How to Incorporate Circuit Training for Weight Loss Goals

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Weight Loss Research

Circuit training for weight loss is becoming more common as research shows its benefit over some more orthodox weight loss routines. Traditionally, circuit training consists of performing a varied circuit of resistance exercises at short, timed intervals. This method keeps the heart rate up which increases the amount of calories burned while performing exercise usually just intended to increase strength. Research shows that interspersing a resistance based circuit with some aerobic exercise stations increases the calorie burning potential of the workout and can be even more effective for weight loss than traditional circuit training.

Circuit Timing

When planning to incorporate circuit training for weight loss, the circuit timing needs to be determined. Individual stations within the circuit can be timed in seconds or minutes, or can be timed by assigning a specific number of repetitions to complete. The aerobic stations included in a cardio infused weight loss circuit are almost always timed in minutes. The rest period planned between the stations in the circuit is short, sometimes just long enough to move to the next activity. Commonly, repetitions are set from 12 to 15 and time is set from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The total time is takes to complete a circuit varies but usually does not exceed 15 minutes.

Weight Load

After deciding on the time or repetitions to be done at each station, consideration can be given to the weight load at the resistance stations. As a general rule of thumb, the weight that is appropriate for circuit training should be heavy enough to cause muscle failure at the end of the station. For example, if using dumb bells for bicep curls at a station that is set at 12 reps, at around 8 reps there should be muscle fatigue, and at 12 reps the arm should not be able to complete another exercise. Testing should be done at regular intervals to determine the appropriate weight that will bring a muscle to failure. If extreme muscle soreness is present, weight can be decreased until the pain abates.

Aerobic Station

When using circuit training for weight loss, emphasis is often placed on the aerobic portion of the circuit. There are many forms of aerobic exercise that can be performed within a circuit. When circuit training at a gym, an elliptical or bike machine is an option. Jumping rope or doing free step aerobics is common if the circuit is being done in an overly crowded facility or at home. The exercise performed at an aerobic station should be done at moderate intensity. The talk test is one way to judge the intensity of aerobic activity. Conversation should be possible but somewhat labored if exercising at a moderate intensity. If not winded at all, the intensity needs to be increased, and if talking becomes impossible, intensity decreased.


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