Circuit Training 101: How to Create a Circuit Workout

by Evelyn Valdez

If you're having trouble creating your own at-home training program then try circuit training! Having an effective circuit training workout is perfect during these times when you're too busy to hit the gym or you just want to spice up your training! They help you tone/build muscle and burn fat, can be done with no equipment, and can be done by all fitness levels - a win, win.

Luckily, you don't have to take a circuit training class to reap the benefits of these workouts, you can build your own! Build the perfect circuit training workout by following our six simple steps, plus we'll be giving you a few exercise ideas to help you build the perfect circuit! So let's jump in and learn more about circuit training and why you should implement it into your workout routine!

What is circuit training?

It is a type of workout that cycles through 5-10 different exercises. The exercises target different muscle groups with minimal rest in between. Then you repeat the sequence 3-4 times, or whatever works best for you! 

Basically, you are able to hit every major muscle group in one circuit while also building endurance and cardiovascular health. Typically the exercises switch between upper and lower body, that way your arms get a break when you're doing a lower body exercise and so on. 

If you've ever taken a workout class or a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class then you may have experienced this form of training already! Every circuit training sequence is different, but all of them have these three things in common:

  1. Various exercises hit the upper and lower body.
  2. Very little to no rest in between each exercise. Usually a minute of rest in between each circuit round. 
  3. Repetition. A good circuit routine should have you run through the circuit a few times.

How to Build The Perfect Circuit Training Routine

This is a great style of workout to do for weight loss, fat loss, and toning up, BUT that's only if you build an effective circuit. It sounds intimidating, but it's not! We have six steps you need to follow in order to build your perfect circuit training routine.

Step 1: Pick your time limit or choose the number of rounds

Circuit training is all based on a set number of stations that you repeat until you're out of time. Ideally, the workouts are around 10-45 minutes. So know how much time you have to work out because it will help you determine how many circuits you'll need to do and how hard you'll need to work.

For example, if you only have 10 minutes to workout you can set up four stations, 30 seconds at each station, very minimal rest in between (15-30 secs), and repeat the circuit four times. 

Another example, if you only have 30 minutes to work out then you can set up five stations, one minute at each station, very minimal rest in between (15-30 secs), and repeat the circuit six times. 

If you don't have a time limit then it's simpler! Just choose however many rounds you want to do, usually, 3-6 is good, and select the time at each station.

Step 2: Pick an upper-body exercise

As you may remember, circuit training is about variety in exercises. Doing an arm exercise for one station then a lower body exercise for the next station and so on. Now, you can either choose a different upper body exercise to perform each round or keep it simple and just pick one to repeat throughout the entire circuit. There's no wrong way in doing it, it's a matter of personal preference! Just keep in mind that choosing different exercises for each round will help you target various different muscle groups in your upper body. 

Also, keep in mind what you have in hand and your training goals. If you're at the gym you'll have more equipment to work with (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells), but if you're at home you might not. So pick an upper body exercise that you are capable of performing and ones that are going to be the most effective at targeting the muscle group you want to tone.

Here are a few examples of upper body exercises you can do - for with or no equipment:

  • Shoulder press: This exercise targets your shoulders and upper back. It requires equipment, either a long resistance band or free weights.
  • Push-ups: This exercise targets your pecs (chest), delts, triceps, core, quads, and hip flexors. This is a bodyweight exercise, no equipment is required.
  • Bent over rows: This exercise targets your back muscles. It requires equipment, either a long resistance band or free weights.
  • Bicep curls: This exercise targets your biceps. It requires equipment, either a long resistance band or free weights.
  • Triceps dips:  This exercise targets your triceps. It requires no equipment, it can be done on a stable surface or a triceps dip machine.

    Step 3: Pick a lower-body exercise

    This will be exactly the same as picking your upper body exercise. You can change up the exercise each time through the circuit or keep them the same. Pick an exercise based on the equipment you have.

    Here are a few examples of lower body exercises you can do - for with or no equipment:

    • Squats: This exercise targets the hamstrings, quads, and glutes. It requires no equipment, but a resistance band or free weights can be added for intensity.
    • Walking lunges: This exercise targets your quads and glutes. It requires no equipment, but a resistance band or free weights can be added for intensity.
    • Deadlift: This exercise targets the upper and lower body - back muscles, hamstrings, upper thighs, and glutes. It requires equipment, either dumbbells or a barbell. 
    • Glute bridge: This exercise targets the glutes and hamstrings. It requires no equipment, but a resistance band or free weights can be added for intensity.
    • Step-ups: This exercise mainly targets the quads and glutes. It requires no equipment, but it can be done using free weights.

      Step 4 - Pick a compound exercise

      Compound exercises are movements that require several muscle groups and joints to work at the same time. They're usually total-body movements that really get your heart rate up which is needed to burn fat. 

      Here are a few example of compound exercises you can do - with or no equipment:

      • Jumping lunges: This exercise works your core and leg muscles, but also includes some cardio. It requires no equipment.
      • Squats to overhead press: This exercises your lower body and shoulders. It's best with equipment like a long resistance band or free weights.
      • Mountain climbers: This exercise targets nearly every muscle group and it gets your heart rate up. It requires no equipment. 
      • Cleans: This exercise targets your shoulders and calves, glutes, and hamstrings. It also is a great cardiovascular exercise. It requires equipment, can only be done with free weights like a barbell.
      • Burpees: This exercise gets your whole body involved and raises your heart rate. It requires no equipment.

      Step 5 - Choose a sprint for one minute

      The key to burning fat is short bursts of activity or sprints. They're typically cardio exercises that really elevate your heart rate. Keep in mind that you really have to go all out for this one.

      ​Here are a few examples of cardio exercises you can do - with or no equipment: 

      • Running: It requires no equipment, all you need to do is run (not jog) back and forth for an entire minute. 
      • Jumping rope: It requires a jump rope. 
      • Cycling: It requires a cycling machine, really go all out for the entire minute.
      • Stair climbing: It technically doesn't require equipment, but you do require stairs.
      • Jumping jacks: It requires no equipment. This is a surprisingly effective exercise, but really go all out for the entire minute.

      Step 6 - Rest

      And finally, once you're done completing your circuit it's time to cool down - you've earned it. Keep your rest period to one minute, grab some water, switch up your music, and then go through the circuit as many times as you want! 

      As always, before doing any type of workout, warm up! Every circuit training routine has something in common - It'll work out your entire body. So warm up by doing some bodyweight movements like jumping jacks, leg swings, bodyweight squats, push-ups, etc. 

      Why should I do circuit training?

      There are typically two main forms of exercise that everybody talks about: strength training and cardiovascular fitness. As many of you know, strength training is a style of training that is known to help tone and build muscle. Cardio is a form of exercise that helps make your heart strong and burns a lot of calories. 

      Well, a circuit training program is set up so that you're doing both! The exercises typically performed in a circuit involve targeting the lower and upper body and also include cardio exercises like jumping squats. It's an efficient way to get a good muscular workout while also building stamina and endurance. That is if you build the perfect circuit training workout, and now you know how!

      Here are other great benefits of circuit training...

      • It's time-efficient - Circuit workouts don't have to be insanely long. At most, they run for 30-45 minutes. Opposed to the usual hour to an hour and a half of doing strength training combined with some form of cardio. You can get a full-body workout in a short amount of time!
      • Can be done anywhere & by anyone - You don't need a gym to do it or equipment, and don't need to be experienced or an expert. The great thing about circuit workouts is that they are customizable! For example, a lot of gyms are closed at the moment and if you're stuck at home with no equipment then you can just build a total bodyweight circuit - bodyweight exercises are just as effective. Also, beginners can modify exercises to make them easier. Then as they make progress they can start implementing more difficult and challenging exercises. 
      • Less boring - The variety of exercises and fast pace helps you tune out less and makes it easier for you to focus more on giving each exercise your all! Plus if you still want to weight train, just incorporate circuit training a few times a week to keep you from getting burnt out from lifting weights.

      When you start building your circuit, keep in mind that you're not working the same muscle group back-to-back, let that muscle rest by performing another exercise. We hope this helps get you closer to achieving your fitness goal! AND if you need any equipment that will take your workouts to the next level then check out our Short and Long Resistance Bands! Use them in place of free weights for your home circuit workouts, or use them at the gym for warm-ups or as a progressive overload tool!

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