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Circuit training workouts

Circuit training workouts combine resistance exercises with aerobic-based exercises to create a workout that not only tones up all major muscle groups but also exercises the heart and lungs to give exercisers a solid level of overall fitness.

It must be stressed that circuit training workouts do improve strength and stamina, however they do not improve strength and muscle tone to the same extent as specific weight training  exercise nor does it improve stamina and fitness to the same extent as specific cardiovascular or high intensity anaerobic sprint exercises.

Circuit training is regarded as a happy medium for those people looking to exercise with others in an exercise class environment, as well as develop a good level of muscle tone and a good level of overall fitness.

Circuit training: The workout

A typical circuit training workout involves a number of pre-arranged exercise stations where people work in small groups, in pairs or individually to complete a short bout of exercise, usually between 30 and 60 seconds.

Once this bout of exercise has been completed, people move to their next exercise station with little or no rest. Typically circuit training exercise stations are a equal mix of resistance work and CV work, with eercisers usually alternating between resistance and fitness exercise (e.g. press ups followed by skipping).

So for example, a typical circuit training class may look something like this:

  • Station 1: 30 seconds of sprinting
  • Station 2: 30 seconds of press ups
  • Station 3: 30 seconds of skipping
  • Station 4: 30 seconds of squats
  • Station 5: 30 seconds of step ups
  • Station 6: 30 seconds of box dips
  • Station 7: 30 seconds of boxing
  • Station 8: 30 seconds of lunges
  • Station 9: 30 seconds of jumps
  • Station 10: 30 seconds of bicep curls

This complete circuit may be repeat 2, 3 or more times depending on the length of the class.

Depending on the level of participants times may be set at 60 seconds or even more!

Circuit training: The exercises

Circuit training exercise classes aim to cater for the people participatingin a given circuit class, which means some circuit classes will be challenging than others. Having said that a good circuit training coach should be able to demonstrate modified exercises to cater for a wide range of abilities in a single circuit class.

Resistance exercises found in a typical circuit training class include:

Exercise
How to performance
Press ups
Lie down on the floor face down. Place your hands on the floor at shoulder width and extend the arms whilst keeping your toes on the floor. Maintain a straight back and bend the elbows to slowly lower your chest towards the floor. Extend the arms again and then repeat.
Bench press
Lie down on your back on a bench or box. Hold the barbell or dumbbells at chest level. Extend your arms quickly to push the bar above your chest. Slowly lower and repeat.
Shoulder press
Stand or sit holding a barbell or dumbbell at shoulder level. Extend the arms towards the ceiling. Slowly lower back the shoulder level and repeat.
Box dips
Sit on the edge of a box, bench or chair. Place your hands on the edge of the box and walk your feet forward so that your buttocks are in front of the box. Bend the elbows and slowly lower your buttocks towards the floor. Pause before pushing your hands into the box to extend your arms. Repeat.
Bicep curls
Stand and hold a barbell or two dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Tuck your elbow into your sides and don't let them move during the whole exercise. Whilst maintaining a straight back and not rocking forwards and backwards curl the weight up towards your shoulders. Slowly lower and repeat.
Squats Stand holding a barbell on the back of your neck. Visualise sitting back into a low chair and then slowly begin to descend into a sitting position before pushing through your feet to return to a full standing position. Repeat.
Lunges Hold two dumbbells by your sides. Take a large step forward and bend the front knee towards the floor. Push this front foot into the floor and step back into the start position with your legs side by side. Repeat stepping forward with the opposite foot. This is one repetition. Repeat, alternating legs each time.
Ab crunch Lie on your back on a mat. Place your feet together and bring your feet towards your buttocks by bending your knees. You feet should be flat on the floor. Place your hands across your chest. using your abdominal muscle lift your chest off the floor and pause at the top - your lower back should maintain contact with the mat / floor. Slowly lower your torso and then repeat.

Cardiovascular exercises found in a typical circuit training class include:

Exercise
How to performance
Sprints
Run as quickly as possible from the start point to the finish point. Return around quickly and run as quickly as possible to the start. Turn and repeat without any rest.
Skipping
Hold a skipping rope and jump whilst quickly turning the rope. Skipping requires practice to get the action and timing right.
Boxing
Put on boxing gloves and quickly punch the punch bag or pads quickly, alternating jabs and harder punches with both hands.
Jumps
Using a bench or small box jump from side to side either holding onto the bench with your hands for support if need be.
Jumping jacks
Stand tall with your arms by your side. Jump in the air and bring your arms above your head using a sideways, out and up action. At the same time land with you feet wide apart. Repeat this action but this time landing with your feet together and your arms by your side. Repeat quickly.
Step ups Step up onto a box and back down again. Repeat, alternating the lead foor each time.

This is by no means an exclusive list. Circuit training classes will differ from health club to health club.

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