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Making the Rounds

What is circuit training and how do you do it?

Tired of your same old workout? Ready to kick things up a notch? Give circuit training a try. Unlike cross training, which involves training across various types of cardio and strength-training workouts, circuit training fuses cardio and strength training into a single workout. As a result, you get the benefits of both workouts in less time.

Sound intriguing? Here are a few things to consider when creating a circuit training routine.

Why Do It?

Circuit training cuts the boring out of your workouts. This type of workout is a fast-paced, high-intensity, full-body workout. A typical circuit training routine zaps calories in just 20 or 30 minutes. During circuit training, you focus on a series of 6 to 12 exercises. When performing a specific exercise, you give it all you’ve got for 30 seconds to a minute at a time. You then take a short rest period and repeat the exercise or move on to the next one.

Any type of exercise can be incorporated into circuit training. Most circuit training includes forms of cardio, strength training, and plyometrics. A circuit-training workout can be adapted to your fitness level and fitness needs.

How Long?

The first thing to decide is the length of your workout. Some people choose to go at it for five minutes. Others go for an hour. It depends on your fitness level and availability.

When you know how much time you have, divide the time up by the number of exercises you plan to perform and repeat. For a 30-minute workout, you can have five stations where you spend 45 seconds each exercising, followed by a 15-second rest period. Repeat the circuit six times. Keep in mind that the shorter your workout, the more intense it can be.

Which Exercises?

Many people choose their exercises based on which area of the body they want to target. To get a full-body workout, work your legs, glutes, back, chest, core, and arms. And make sure your routine includes cardio and strength training. For best results, organize the order of exercises so you don’t focus on the same joints or large muscles of the body in back-to-back exercises. When deciding which exercises to incorporate into your circuit, consider what’s at your disposal. If at the gym, make use of the weights and machines. Doing it at home or on the road? You may only have your own bodyweight to use.

Popular upper body exercises for circuit training include push-ups, triceps dips, shoulder presses, standing dumbbell curls, and bent-over rows. Lower body exercises might include lunges, squats, calf raises, and deadlifts.

You should also add some compound exercises to work multiple joints and muscle groups at once. Try burpees, mountain climbers, cleans, jumping lunges, bench presses, or pull-ups.

Going from one exercise to the next will no doubt get your heart rate up and your breathing elevated. But it’s still recommended to include a few cardio exercises in your circuit. Ideas for cardio include jumping rope, running, rowing, jumping jacks, climbing stairs, and cycling.

Is Rest Really Important?

Last but not least, don’t forget about rest. You can choose to rest in between exercises or after completing the entire circuit. If you’re switching from an upper body exercise to a lower body exercise, you don’t need much time for rest in between. By letting your heart rate drop for a moment, you’ll have more stamina for the next exercise or circuit. That means you can push harder and make bigger gains.