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The Basics of Circuit Training

25 October 2016

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If you think “boring” when you think about working out at the gym, think again. For a fast, effective workout you can change up every time, circuit training is the answer. Work your whole body in 30 minutes or less, combining the benefits of strength training and cardio.

Sara Robinson-Holmes, the health and wellness and membership director at the YMCA Healthy Living Center – INTEGRIS, shares why circuit training is a perfect go-to workout for all ages and abilities.

What is circuit training?

At its core, circuit training isa method of working out, with higher reps and less weight, with a short burst of cardio in the middle. You move quickly from exercise to exercise with little rest in between,” Robinson-Holmes says. Users can customize their own circuits, or rounds, of exercises to fit their personal goals and preferences. Circuit training should incorporate exercises that work both the upper and lower body and elevate your heart rate.

Why is circuit training good for me?

Along with a healthy diet, circuit training’s intensity and variety of muscle movements can help you reach your weight loss goals and strengthen your heart. Those with diabetes, including more than 1 in 10 Oklahomans, may find circuit training a helpful way to work toward a healthier lifestyle through exercise.

“People find success with it because it’s quick — you don’t have the hour-long time commitment in the gym — and it’s high-intensity, so you’re burning a lot of calories,” Robinson-Holmes says.

How do I get started with circuit training?

“I suggest including some sort of circuit training into your workout at least once a week for the benefits to your heart and muscles,” Robinson-Holmes advises. The YMCA Healthy Living Center - INTEGRIS can help you get started.

“Every member who comes in gets a free personal training session. We call it WOW, or Working on Wellness, and you’re welcome to use your session to have a trainer show you the basics of circuit training, but you can also do circuits on your own. Most circuit training is done in less than a half hour,” Robinson-Holmes says.

Building your own custom circuit is easy. Try it at the gym and incorporate machines and free weights, or do it at home using basic workout equipment. This formula makes circuit training simple:

  1. Do an upper body exercise, such as an overhead dumbbell press.
  2. Do a lower body exercise, such as calf raises or jump squats.
  3. Do a compound exercise, like a squat press or a lunge with a bicep curl — anything that works upper and lower body.
  4. Do 1 minute of fast cardio, like jumping jacks or high knees.
  5. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat steps 1-4.

Robinson-Holmes suggests doing 12 to 15 reps of each exercise and repeating the whole circuit three times.