Circuit Training: What Can It Do For You?

If your buddy were to tell you that he just completed a circuit training program that left him near death, what would be the next thought going through your head?

"I wonder what's next... the step class?" Or possibly, "And that yoga looks pretty intense too."

Many people simply don't realize what circuit training is and that it can be beneficial for everyone. They simply chalk it up to something people who want a general workout do, and don't give it a second thought.

what is circuit training?

The purpose of circuit training is to keep you moving by only allowing you to take minimal breaks between exercises. If you absolutely must rest, you can take 10 seconds to walk around and then start again. Whatever you do, don't stop moving.

This workout is different from other programs you may have followed. For example, it differs from supersets or compound sets, which target one or two specific muscles and work with the fatigue factor of those particular muscles to increase the intensity of your workout. Circuit training, on the other hand, works because it causes you to keep pushing your body aerobically, while still challenging your strength.
the common misconception
If you're like many men, you probably think that circuit training is something a woman does with measly five-pound dumbbells. This is probably because you associate no rest periods with light weights, and if you are trying to increase your strength, you likely think you need to be lifting as much weight as possible.

However, muscle responds to the total tension produced. If you use lighter weights, but are able to get in more sets during a certain period of time, you will produce the same -- if not more -- total tension and will stimulate your muscles to grow.

Try the follow program; you'll see, it will give you a run for your money.

the benefits

First, it allows you to work your aerobic system while simultaneously working on your strength. Since you are constantly progressing through the workout, you will keep your heart rate up, therefore reaping the same benefits as the guy who mindlessly logs all those miles on the treadmill. You, however, will be constantly stimulating your mind, which will help keep boredom at bay.

Second, due to fewer rest periods, you will increase the amount of testosterone you release, which serves to help your muscles grow. While it is true that if you were to perform long aerobic sessions, your testosterone level would drop and you would start to release cortisol (which causes the body to break down muscle tissue), this workout won't take that long to complete. Therefore, you won't reach the time required to start this cortisol-releasing process.

Finally, since you will move through this workout quickly, you won't have to spend long hours in the gym, and you will be able to spend your time doing the things that you never seemed to have time for when you were making the gym your second home.

Try out this sample workout and decide if you still think circuit training is for nancy boys...

the sample workout

This circuit, titled the monster circuit, consists of six different exercises to be performed a total of six times. Perform 10 reps of each exercise before moving on to the next one. Once you have completed all six exercises, start the sequence over again.

Over time, you can gradually increase your number of reps to 20 per exercise; however, this is intense, so start slowly.

The first exercise is called chinnies. Lie flat on the floor with your arms by your sides. Bring your knees toward your chest while simultaneously raising your chest to meet your knees (picture an accordion action).

The second is simple pushups. Remember to keep your hands approximately at chest level in order to target the proper muscles. The best place to perform pushups is on a sturdy surface where your feet have a firm grip on the ground.

Next are squats. You don't need to use any weights; just cross your arms and hold them out parallel to the floor. Squat down as low as you can go, preferably lower than 90 degrees, assuming you have no knee problems (if you do suffer from knee injuries or pain, only go as low as you feel comfortable with).

The fourth exercise is jackknives. These are similar to chinnies, only this time, keep your legs straight, raise your legs and arms straight into the air (bending at the waist) and try to get your hands to touch your feet.

Next are running As. Run on the spot and try to kick your knees to your chest. Each time your left leg reaches toward your chest, count one rep.

Finally, finish off with burpies. Start in a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the floor. Kick your legs out behind you, hold for a second, then bring your legs back to your hands. Next, explode off the floor, straightening up at the waist and jumping as high as you can. Land and bring your hands to the floor once again; this is one rep.

After completing all six exercises, start with chinnies once again for the second set of the circuit. After you have finished all six sets, you can rest; that is, if you managed to make it that far.
a final note
Since this workout does not target all of the muscles in your body, it is still best to include a normal strength-training routine in your program. This will keep your body balanced and ensure you are still strengthening all the muscle groups.

However, this circuit is a great thing to include in your workout when you are feeling like you are reaching a plateau or you're just ready to try something new to kick-start your metabolism and kick your workout up a notch.

Since it is quite intense, only perform it once or twice a week and be sure to take at least one day off in between. To progress and keep stimulating your body, try incorporating different versions of each exercise, such as one-hand pushups or clap pushups, and turned-out squats or squat jumps.

Hopefully, by set five of this program, you will have a newfound respect for circuit training.


Wu, T. (2005). The Monster Circuit . U of A.