What is circuit training?

By Jim Lloyd, CSCS

Circuit training is an interval-based workout program. You complete several different exercises in rapid succession, with short rests in between. Generally, you’ll perform each exercise at a high intensity for a set period of time or set number of reps. After doing one series of exercises, or completing one “circuit,” you’ll start at the beginning again and complete the circuit one to two more time. While a circuit might include any one of hundreds of exercises, the workouts fall into a specific categories.

Strength and conditioning specialist, Jim Lloyd, at Sanford POWER in Sioux Falls, SDStrength Circuit consists of weight-bearing, strength-focused exercises. You may perform a strength circuit using body-weight exercises, free-weight exercises or machine-based exercises. You can design strength circuits to target areas like legs, chest, core, or a combination of all using only free weights like dumbbells and barbells or you can combine body-weight, machine based, and free weights.

Cardio Circuit – include a quick succession of moves such as jumping jacks, agility ladder, cone drills, jump squats, box step-ups and jumping rope each station last 30-60 seconds. Another alternative for a cardio circuit is to use a variety of machines with each station lasting for 2 minutes. For example, treadmill interval sprints, followed by stationary bike for hill climb, hit the elliptical for stride speed as fast as possible, move to step mill, and finish with intense rowing on rowing machine. Complete these circuits two to three times or 20- to 30-minutes.

Strength-Cardio circuit is a combination of strength exercises and cardio exercise to work the entire body. These circuits can be designed in many different formats. One example would be a strength training move – such as squats followed immediately by box jumps or treadmill intervals – followed by another strength move like pushups. Repeat this sequence for 8-10 station using time or time and reps.

Sport-specific circuit would be designed for athletes looking to improve their performance in a particular sport. For example, a running circuit might include leg and core strengthening exercisers interspersed among half-mile race pace runs on the treadmill.

Circuit training workouts hold a number of advantages over traditional exercise sessions. They burn more calories in the same or shorter periods of time, they help you boost your aerobic capacity and they provide a healthy dose of variety that can keep you motivated and interested in your fitness routine.