In the world of exercise and fitness, we certainly see many approaches for overall health and fitness. One of the best approaches I’ve ever seen is Circuit Workouts, a type of training which mixes and alternates strength training sets with bouts of quick cardio activity sets. The reason for this is simple. Circuit workouts fit into more than one category of smart exercise.

For the beginner, it provides an easy, efficient, and convenient way to blend strength training alongside cardio training. Another accessible and fun circuit workout to check out is WatchFit’s Bikini Circuit WorkoutFor those who are more advanced, it ensures safety & rest between more demanding sets by virtue of the cardio interval. Finally, with ongoing training, it adds a degree of variation to prevent “plateaus”.

The only real problem I have experienced with circuit training is the area of pace. When you have a cardio interval, there is always a potential to rest for too long…particularly in a group/class setting.  Now, there can also be the potential problem of using poor form since you’re concentrating on that pace and perhaps focusing more on the cardio portion than on the strength exercise set, so we have to be aware of that too. Nevertheless, you can benefit greatly from circuit training, as long as you follow some simple guidelines:

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Keep up the pace: circuits are designed to simply keep the heart rate up during your strength training. A typical strength set is approximately 30 seconds. The cardio interval should be 30-60 seconds. Moving back and forth between the two should be immediate, without interruption.  Circuit workouts are an excellent means to combat workout boredom.

Choose proper exercises:

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A circuit should include at least 8-10 strength sets. A good approach is to include: a pushing motion, a pulling motion, squatting motion, shoulder push, leg extension and flexion motions. Here’s a good example:

Bench press or seated machine press Lat pull-down from high cable
Rowing Shoulder Press Upward
Deadlift or back extension machine Squat or leg press machine
Leg Extension Leg Curl
Stationary Lunge Shoulder Lateral Raises

Basically you want to hit the major muscle groups. For those looking to have a more targeted circuit, this workout is an excellent circuit for toning the butt. Individuals looking to work on their chest and shoulders should give this mini-circuit workout a try. Remember….circuit training is not just strength training, but also a cardio workout, so only a portion of the overall workout is strength training. This means fewer of those sets so a full body workout design is usually a smart way to go.

Keep the cardio simple:

The purpose of the cardio interval sets is to quite simply keep the heart rate up. Doesn’t have to be complicated! Use whatever is available to you.

For that cardio work, you could use a treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical trainer, jogging in place, good ole’ jumping jacks….really anything that will just get you going. 30-60 seconds of anything will do the trick and it’s important to have this handy and available without waiting on a piece of equipment. This is a reminder that circuit workouts do not replace a pure strength workout, nor does it replace a good cardio workout (ex: jogging). It is simply a great way to blend the two.

Many facilities offer classes in a specified area so as not to compete with others on the weight room floor. Some even have indoor running tracks so you can do a lap between sets for your cardio. Regardless of the setup, this style of blended cardio and strength training is excellent for your overall fitness and is one of the very best ways to manage weight loss.

Remember, burning fat (cardio) is part of the equation. Maintaining lean mass (strength training) keeps high-metabolism tissue maximised to aid in that calorie burning too.

However you do it, just using this blended approach will deliver great results! And it’s fun!

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