How To Get Started With Circuit Training
You’ve likely heard of the term ‘circuit training’ before but might not be familiar with what it is or how to get started.
We know it can be tough to stay motivated to keep on track with your workouts - especially when you feel like you’re strapped for time and the few workouts you do get in leave you feeling like you accomplished nothing. This is actually one of the biggest reasons people give up.
Circuit training is a type of workout routine that combines several exercises back-to-back. It’s time efficient, it’s intense, and it’s a great way to burn body fat and build muscle.
WHY DO CIRCUIT TRAINING
So, we’ve already touched on some of the core perks of circuit training, but let’s dive a little deeper and find out if this is the very thing you’ve been missing.
Many people who don’t have any issue getting to the gym 4-5 times per week will even add one or two days of circuit training into the mix purely for the added benefits this type of training offers that traditional cardio and weight training can’t possibly compare to.
One of circuit trainings biggest benefits is the fact that it saves you a ton of time. For many busy people this type of training is ideal – especially if you want to tone muscle, or burn calories and burn fat.
Circuit training is designed to be intense and tough, so you can get a good, solid workout in quickly, without losing too much time from your day. The fast nature of completing a circuit means you’re not resting very much in-between exercises (as you do with weight training) and the calorie burn far exceeds what you could accomplish on the treadmill.
Tone That Muscle
Your muscles need to be worked beyond their daily, normal duties. You need to build muscle in order to feel fit and strong, and to help burn calories and fat.
Why? A Calorie is just a measurement of energy from food. Your muscles need a lot of energy - therefore, the more muscle mass you have, the more energy your body will be burning.
With the high-intensity nature of circuit training, completing weight exercises like bench presses or bicep curls, you’ll gain muscle and melt the fat even quicker than if you were isolating your workouts.
Weight Loss Wonder
This perfect blend of constant movement and muscular resistance will make you end up burning a ton of calories and body fat.
But what does that mean? Have you ever wondered how body fat actually gets burned off? Very simply, mind you, it comes down to 3 factors:
- Proper nutrition
- Muscle mass
- Fat Oxidation
Without getting to deeply into it, while your body absolutely needs carbs, a “weight loss” diet is commonly higher in protein and fats because once the energy from carbs has been used up, your body will then signal that it’s time to burn its secondary energy source: Fat.
Truly, “Fat Loss” comes down to Fat Oxidation. The body requires a fuel source combined with the delivery of oxygen to create energy. Exercise will help trigger this release of fatty acids into your bloodstream and off to the cells that need energy.
Fat is actually burned by the oxygen you breathe in. So where does your fat go? About 85% is exhaled as carbon dioxide and the rest is turned into water - i.e. sweat.
BACK TO THE POINT:
Many studies have found that High Intensity Circuit Training and similarly High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are ideal for quick, efficient fat loss.
30 minutes of circuit training can burn almost 300 calories. If you add weight to the equation you can burn even more energy because you’re building more muscle and because your body is sent into a state commonly called Afterburn.
The Afterburn Effect
Also known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is an amazing side benefit to circuit training. Essentially, the Afterburn Effect happens to your body after a seriously intense period of physical activity.
Your body stays warm and continues burning calories at a higher rate when at rest for up to 72 hours after your workout. This means your circuit training workout is going a longer way than a traditional workout at the gym.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Circuit Training Basics
Take some exercises you already do, like lunges, burpees, push-ups or bench presses. Normally these types of exercises will pop-up on a certain day, like when you’re just training your chest or arms. You’ll focus on completing one set of these and then you’ll take a break and move on.
You rest because you want to give your muscles an opportunity to briefly regain some energy so you can complete your next set. This is great for straight muscle gain, but burns very few calories and can take up to an hour to complete. It also means you’re only exercising a few muscle groups.
Circuit training uses these same types of exercises but doesn’t focus on isolating muscle groups. Circuit training is a workout routine sent into overdrive, mixing strength training with cardio while combining different exercises to give you an intense, well rounded, full body workout complete in about 30 minutes.
You’ll be performing exercises back-to-back and forcing your body into using the aerobic energy supply so you’re getting the oxygen and energy needed to work your muscles hard. This in turn improves your cardio fitness. When it comes to weight loss, working your muscles AND improving your cardio is a recipe for reaching your goals, fast.
Should You Take Classes?
Classes and Personal Trainers are always a helpful idea, especially when trying something new. They can be motivating and confidence building, and having someone there to help correct your form or approach to a new exercise clearly has its benefits.
But this approach can also be quite expensive - and so long as you take a minute to get familiar with the exercises and are self-motivated enough to keep yourself on track, it really isn’t necessary.
You can figure out a circuit yourself because they are mostly designed to be simple, functional and dynamic. Being able to create a circuit that works for you can be fun and rewarding.
To get you started, we’re going to look at a couple exercises you can do at home or at the gym.
YOUR CIRCUIT WORKOUT
Without a proper warm up, you could be putting yourself at risk for injury. You should always start your circuit training with a five or ten minute warm up that prepares your muscles and sets you up for a fantastic workout.
Warm Up Goals:
- Gradually Raise Your Pulse: Jogging, Jump Rope (3-5 min)
- Lubricate Joint Mobility: Shallow Knee Bends to Full Squats, Shoulder Shrugs to Full Arm Circles
- Dynamic Stretching: Legs Swings, Lunges, T-Push Ups
Select Your Time Limit
You’ll want to perform each exercise for around 45 seconds, or with weight for 20 to 30 repetitions. Short breaks after each exercise should be used to rest and drink water before jumping back into another circuit - your resting time should allow you to catch your breath and move confidently into the next exercise, but you don’t want to let your heart rate drop too much. (Our examples below suggest a 15 second rest)
Keep it intense and flowing so you burn fat and make the most out of your workout. Your maximum time limit can be between 10 and 45 minutes, but we’re going to look at two circuits that come in around 40 – 45 minutes.
Circuit 1 | Home Workout
This routine will use bodyweight exercises, so you can do it right at home. Warm up and then repeat the following exercises for 45 seconds each.
- Squat Jumps
- Jumping Rope
- Tricep Digs
- Jumping Jacks
- Abdominal Crunches
Try to limit rest to 15 seconds between sets so you’re getting in a high-intensity workout.
After one full circuit (completion of all 8 exercises) take a 3-5 minute break, and then repeat the circuit again two more times.
This entire circuit will take you around 40 to 45 minutes including your warm up time. And that’s it! That’s one circuit in the bag, and a good workout under your belt. Make sure to drink plenty of water and cool down after your workout.
Circuit 2 | Gym Workout
This next workout will include dumbbell and fitness ball exercises, so you can take it to the gym. Again, each exercise should be done for 45 second or 20 to 30 reps. You also want to make sure the weight you use is right for you. Don’t pick something too light or too heavy. Try starting with weights at about 60% of your 1 Rep Max (This is the max weight you can lift 1 time).
Your final circuit should be nearly impossible to complete.
- Biceps Curls
- Seated Shoulder Presses on the Fitness Ball
- Squat Jumps
- Bench Presses
- Abdominal Crunches on the Fitness Ball
- Bent-Over Rows
- Tricep Curls
Repeat the circuit three times total and take 3-5 minute breaks between circuits. Only allow yourself 15 seconds rest in-between exercises. The key is to keep your heart rate going steady throughout the circuit.
Make It Your Own
Creating your own circuit isn’t that difficult. Just remember some key points:
- Keep your heart pumping with short rest periods.
- Alternating muscle groups is a great way to organise a workout you can complete everything, allowing one group to recover while you workout another.
- Push yourself to the max!
- Don’t be afraid to mix it up often - circuits can be super engaging and fun.
There are many ways to create a circuit, and varying levels of intensity. If you’re enjoying these workouts, we encourage you to look deeper into ways to turn up the heat!
That said, because these workouts are so intense, it’s usually a good idea to give yourself about 3 days rest between circuit training days.