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How to Build a Circuit Training Workout Routine

Unbeatable Circuit Training Workouts for the Gym and Home

Are you looking for a fast, challenging, and full-body workout that can be endlessly customized to make sure you never get bored? Then it’s time to learn about circuit workouts. These workouts are simple to construct and highly flexible so that you can adapt them as your fitness improves and/or your fitness goals change. What is a circuit workout, and how can you build a circuit training routine? Keep reading. You’ll learn how to become a circuit workout master whether you have an entire gym at your beck and call or you’re working out at home, on the road, or anywhere else.

What Is a Circuit Workout?

If you’ve ever done a boot camp or a virtual fitness class with a repeating rotation of exercises, then you may have already done a circuit training workout without even knowing it. In a nutshell, circuit training is a workout format where you perform a set number of exercises in a repeating circuit.

Typically, each exercise is called a “station,” and you visit each station in a repeating order throughout the workout. So, for instance, you may create a circuit made up of five different exercises and perform that circuit three times. The beauty of circuit training is that you can customize it any way you want. By changing the exercises that make up the circuit, the number of reps, the intensity of reps, and the number of circuits, you can make every workout different and challenging.

However, there are common circuit workout practices that many exercisers stick to. For example, most exercisers choose between five and 10 individual exercises per workout and perform the circuit three to six times. Typically, a circuit workout lasts from 15 to 45 minutes. While you can use circuit workouts to emphasize cardio or resistance training, many exercisers like to create full-body circuit workouts that incorporate cardio and resistance exercises.

What Are the Benefits of Circuit Training?

Is circuit training something you should add to your fitness routine? Here are some benefits of circuit training to consider.

Circuit Workouts are Time Efficient

Don’t want to spend two hours at the gym? Then circuit training workouts are a great option for you. These workouts are meant to be performed quickly and efficiently, bundling a great resistance and cardio workout together in a short amount of time. Most circuit workouts can be performed in 30 minutes or less (though make sure to also warm-up and cool down), so you can get in your fitness and then move on with the rest of your day.

Circuit Workouts Give You a Full Body Workout

Putting the right collection of exercises into a circuit training routine can allow you to hit all of your major muscle groups while also helping you improve your cardiovascular health. This makes circuit training an excellent option for exercisers who want to build muscle and burn body fat all with one workout.

Circuit Workouts Are Perfect for Beginners

Circuit workouts are one of the best programming tools for new exercisers because they are so easy to program and can incorporate exercises at nearly any level. Just pick a few strength-training exercises that hit different muscle groups, add in some cardio exercises, and you have yourself a full-body circuit workout. Beginning exercisers can also add in rest periods between circuits and begin with a low number of reps per exercise.

You Won’t Get Bored with Circuit Workouts

Because a circuit training routine is so versatile, it’s nearly impossible for exercisers to get bored. To spice up your routine, simply add in new and interesting exercises. Are you tired of hitting the resistance machines at the gym? Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and add them into your circuit training (ask a gym employee to watch your reps to make sure you are using correct form).

You Can Do Circuit Workouts Anywhere

Can’t make it to the gym? Not a problem. By using bodyweight exercises or everyday items in your home (like chairs and walls), you can perform circuit training workouts at home, in hotel rooms, or even in your office at work. (Though you should probably bring a change of clothes with you.)

Circuit Workouts Adapt with You

As your fitness level rises, you can adapt your circuit training workouts to keep them challenging and force your body to continue improving. By adding more reps, more intensity, more complex exercises, more circuits, or less rest, you can make your circuit workouts more difficult.

How to Create Your Own Full Body Circuit Workout

Ready to give circuit training a try? Creating your very own circuit workout is easy and even kind of fun. As you play around with different rep schemes, time domains, and exercise groupings, you’ll start to develop your own circuit workout style.

Step 1: Pick a Time Domain

How long do you want your circuit training workout to be? Your time domain will help you figure out how many exercises to add to your circuit, how many reps to include, and how many circuits to perform. Beginners should consider starting with a 15-minute circuit workout. More advanced exercisers can go for 30 minutes or even 45 minutes.

Step: 2 What Type of Fitness Do You Want to Emphasize?

Many exercisers prefer to create full-body circuit workouts that balance strength-enhancing exercises with cardio exercises. However, if you have a specific fitness goal, you can emphasize certain exercises over others in your circuit. For example, you can create strength-dominant circuit workouts, cardio-dominant circuit workouts, circuit routines that focus on improving explosive movements, or running circuit workouts meant to increase speed.

Step 3: Determine How Many Stations

Now it’s time to begin filling in the lines of your circuit workout. Start by choosing how many different exercises, or stations, you want to comprise your workout. The lower your time domain, the fewer stations you should choose. It’s common to include anywhere from five to 10 stations in a workout.

Step 4 – Choose Your Exercises

Have you decided to add five stations to your circuit? Now it’s time to slot in the exercises that will make up your workout. Think back to your fitness goal. Do you want to focus on improving a certain type of fitness, or do you want a full-body workout? If you want a full-body circuit workout, choose a mix of cardio and resistance exercises. Try to include upper-body movements, core movements, and lower-body movements to give yourself a challenging workout.

Step 5 – Choose Your Exercise Rep or Time Scheme

Your circuit training workout is almost all complete. Now that you have the exercises you want to perform, figure out how many reps you want to complete during each circuit. It may be best to add a time domain instead of a specific rep count for certain exercises, like 30 seconds of jumping rope. You’ll also need to figure out the weight for any resistance exercises. Choose a rep scheme that will be challenging but that you can complete during each circuit.

Step 6 – To Rest or Not to Rest?

Depending on your fitness level and the level of challenge of your circuit workout, you may want to add a minute or two of rest between circuits to give your muscles, heart, and lungs a little time to recover. Beginning exercisers should definitely consider adding in rest time. More advanced exercisers can make their circuit workout more difficult by not including a rest period.

Sample Circuit Training Workouts

Need a little help getting started on your first circuit training workout? Take a look at these four workouts that you can try at the gym or at home.

Cardio Circuit Training Workout (for Gym)

  • 20 walking lunges
  • 15 burpees
  • 1 minute on the stair step machine
  • 1 minute on the rower
  • 30-second sprint
  • Rest one minute between circuits

Perform 3 to 6 rounds

Strength Circuit Training Workout (for Gym)

  • 20 chest presses at moderate weight
  • 20 hanging knee raises
  • 20 bent-over rows (with barbell or dumbbells) at moderate weight
  • 20 kettlebell swings at moderate weight
  • 10 pullups or deficient pushups
  • 10 back squats with moderate weight
  • Rest one minute between circuits

Perform 3 to 6 rounds

Full Body Circuit Workout (for Gym)

  • 15 burpees
  • 20 bent-over flies with moderately heavy dumbbells
  • 30 mountain climbers
  • 10 front squats with moderate weight barbell (substitute with goblet squats with dumbbell or kettlebell)
  • 30 bicycle crunches
  • 1-minute jump rope
  • Rest one minute between circuits

Perform 3 to 6 rounds

Bodyweight Circuit Training Workout (for Home or Travel)

  • 10 pushups
  • 20 air squats
  • 30 crunches
  • 30 supermen
  • 10 dips using the seat of a chair
  • 30 seconds of machine-gun drill
  • Rest one minute

Perform 3 to 6 rounds

Start Building Your Next Circuit Workout

You now have all the tools you need to try your very first circuit training workout or to create your own customized circuit training routine. As you get more comfortable with the circuit training formula, start experimenting. Throw in new exercises. Increase the weight on some of the movements. Test out shorter time domains with more intensity or longer time domains with more reps. It’s all about throwing different challenges at your body to keep progressing (and to hold off boredom).

If you need a little more motivation and guidance, consider signing up for a circuit training class or even hiring a personal trainer who can develop circuit training workouts based on your fitness level and fitness goals. To get started, find the nearest gym to you.

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