see this picture so often CT classes: Someone stops halfway to take a rest, but if there is an instructor nearby who yells “Don’t stop, keep moving!” the slacker gets moving in 90% of cases. That is why I would  prefer to attend various circuit or HIIT classes when the overall camaraderie of the class and the instructors push me harder than I think I am actually capable of.

How to choose the perfect CT class for you? Here are some tips:

  1. If you are a beginner in fitness, it makes sense to start with the class that utilizes basic bodyweight movements that require minimum skill, such as squats, push-ups, side hops, etc. It might be quite a disaster if a beginner is asked to perform barbell push jerks as park of the  routine.
  2. Make sure that the instructors explain you all the movements in advance and show you the proper form. Bad form combined with high intensity and high number of reps can result in an injury.
  3. Disadvantage of some of the group classes is that the instructors are not able to pay close attention to everyone. How you can say that the instructors are on top of their game? It they are right next to you the moment you start slacking or trying to get a cheeky little rest . These are the best instructors that do pay attention and ready to kick your butt whenever is required.
  4. I live in Dubai and here we have beach side bootcamps that are a real fitness fashion go-to. In winter, when the weather is nice and relatively cool, it could be a good idea, however summers are tough. Pushing your self hard at 40 degrees heat and 90% humidity puts an extra unnecessary strain of your heart and body. Besides, I love to be able to concentrate on my pushing though a particular exercise and not think of how much sand i have down my shoes and pants… So yes, choose the place wisely. If you do not feel comfortable in a particular place or with particular people – find something else.

And now, a little butt-busting circuit that I like doing when i am really short for time or when I am travelling and have no access to any equipment.

warm-up with 100 rope jumps or 1 min running on a spot.

  • 30 sec of burpees
  • 30 sec of jumping squats
  • 30 sec of sit-ups
  • 30 sec of push-ups
  • 30 sec plank
  • 30 sec of alternate lunge jumps
  • 30 sec of side hops hop over a barbell or another object on the floor)
  • 30 sec burpees

This is one set that should take you 4 min to complete. Don’t rest between exercises of the set.  Take 1 min rest after the set and the repeat 2 more times so its 14 min for the overall circuit.

Happy sweating!

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