What are Circuit-Training Exercises?

Circuit-training exercises are the individual exercises you do during a during a circuit-training workout. So what’s a circuit-training workout? Circuit training is a way of exercising that moves you from exercise to exercise with only a short rest between each one. After you do all of the exercises in the plan, you’ve finished a circuit. During this type of workout, you might repeat the circuit two or three times, or, you might perform the next circuit using different exercises.

You can create a circuit-training workout to burn calories, build muscle or improve muscular endurance for sports. You create the type of workout you want based on the exercises you use, the intensity at which you perform them and the amount of resistance you use.

You can do circuit training with or without equipment, depending on your goals.

A Circuit Training Workout

You create circuit-training workouts using a pattern of short bursts of exercise followed by rest. You can perform one exercise for one or two minutes, then rest, or you can perform the exercises based on the number of repetitions you perform. After each exercise, you take a quick recovery break. Each complete round of exercises is a circuit. For example, a calisthenics circuit-training workout might include two minutes each of burpees, squats, crunches, pushups, lunges, jumping jacks and mountain climbers. One circuit consists of performing all seven exercises, with a 30-second break between each one.

You can emphasize more muscle fitness by using more weight or resistance to perform your exercises, or emphasize calorie burning by using less resistance and higher intensities. The American Council on Exercise suggests you work at 40 to 70 percent of your maximum intensity during circuit training workouts for a good cardio workout.

Creating Circuits

Circuits should be consistent, using either the same amount of time per circuit, or the same number of repetitions of an exercise. For example, if you are doing a cardio circuit workout, do each exercise in your target heart rate for two minutes, then take 30 seconds to recover. If you want to improve muscular endurance, do 15 to 20 repetitions of one exercise (using an amount of rate that won’t fatigue you to failure) before moving to the next exercise. Or, do each exercise for 90 seconds and take a 15-second break between exercises. If you are doing a muscle-building circuit, perform 8 to 10 reps using enough weight that you would fatigue to failure within 90 seconds. Take a longer break (two minutes) before performing the next set. After you complete a circuit, give yourself three to five minutes before you start the next circuit, depending on how much time you need to recover.

Exercises for a Circuit

You can use many different types of exercises to create a circuit training workout. You can use dumbbell exercises, low-resistance calisthenics (like jump rope, stairs or jumping jacks) or higher-resistance bodyweight calisthenics (like pullups and pushups). You can use resistance bands, kettlebell exercises or a home gym. You can do a different exercise each circuit during your workout, or you can choose several exercises and repeat them several times to create a circuit-training workout.

Example Circuit Exercises

For a calorie-burning circuit workout, your first circuit might include crunches, burpees, jumping jacks, pushups and jump rope followed by a break of two minutes. Start another circuit using different exercises, such as squats, running stairs, bicycle kicks, running in place and mountain climbers. For an upper-body, muscular endurance circuit workout, you might do 12 biceps curls, 12 chest presses, 12 triceps extensions, 12 flyes and 12 kickbacks, taking a one-minute break between each set, then repeating this pattern one or two more times. For a full-body muscular endurance circuit workout, add deadlifts, squats and lunges to these exercises, performing only one set of each exercise.

Additional Resources

American Council on Exercise: Circuit Training

Brian Mac: Circuit Training

Sports Fitness Advisor: Circuit Training Exercises

Brian Mac: Circuit Training Exercises

Sports Fitness Advisor: Over 20 Dumbbell Exercises Complete with Animated Diagrams

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