At some point, you’ve probably heard about circuit training, or you may have even completed a circuit workout. If not, I encourage you to try the one I’ve provided in this article!
Circuit training is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular health, increase strength, and lose weight. Best of all, this form of exercise often takes very little time. So it’s easy to fit a circuit workout into a busy schedule.
In this article, I will:
- Provide an overview of circuit training as a mode of exercise.
- Outline the main benefits inherent in circuit training.
- Detail a 9-minute, full-body circuit routine that can be done anywhere, without equipment.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Circuit Training?
In terms of definition, circuit training can crossover with different types of exercise. However, I will provide a broad description of circuit training for this article.
Circuit Training Definition
Circuit routines are those that include exercises completed consecutively, with little rest in between. Often, circuit training workouts will incorporate movements that attempt to improve both cardiovascular and muscular fitness.
For the workout detailed in this article, you will not need any equipment. However, there are types of circuit training that involve weights and other equipment. For this reason, circuit training is one of the most versatile modes of exercise.
Without the need for specific equipment, all the exerciser needs for the routine in question is a little bit of open space. Any interested readers can easily complete the following workout in the comfort of their own homes!
Benefits of Circuit Training
As I mentioned earlier, circuit training is one of the best forms of exercise for the many benefits it can offer.
Specifically, circuit workouts afford the exerciser access to all of the following:
- Weight Loss. A person loses weight when he or she takes in fewer calories than he or she expends. There are obviously two important elements in this equation: diet and activity. Diet is vital for weight loss and health, but it is not the focus of this article. Many different types of exercise and activity can aid weight loss, but circuit training is one of the best. Circuit workouts force your body to work extremely hard for a short period, burning tons of calories throughout the session.
- Increased Cardiovascular Endurance. Your heart and blood vessels need to provide your working muscles with oxygen-rich blood while you exercise. When you perform a total body circuit, blood needs to be sent to all parts of the body. This forces your cardiovascular system to work hard during the session, improving your endurance with each workout.
- Improved Strength. With a thoughtfully designed circuit routine, you can improve your strength quickly. Every time you do exercises such as squats and pushups, you force your muscles to adapt and grow.
Of course, there are many other benefits to circuit training. The above list, however, provides a summary of the major advantages of completing circuit exercises.
9-Minute Full Body Circuit Workout
The following workout is a timed circuit. This means that, for each of the following circuit training exercises, you will perform as many reps as possible within the indicated period of time. You should, of course, strive to maintain good form at all times. Never sacrifice form in order to achieve more reps!
For this circuit training workout, follow this pattern:
- Complete the first exercise.
- Rest for 15 seconds
- Immediately begin the next exercise on the list.
- Repeat this pattern until you have completed the entire circuit twice.
Ready? Let’s get after it!
Exercise 1: Squats (60 Seconds)
Squats are one of the most functional exercises in existence. The movement incorporates tons of muscles from the lower body and is used for many daily activities.
Target Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves, various trunk stabilizers.
How to Perform
Starting with your feet about hip-width apart, slowly bend your knees as you bring your buttocks down toward the ground. Ensure that your back stays straight throughout the movement, and resist the urge to “cheat” in any way.
Exercise #2: Pushups (60 Seconds)
Pushups are another phenomenal exercise that works many of the muscles we use for daily tasks. This exercise is incredible for improving strength and functional capabilities in the upper body.
Target Muscles: Pecs, triceps, various shoulder, and core muscles.
How to Perform
Begin with your hands on the ground, directly beneath your shoulders. Additionally, ensure that your feet are roughly hip-width or closer, with your toes on the floor. Keeping your back straight, slowly lower your chest toward the ground. Once your chest lightly brushes the ground, push yourself back up.
Exercise #3: Jumping Jacks (30 Seconds)
A gym class classic! Jumping jacks have stood the test of time, and for good reason. This exercise can get your heart pounding and your muscles working, without the need for any equipment.
Target Muscles: Various leg and arm muscles. Primarily used for cardiovascular endurance.
How to Perform
In standing, jump while bringing both legs out wide. At the same time, lift both of your arms out to the side and overhead, in an arcing motion. Once you land, immediately reverse the motion, bringing your hands and feet back to the starting point simultaneously. Continue to perform this alternating movement for the 30-second duration.
Exercise #4: Lunges (45 Seconds)
Much like squats, lunges are an incredible exercise for improving functional strength in the lower body. However, lunges are even better than squats in some ways, as they provide some balance benefits as well.
Target Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves, various other stabilizer muscles in the lower body.
How to Perform
With the right leg a few feet in front of the left, slowly bend the right knee until the left knee comes close to the ground. After standing back up, step the left leg forward and the right leg back, performing the same lunge motion. Repeat in this alternating fashion for the duration of the set.
Exercise #5: Plank (30 Seconds)
Thus far, this workout has emphasized isotonic strengthening and cardiovascular-based movements. With the plank exercise, you will be working isometrically, meaning you’re holding a muscle contraction for the duration of the exercise. Isometric exercises, particularly planks, are often underutilized in training. However, they are very important for reaching all fitness goals.
Target Muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques, various shoulder muscles, pecs.
How to Perform
With forearms and toes on the ground, tighten your abdominal muscles and ensure that your back is flat. Hold this position for the duration of the exercise.
Exercise #6: Side Lifts (30 Seconds)
Side lifts are a great exercise for the oblique muscles. This movement requires a good deal of balance and strength to be performed correctly, but it is well worth the effort to master the exercise!
Target Muscles: Obliques, hip abductors, various other stabilizer muscles.
How to Perform
Lying on your right side, lift both of your legs up towards the ceiling. At the same time, perform a side crunch, effectively bending your body in half. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement for the duration of the exercise. On the second time through the circuit, perform on the left side.
Other Types of Circuit Training Workouts
In the previous section, I outlined a circuit training workout that is relatively low impact, and that requires no equipment. However, there are many other types of circuit training routines that can address various fitness goals.
In the following two sections, I will describe two such types of circuit training workouts.
Circuit Training With Weights
For those that want to increase their strength, or just make an exercise more intense, weights can be added to a circuit routine.
For instance, the following workout uses dumbbells to increase the difficulty of the exercises.
You’ll want to select dumbbells that make the exercise challenging for you, but not so difficult that you lose form. Aim to perform 10 repetitions of each exercise before immediately moving on to the next one. Complete the entire circuit 3 times.
Exercise #1: Dumbbell Squat
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, perform a squat as indicated in the previous section.
Exercise #2: Dumbbell Bench Press
With one dumbbell in each hand, lie down safely on a bench or a firm surface.
Keeping the weights from moving too much side to side, slowly lower them down toward your shoulders. Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, push the weights back up to the ceiling. Repeat this alternating motion throughout the set.
Exercise #3: Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
Bending over at the waist (but not allowing the back to round) pick up two dumbbells, one in each hand. Pull the weights toward your chest and shoulders by pinching your shoulder blades together and bending your elbows. Then return to the starting position. Repeat this alternating motion throughout the set.
Alternatively, circuits can be performed with plyometric movements. Plyometric exercises are those that involve an explosive movement such as jumping. Plyometrics are not appropriate for everyone but are a great choice for athletes whose sports require explosive power.
For a plyometric circuit, you’ll want to incorporate some rest time. In this series, you will perform each exercise for 30 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next one. Complete five rounds of each exercise in total to finish the workout.
Exercise #1: Box Jumps
Using a bench or other elevated, stable surface, jump from the ground onto the other object. From here, you can either jump back down to repeat the motion or step down. Just be sure to land softly and stop if you have any pain.
Exercise #2: Plyo Pushups
Plyo pushups are similar to normal pushups, except that you push yourself hard enough to leave the ground. Again, as is the case with all plyo moves; land softly.
Exercise #3: Jump Switch Lunges
Starting in a staggered position, perform a lunge then jump and switch your leg position in the air. From here, immediately perform the same movement on the opposite side, and alternate for the duration of the set.
Circuit training is an excellent exercise choice for everyone, assuming you select the right type of circuit. If you have joint problems, you’ll want to choose exercises that are low impact. Similarly, if you’re an athlete whose sport requires a lot of explosions, you may want to do some plyometric exercise.
After you complete your first hard circuit workout you’ll feel exhausted, sore all over, and most of all: accomplished!
Have fun and remember to reach out to your doctor or qualified medical professional if you have specific questions.