Circuit Training - Sample Workout

  1. In the first 2 weeks of the program, do the circuit twice.
  2. Move from exercise to exercise with no more than 30 seconds of rest in between.
  3. When you complete one circuit, rest for 1 to 2 minutes, then complete the second circuit.

After the first 2 weeks, when you've become comfortable doing two complete circuits during a workout, increase your workload to three circuits per workout.

In every exercise, use a weight that you can handle comfortably for the number of repetitions noted. When that becomes too easy, increase the weight on each set by 10 percent or less.

NOTE: If you are looking for something a little more aggressive, see our Advanced Workout Plan.

Here's a sample schedule of how you might arrange your workouts.

MONDAY      
Total-Body Strength Training Workout with Ab Emphasis. Complete one set of each ab exercise*, then complete the rest of the circuit twice.
Exercise Repetitions Rest Sets
Traditional Crunch* 12-15   1
Bent-Leg Knee Raise* 12-15   1
Oblique V-Up* 10 each side   1
Bridge* 1 or 2   1
Back Extensions* 12-15   1
Squats 10-12 30 seconds 2
Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2
Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2
Military Press 10 30 seconds 2
Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2
Triceps Pushdown 10-12 30 seconds 2
Leg Extension 10-12 30 seconds 2
Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2
Leg Curl 10-12 30 seconds 2

TUESDAY (optional)
Light Cardiovascular Exercise Such as Walking (Try for 30 Minutes at a Brisk Pace)

WEDNESDAY      
Total-Body Strength Training Workout with Ab Emphasis. Complete one set of each ab exercise*, then complete the rest of the circuit twice.
Exercise Repetitions Rest Sets
Standing Crunch * 12-15   1
Pulse Up * 12   1
Saxon Side Bend * 6-10 each side   1
Side Bridge* 1 or 2   1
Back Extensions* 12-15   1
Squats 10-12 30 seconds 2
Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2
Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2
Military Press 10 30 seconds 2
Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2
Triceps Pushdown 10-12 30 seconds 2
Leg Extension 10-12 30 seconds 2
Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2
Leg Curl 10-12 30 seconds 2

THURSDAY (optional)
Light Cardiovascular Exercise Such as Walking (Try for 30–45 Minutes at a Brisk Pace)

FRIDAY      
Total-Body Strength Training Workout with Leg Emphasis. Repeat entire circuit twice.
Exercise Repetitions Rest Sets
Squats 10-12 30 seconds 2
Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2
Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2
Traveling Lunge 10-12 each leg 30 seconds 2
Military Press 10 30 seconds 2
Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2
Step-Up 10-12 each leg 30 seconds 2
Triceps Pushdown 10-12 30 seconds 2
Leg Extension 10-12 30 seconds 2
Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2
Leg Curl 10-12 30 seconds 2

Basic Exercises

Squat

Hold a barbell with an overhand grip so that it rests comfortably on your upper back. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent, back straight, and eyes focused straight ahead. Slowly lower your body as if you were sitting back into a chair, keeping your back in its natural alignment and your lower legs nearly perpendicular to the floor. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause, then return to the starting position.

Home variation: Same, but with one dumbbell in each hand, your palms facing your outer thighs.

Bench Press

Lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet on the floor. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar off the uprights, and hold it at arm's length over your chest. Slowly lower the bar to your chest. Pause, then push the bar back to the starting position.

Home variation: Just do standard Pushups: Get in a Pushup position with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Bend at the elbows while keeping your back straight, until your chin almost touches the floor, then push back up.

Pulldown

Stand facing a lat pulldown machine. Reach up and grasp the bar with an overhand grip that's 4 to 6 inches wider than your shoulders. Sit on the seat, letting the resistance of the bar extend your arms above your head. When you're in position, pull the bar down until it touches your upper chest. Hold this position for a second, then return to the starting position.

Home variation: Bent-Over Row. Stand with your knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Bend over so that your back is almost parallel to the floor. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang toward the floor. With your palms facing in, pull the dumbbells toward you until they touch the outside of your chest. Pause, then return to the starting position.

Military Press

Sitting on an exercise bench, hold a barbell at shoulder height with your hands shoulder-width apart. Press the weight straight overhead so that your arms are almost fully extended, hold for a count of one, then bring it down to the front of your shoulders. Repeat.

Home variation: Sitting on a sturdy chair instead of a bench, hold one dumbbell in each hand, about level with your ears. Push the dumbbells straight overhead so that your arms are almost fully extended, hold for a count of one, then return to the starting position.

Upright Row

Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Let the barbell hang at arm's length on top of your thighs, thumbs pointed toward each other. Bending your elbows, lift your upper arms straight out to the sides, and pull the barbell straight up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and the bar is just below chin level. Pause, then return to the starting position.

Home variation: Same, using one dumbbell in each hand.

Triceps Pushdown

While standing, grip a bar attached to a high pulley cable or lat machine with your hands about 6 inches apart. With your elbows tucked against your sides, bring the bar down until it is directly in front of you. With your forearms parallel to the floor (the starting position), push the bar down until your arms are extended straight down with the bar near your thighs. Don't lock your elbows. Return to the starting position.

Home variation: Triceps Kickback. Stand with your knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Bend over so that your back is almost parallel to the ground. Bend your elbows to about 90-degree angles, raising them to just above the level of your back. This is the starting position. Extend your forearms backward, keeping your upper arms stationary. When they're fully extended, your arms should be parallel to the ground. Pause, then return to the starting position.

Leg Extension

Sitting on a leg extension machine with your feet under the footpads, lean back slightly, and lift the pads with your feet until your legs are extended.

Home variation: Squat Against the Wall. Stand with your back flat against a wall. Squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold that position for as long as you can. That consists of one set. Aim for 20 seconds to start, and work your way up to 45 seconds.

Biceps Curl

Stand while holding a barbell in front of you, palms facing out, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging in front of you. Curl the weight toward your shoulders, hold for a second, then return to the starting position.

Home variation: Same, only use a set of dumbbells instead.

Leg Curl

Lie facedown on a leg curl machine, and hook your ankles under the padded bar. Keeping your stomach and pelvis against the bench, slowly raise your feet toward your butt, curling up the weight. Come up so that your feet nearly touch your butt, and slowly return to the starting position.

Home variation: Lie down with your stomach on the floor. Put a light dumbbell between your feet (so that the top end of the dumbbell rests on the bottom of your feet). Squeeze your feet together, and curl them up toward your butt.

Traveling Lunge

Rest a barbell across your upper back. Stand, with your feet hip-width apart, at one end of the room; you need room to walk about 20 steps. Step forward with your left foot, and lower your body so that your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your right thigh is perpendicular to the floor (your right knee should bend and almost touch the floor). Stand and bring your right foot up next to your left, then repeat with the right leg lunging forward.

Home variation: Use dumbbells, holding one in each hand with your arms at your sides. If you don't have enough space, do the move in one place, alternating your lead foot with each lunge.

Step-Up

Use a step or bench that's 18 inches off the ground. Place your left foot on the step so that your knee is bent at 90 degrees. Your knee should not advance past the toes of your left foot. Push off with your left foot, and bring your right foot onto the step, keeping your back straight. Now step down with the left foot, followed by the right. Alternate the leading foot, or do all of the repetitions leading with one foot and then alternating. Once you're comfortable, add dumbbells.

Home variation: Same, only use a staircase instead of a step (if you don't have one).

Saxon Side Bend
Hold a pair of lightweight dumbbells over your head, in line with your shoulders, with your elbows slightly bent. Keep your back straight, and slowly bend directly to your left side as far as possible without twisting your upper body. Pause, return to an upright position, then bend to your right side as far as possible. 6 - 10 reps on each side, no rest between sets

Side Bridge
Lie on your non-dominant side. Support your weight with that forearm and the outside edge of that foot. Your body should form a straight line from head to ankles. Pull your abs in as far as you can, and hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds, breathing steadily. Relax. If you can do 30 seconds, do one repetition. If not, try for any combination of reps that gets you up to 30 seconds. Repeat on your other side.
1 - 2 reps on each side, no rest between sets

References

  • Alcaraz, P. E., Sánchez-Lorente, J., & Blazevich, A. J. (2008). Physical performance and cardiovascular responses to an acute bout of heavy resistance circuit training versus traditional strength training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(3), 667-671. Link
  • Henry, R. N., Anshel, M. H., & Michael, T. (2006). Effects of aerobic and circuit training on fitness and body image among women. Journal of Sport Behavior, 29(4), 281. Link
Last Updated 30 Dec 2014