The New Rules of Circuit Training…

Circuit training has been a mainstay in fitness training for decades, some may even say centuries. With the rise of smarter methods being developed to burn body fat, raise our fitness levels and lift performance to new heights it is important to recognise circuit training for the benefits it can deliver. Most people will recognise a circuit as a mix of a variety of different exercises in a random order. You move from one exercise to the next with an elevated level of fatigue and a heart rate that is rapidly accelerating out of your chest. Now this is where the difference comes between a circuit that has been designed in a smart way compared to a circuit that is designed to knock both legs from underneath you and leave you hoping that you will see the sun rise for one final time. It is important to define at this point the reason why you would perform a conditioning based circuit. Circuits are designed to build your “work capacity” meaning the amount of work you can perform in good form. It is no good lolling from one exercise to the next performing half decent repetitions where your form goes to pot placing unnecessary strain on the joints of the body. Think of it in this way- it should almost be You Tube quality; no one wants to see someone doing something badly. The mistake most people make is that they will fly straight in to a circuit class without any basis of strength. The mistake most personal trainers make is that education comes first before a workout that will leave someone in need of replacement organs.

It is important to develop form and function before invoking any type of fatigue which is why basic strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, press ups and pull ups should be mastered ahead of going all out on a “death circuit.” Your conditioning level will be directly related to your strength levels- the weaker you are often the poorer your conditioning or the greater the time it will take to bring your conditioning to a great level. Improve your strength levels and the benefits you will gain are twofold.

Structurally you will be stronger meaning better exercise efficiency meaning you can do more. This means in turn that your conditioning levels can grow faster in line with your enhanced strength levels. A circuit should be designed with balance challenging the major movements in the body. The upper body can be paired with the lower body meaning the cardiovascular system can be challenged without causing exercise form to depreciate through fatigue. It also does not need to be high repetition as most circuits tend to be. Remember we are trying to build “work capacity” so repetions can be as low as 4, this is phenomenally useful for strength based athletes such as rugby players. These lifts are not maximal though but exercise form should always be maintained. So for instance you could pair bench press with back squats performing 5 repetions on each with a suitably heavy weight for 10 minutes, lunges with seated rows for 6 repetions each for 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of a variety of different boxing combinations on a punch bag.

Welcome to smart circuit training….

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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