Circuit Training: A Time Efficient Way to Enhance Cardiovascular Status and Muscular Endurance

Circuit training is a form of body conditioning or resistance training using high-intensity aerobics. It targets strength building and muscular endurance. An exercise “circuit” is one completion of all prescribed exercises in the program.  Studies at Baylor University and The Cooper Institute show that circuit training is the most time efficient way to enhance cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance. Studies show that circuit training helps women to achieve their goals and maintain them longer than other forms of exercise or diet.

Circuit training involves short bursts of resistance exercise using moderate weights and frequent repetitions, followed quickly by another burst of exercise targeting a different muscle group.  Because the exerciser switches between muscle groups, no rest is needed between exercises. This gets the heart rate up, which usually doesn’t happen during resistance exercise. Sometimes, to up heart rate further, aerobics are sprinkled between the resistance exercises.

As a female, I understand a woman’s hesitation to utilize weights and perform strength training activities.  However, keep in mind, females tend to lose muscle mass at the rate of 1% per year in our late 30s and 40s.  Men typically perform circuit training on a regular basis at most gyms.  They don’t always “sprinkle in” the cardio between their circuits but should!

When patients return to our office, I am concerned with their weight loss, but the bigger picture is their body fat percentage.  How much fat you are carrying around is what ultimately impacts your health and well-being.  We are now calculating patients body fat percentage each visit and we focus on encouraging our patients to add strength trainng to their exercise regimens in order to decrease their body fat percentage.  Circuit training is very beneficial in the fact you are getting strengthening/toning as well as a cardiovascular benefit all in one activity. 

I love circuit training the best of anything I do!  I do not get bored with it and it is a different workout everyday.  When I was performing cardiovascular exercises (i.e. treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster, etc) and then having to do my strength training after, I would get bored and aggravated because I would have to spend so much time in the gym.  I do not even go to or belong to a gym anymore.  With the internet and youtube, I have no problems finding plenty of circuit training workouts.  I never get bored with my workouts now, I mix up my workouts everyday.  And it’s great because I can workout at home, in the park, on the go and just about anywhere!

Below is an examples of a few circuits.  Try to work through the two circuits below.  You can adjust the amount of time you perform each circuit ( less than 30 seconds, more than 30 seconds), you can increase or decrease weight (or use your own body weight) as you can tolerate, and you can adjust how deep your perform each exercise.  Your ultimate goal is to perform 30-45 minutes of a program, four to five days each week.  Choose a program and customize it to fit your lifestyle and your fitness level and get started!  Remember you will perform each circuit for a period of time (i.e. 30 seconds) and go directly from one exercise to the other with no break or rest.  I usually recommend resting for 30 seconds to 1 minute in between each circuit after you complete it.

One Complete Workout:

Circuit #1: Perform 30 seconds of squats (make sure you are sticking your buttocks back behind you like you are going to sit down; DO NOT let your knees go forward of your toes).  Immediately go into 30 seconds of walking/running/marching in place. 

Followed by 30 seconds of alternating leg lunges (again DO NOT let your knees go past your toes).  Once you finish the leg lunges go right into another cardio exercise of some sort for 30 seconds: walking/jogging/marching/jumping jaccks (your choice).

Perform 30 seconds of a standard crunch.  Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, hands behind ears, and crunch up.  Push your belly button into the floor and think about drawing your ribs up to your hips.

Then you will perform 30 seconds of chest presses (use a light weight 3-5 lbs to start with).  Lie on your back, hold arms straight out above your chest, bend your elbows and lower weights toward chest (without touching chest) and press back up.  Follow chest presses with 30 seconds of walking/jogging/running/marching/jumping jacks (in place).  Your choice for cardio, however, choose something different from the last exercise.  

Rest no longer than 30 seconds to 1 minute and then begin circuit #2.

Circuit #2:  Begin with bent over rows for 30 seconds.  Use a chair (or weight bench if you have one) and place your right knee on the chair and your other leg out beside you.  Grab your weight and hold it in your left hand and  bend at the waist.  You will row the weight up to your side (like you are rowing a boat).  Perform this for the entire 30 seconds on the left side.  Then switch sides and  put the left knee on the chair and the weight in your right hand and repeat the exercise for 30 seconds.  Immediately follow this with 30 seconds of cardio: walking/marching/jogging/jumping jacks (in place). 

Shoulder press with a squat for 30 seconds.  Start in a squat position (remember buttocks back and DO NOT let knees go forward of your toes), hold your weights with your arms bent at 90 degress.  Lower into a squat and as you raise back up, press the hands straight up overhead.  Lower arms/elbows and drop down in to a squat and repeat the process for 30 seconds.  Immediately follow with 30 seconds of one of the above cardio exercises. 

Split stance bicep curls: place a weight in each hand.  Stand with your legs split (one in front and one behind you).  Get into a slight lunge  and hold this position(remember to not let your toes go forward of your knees).  With arms at your sides, curl up.  Be sure to keep elbows at your sides so your biceps muscles are engaged instead of your shoulders.  Perform this for 15 seconds and then change the legs (opposite leg forward and other back) for the remaining 15 seconds.  You are holding a lunge position and performing bicep curls with this activity.  Finish up with 30 seconds of a cardio activity. 

Make sure you stretch well after completing this program.  You are free to “cycle” through the 2 circuits as many times as you can or want to perform it.  Keep in mind, your ultimate goal is 30-45 minutes of this 4-5 days per week.  There are pictures below demonstrating the above exercises:

Get busy and get moving!