For anyone beginning this routine, the tip is to always begin slow and start light, to avoid injury and properly gauge their body’s response. It is advised upon beginning this routine, one starts low and then works their way up. A note for even advanced trainers; circuits are extremely demanding, and even experienced lifters will have to drop their usual weights by about 40% to successfully complete the routine. Given this, the usual range for the cardio portion is anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute, and the ideal number of repetitions for the resistance training exercises is between 14 and 20.
The actual exercises themselves are limitless, but as mentioned before, the ideal process is to hit every muscle group each workout. Thus one can add in as many forms of lifts as they wish to achieve this. To begin, one should start with a smaller amount of compound lifts (working many muscles groups at once instead of isolating one) to A. Burn more calories, B. shorten the timeframe, and C. make the routine more manageable. Examples of the most effective compound lifts are squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, rows, and the overhead press. Those working out at home or outside can switch these for jump squats, push-ups, dips, pull-ups, burpees, and crunches.
As far as the cardio goes, it is a bit more limited, for it would hardly make sense to be running back and forth across a gym floor to hop on a treadmill for 30 seconds. The best option here is to invest in a jump rope. If this is undesirable, an equally effective solution is to run, either on a track if outside or in place (though it does look a bit more awkward). The key to performing the cardio is to always remember to go as fast and intense as you can. It is better to get in 30 seconds of a sprint than 2 minutes jogging.
After performing one full routine, (anywhere from 4-12 exercises interspersed with cardio) allow yourself a few minutes to rest and drink some water. Don’t take too long or you will begin to cramp up. Spend between 1 and 4 minutes as needed, then repeat the cycle again. Perform a total of at least 3 full circuits to adequately hit each muscle.
A Sample Circuit
1. 45 Seconds of Jumprope
2. 12 Pull-ups
3. 45 Seconds of Jumprope
4. 14 Reps of Bench Press (Or Pushups)
5. 45 Seconds of Jumprope
6. 20 Squat Jumps
7. 45 Seconds of Jumprope
8. 14 Reps of Overhead Press
9. 30 Seconds of Jumprope
10. 20 Crunches
Perform #1-10 three times with a 2 minute break in between each circuit. All three circuits, including rest time, should be completed in under 35 minutes.
NOTE: It is to be expected that as the workout progresses, one will be forced to reduce their efforts. In this case it is preferable to reduce the duration of each cardio bout rather than reduce the intensity. For example, round 2 might be 40 seconds each and round 3 only 30.
Notes and Additional Resources/ References
Circuit Training is designed specifically for those seeking to lose weight, as if one is trying to bulk up the excess calories burned by this routine would not be beneficial. For such a person a traditional weight lifting routine is reccommended. It is important to note that a key component in losing weight is in fact one’s diet. Although a single circuit training workout can burn anywhere from 500 to 1200 calories in a single session, this becomes counterpropductive if one is eating in excess of this. On the contrary, do not eat too little, as this is a demanding routine and one needs sufficient energy to complete it.
For more information/ references see:
Seibert, Richard J. American Council on Exercise- Manual for Fitness Professionals.