Challenge The Body: Circuit Training

Posted: July 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Remember all that good food making substantial fuel for my workout this morning? Well, I wasn’t joking. Apparently, my love for circuit training comes with good reason. The full body style workouts broken into three mini circuits always leave my body challenged and me with an endorphin rush. Today’s workout looked like this:

Mini Circuit 1 Mini Circuit 2 Mini Circuit 3
push-ups step-ups leg extension
decline bench crunches lat pulldown flat dumbbell bench press
rear delt dumbbell raises pop/jump lunges kettlebell woodchops
hammer bicep curls kickbacks

I also followed that up with 30 minutes on the elliptical completing one of my favorite cardio intervals.

Minutes Resistance Speed / Intensity
3 minutes 7 light
2 minutes 11 quick / moderate
1 minute 15 quick / hard

Repeat the 3-2-1 combo for six total intervals and embrace the sweat. But let’s get back to the circuits shall we?

3 Reasons To Love Circuit Training

  • Circuit workouts challenge both strength and cardiovascular endurance. Going through a circuit, completing each strength training move one right after the other, gets the heart pumping while still focusing on building strength. The two combined can certainly push the body in new ways.
  • Circuit workouts provide an efficient and effective workout. I can complete a full body workout  in half the time because the circuit allows me to go continuously without stopping for breaks between each exercise.
  • Circuit workouts have endless variety. Simply switching up the order of moves can stimulate the workout and make it feel new. I can toss in so many different moves to never have a stagnant routine!

Don’t Allow These 3 Things To Keep Your From Trying Circuit Training

  • Problem: Taking up too much equipment or space. Solution: Pick exercises that all use dumbbells or free weights. Plan out a routine that incorporates more bodyweight exercises. Consider equipment grouped together in the gym and focus on moves easily done in one concentrated area. Visit the gym at a down time to have extra space/equipment available. If all else fails, you can share!
  • Problem: Don’t want to look silly going from move to move. Solution: Go in with a plan and possibly even an idea of some back-up exercises. Also, remember most gym goers are more concerned with themselves than someone else’s workout. And I tend to think people moving through circuits look like they know what they’re doing and are in there to work.
  • Problem: Circuits will be too difficult. Solution: Choose simpler moves. Complete a shorter circuit. Focus on basics. Go through a circuit only one time through and gradually build to going through two, then three, then four times per circuit.


I believe circuits are well worth the effort. They may take a little adjusting and have a bit of a learning curve when first incorporating them into a workout plan, but I find nothing like a great circuit when it comes to strength training. I simply plan out a good basic outline and plug in different moves – which no matter what combination I choose, always provides a quality workout. I like to do circuits that follow a pattern like below:

  • lower body move
  • chest or back move
  • plyometric or other compound body move (like burpees or kettlebell swings)
  • lower body move
  • chest or back move (whichever I didn’t do earlier)
  • shoulders, biceps, or triceps move
  • shoulders, biceps, or triceps move

I may also add in some core work or split the above into mini-circuits like I’ve done recently. I simply like to alternate between upper body and lower body work, focus on the larger muscle groups, and add in some extra plyometrics or other short bursts of cardio to really keep my heart rate up. I like to call it methodical madness. It may seem crazy hopping from one exercise to another, but I always keep my movements controlled with good form. I don’t rush through the workout. Methodical madness sounds about right…and it works for me.

Ever tried circuit training? If yes – do you like it? If no – what holds you back?

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54 Comments to “Challenge The Body: Circuit Training”
  1. I love circuit training! It’s quick, it gets you sweating, you can change it up, and it you get more bang for your buck!

  2. Alexandra says:

    Circuit training rocks! 🙂 I know exactly how you feel with that endorphin rush, it feels so good!

  3. lindsay says:

    i love a good circuit workout. Especially with plyos! nice sweaty work Tina!

  4. I love circuit training! I usually do circuits when I do weights at the gym…love when it makes me sweat, hehe 🙂

  5. I love circuit training! It is my preferred method of strength training for both myself and when I train clients. I like to break a sweat and get my HR up when I am lifting and doing circuits allows me to do that!

  6. Maria says:

    I love circuits! In fact – circuits are the only way I can manage to get through weight training without being bored out of my mind. I admit that they are hard to design in a commercial gym, but they are just an efficient workout, that I can overlook that.

  7. I love circuit training! I actually wrote a guest post about it a couple weeks ago for Meg at Sunshine ‘N Spice :). I’ll have to try yours!

  8. Jane says:

    Thanks for this post! I use Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred sometimes for circuit training but love that this is for the gym! Awesome suggestions!!

  9. Kaylyn says:

    I LOVE circuit training! It is the only way that I dont get bored -I like it to be short, to the point and sweaty!

    Great workout idea! I think I will give that one a try tomorrow 🙂

  10. I love circuits — mostly I do bodyweight circuits at home and I have a few workout dvds that use circuit training and it makes the time just fly by!

  11. Jess says:

    I think circuit training is great especially if you get bored easily with weight training OR you like the added cardio boost that comes with the quicker pace of a circuit routine. I think it’s an awesome way to break out of a rut too. Nice workouts my dear!

  12. oh you so know I am a fan of circuit training!!! esp outdoors using your own body weight! tahts my favoooriteeee!! i love combining upper and lower with cardio and core! YES! love it Tina!!!

  13. Anna says:

    Circuit training is wonderful! I love how time efficient it is!

  14. I love circuit training! I need variety in my workouts, and circuits are perfect for that.

  15. Helen says:

    I love circuit training although I do not do it as often as I would like. I know that when I go to our bootcamp class with those three circuits I am wiped out at the end……but in a good way!

  16. I love circuits. My gym has a small space off to the side off the weight room that you can take some of the free weights and have some space. They have a few sets of weights so it makes a nice way to get in my workout.

  17. Cynthia says:

    I LOVE circuit training! I do it 3 days a week for my strength training and it’s great. It allows for more of a calorie burn than just lifting weights in and of itself.

  18. Errign says:

    Most of the strength training sessions I do are circuit style 🙂 I usually do 5 mini circuits of 3 exercises (1 each arms, abs, legs) and I repeat each mini circuit 2-3 times before moving onto the next one. 🙂

  19. Circuits are definitely a great way to switch it up! Reminds me of interval training 😉

  20. LOOOOVE circuit training! It keeps me from getting bored and always givves me an excellent workout!!

  21. methodical madness! haha I do love circuit training and I love how you addressed the potential concerns with solutions – nice!! Great eliptical routine too!

  22. […] to Tina and her elliptical workout today, I was inspired to do the same intervals as she […]

  23. Thanks for this post, and I’d love to read any others with details about strength training. I’m just getting into it more but have yet to get some moves down by heart so I can plan workouts on my own. I find strength training so empowering!

  24. Marie says:

    Loving your workout posts Tina. I know you’re going to ROCK as a personal trainer! 🙂
    I have a question about this workout – you would go through each mini-circuit with no breaks, right? Then break and move to next mini-circuit. My q is- do you repeat all the mini-circuits again? I know this would depend on the amount of time you have for that day, but what would a “typical’ workout include? Thanks!!

    • Tina says:

      I usually go through like this:

      #1, small break, #1, small break, #1

      larger break

      #2, small break, #2, small break, #2

      larger break

      #3, small break, #3, small break, #3

      end workout

      So I go through each one three times through before moving on to the next group. Hope that makes sense, Marie. 🙂

  25. Lauren says:

    I love circuit training. I honestly feel its the best overall body workout. A good combination of short bursts of working major muscle groups. Nothing like it!

  26. Christie says:

    I wish I had you as a personal trainer since the thing that keeps me back from doing circuits is that I am too lazy and forgetful to do all the exercises on my own. 🙁 Maybe I can convince one of my gym friends to do the circuit with me and we can cycle through the exercises together?

  27. I am OBSESSED with circuit training!! I love everything about it. It is something that works really well for me

  28. speak of the devil. i just enjoyed a circuit workout!

  29. I LOVE circuit training! It is my favorite way to lift weights. I get bored easily when it comes to strength training so circuit training keeps me moving quickly from one exercise to another with little time to get bored!

  30. I love a good circuit workout, especially when I am pressed for time…it keeps me moving and workin’ the entire time! 🙂

  31. I’ve tried circuits a few times, but they’re definitely not my favorite way to strength train. That being said, this workout looks really good- I like trying new things every so often so that I don’t get bored!

  32. Ela says:

    I haven’t tried circuit training basically because I don’t go to a gym, and don’t know how. But now that I have more and more energy and interest in exercising, it’s starting to sound really good to me. And I bet I could rig some up at home.

    You are inspiring, and you’re looking amazing.

  33. I really love circuit training! I love hitting a lot of my muscles quickly! It is a great way to kick up strength training!

  34. tina, you are so awesome. i love all these topics you cover! i never do circuits, but really should.

  35. Mandy says:

    Love me some circuit training! (more when not pregnant when I can actually go all out on things like burpees and jumps ;))

  36. Cate says:

    I like circuit training. It is nice to get an intense workout in a short amount of time. I kind of make up my own routine too based on some DVDs I have done and plans from other blogs. With circuit training I can change things up every time so there is some variety as well. Plus I know strength training is important so I a have been trying to get it in once or twice a week.

  37. this sounds like fun and i am looking for a fun way to incoporate strength training into my routine! how long/how many of each exercise do you do?

  38. Sarah says:

    I don’t know if I do circuits but I always switch around moves like I’ll do a set of lunges with bicep curls, then a set of chest flys, then lateral raises -repeat three times, etc. I like being out of breath when doing both cardio and strength so the circuit training is definitely a good idea.

    I also workout at my office when I get off work which is around 10:30pm so I’m typically the only one there. Therefore I don’t care how I look 🙂

    • Tina says:

      Yep. That’s a circuit!!! 🙂

      That’s dedication getting in workouts at 10:30 pm. Wow! Way to go!

  39. First of all, you are the cutest darn thing I’ve ever seen! I certainly don’t look like that when I’m working out! 🙂

    Second, I just have to tell you how motivating your workout posts are! I don’t know what it is, but every time I read one of your posts about working out, it makes me want to immediately get in my car & drive to the gym or head outside for a run. *sigh* Soon enough (38 weeks & STILL pregnant…)

    Lastly, I have tried circuit training and it’s HARD! But, a good hard. 🙂 I’m planning to start my own “Body After Baby” series (of course, I’ll come up with my own name for it) utilizing Jillian Michaels’ circuit training workouts featured in her book “Winning by Losing” (plus running, yoga & Zumba). Are you familiar with that? I can’t wait to get started!

    • Tina says:

      I’m not super familiar with the plan, but any plan that gets you back in action slowly and steadily is great to me. You will be there soon enough! And I remember feeling SO motivated reading certain people’s workouts and not able to do anything about it at the end of my pregnancy too.

  40. Wow, sounds like you have an awesome fat burning circuit workout that targets the whole body! I love circuit training, it really breaks up the monotany of my workout routines. You look great in that picture! Smiling and all! Have a great night!

  41. Great post. I usually don’t post comments but I just had to for this. Remarkable advice! I have already been hunting for something like this for a long time now. Many thanks!

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    Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate!

    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him.
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