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					         Benefits of Circuit Training

Looking for something a little different for your next workout? How about
circuit training? Circuit training will increase caloric expenditure, strengthen
the heart, reduce stress on joints, and increase skeletal muscle endurance
while simultaneously keeping workouts fresh and fun.
Defined, circuit training is the
performance of various
movements (exercises) for
different body parts, with little
to no rest between each set. An
example would be the
completion of movements for the
legs, chest, back, shoulders and
arms, with zero to twenty
seconds of rest between each
specific exercise. Circuits are
very popular in fitness clubs and
in fact, many clubs even have
entire sections of the gym
dedicated to circuit training of
one form or another.
These sections allow members to complete more work in less time, vastly
important in today‟s fast-paced society. After reading this article, be sure to
ask a personal trainer in your gym to show you the circuit section.

Think of your body as an automobile. Using this analogy, skeletal muscle is
the body‟s engine, and your blood, the fuel. To create a functioning
environment (a running engine), each is dependent on the other. The blood
carries the essential elements (the fuel) of oxygen and glucose. The oxygen and
glucose diffuse into the muscle cells. The powerhouses of the muscle cells, the
mitochondria, take in the essential elements. Finally, chemical reactions take
place inside the mitochondria to create the energy necessary for muscles to
complete a task.

When an individual is completing a leg exercise such as squats, the leg muscles
need energy. The heart pumps blood to the legs so energy can be created. If a
person performs fifteen squats, much blood (fuel) is required, and the leg
muscles become saturated with blood.

Then, by quickly switching to an exercise for the pectoral (chest) muscles, the
heart must redirect the blood to the chest. By the time fifteen repetitions for
the pectoral muscles are completed, the blood is saturated in the chest. If the
next muscle-group in the circuit is the muscles of the back, then blood is
needed in that location in order to complete the exercise, and the process

This constant redirection of blood forces the heart to work hard enough to
complete each task, creating a unique training environment. Circuit training
forces the heart to increase its rate much more than simply completing one
exercise with four sets of eight repetitions with a minute rest between sets (a
standard resistance training approach).

Heart rate is a deciding factor in contributing to caloric expenditure during
exercise. The number of calories burned drastically increases along with the
increasing heart rate. A much desired result is increased fat loss, and another
is a stronger, more efficient heart.

Getting Started
Most people who undertake circuit-training programs want to lose fat, gain
strength, or both. Circuit training can accomplish these goals, however,
randomly choosing exercises will not do. Proper exercise selection and
repetition ranges ensure effective workouts and efficient results.

The circuit trainer must know the difference between single-joint and multi-
joint exercises. As the name implies, single-joint exercises move exclusively
from one joint, such as the elbow or knee. Examples of single-joint exercises
are arm curls, arm extensions, leg extensions, leg curls and calf-raises.

Single-joint exercises could be removed from a majority of the population‟s
workout routines without adversely affecting the results attained. Typically,
bodybuilders and individuals involved in some form of physical therapy,
recovering from injuries, are the most likely to benefit from single-joint

Barring injury, all of the exercises in a circuit-training program should
comprise of multi-joint exercises. Multi-joint exercises move from more than
one joint, such as the shoulder and elbow simultaneously, or the knee and hip
simultaneously. Examples of multi-joint exercises are the squat, dead-lift,
lunge, step-up, chest press, shoulder press, row, pull-down and pull-up. These
exercises force more than one muscle to work at the same time, increasing the
heart rate more than single-joint exercises and in so doing, getting more work
done in a compressed time-frame.

There are many ways to put together a circuit. A sample exercise selection for
a circuit could be squat, chest press, row, pull-down and shoulder press. A
circuit can have as few as five exercises and can have as many as ten or more.

Proper exercise selection also contributes to training the nervous system, a
bonus for athletic endeavors, which all require multi-joint movements.
Training this way teaches the body how to properly function, and translates
well from the gym to the court, the field and even playing at home with the

Another aspect to consider when developing a workout routine is repetition
range. When performing a circuit, repetition range should generally be no less
than eight reps, and reach as high as twenty-five reps.

Proper exercise selection and a higher repetition-range will reduce the stress
on individual joints in two ways. First, multi-joint exercises disperse the
weight across several joints. Second, the higher repetitions performed force
the individual to choose a lighter weight. Furthermore, both of these circuit-
training aspects create better skeletal muscle endurance.

Circuit training has an unlimited amount of variation. Circuits can be
completed using basic modalities such as machines, dumbbells and barbells.
They can also be performed using less orthodox styles such as medicine balls,
stability balls, fitness bands and kettle bells. Such a multitude of variation
prevents the user from getting bored, and keeps each workout fresh, fun and

Circuit training can be modified in other ways as well. One variation of the
basic circuit style is known as High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. HIIT
workouts are for the advanced exerciser. HIIT is characterized by performing
every exercise to near muscular failure, and can incorporate cardiovascular
aspects such as sprints. HIIT workouts force the trainee to push beyond
perceived limits.
Another modification of the standard circuit training protocol is Peripheral
Heart Action, or PHA. Technically, all circuits incorporate PHA. The one
aspect that helps define a specific PHA circuit is the exercise selection. PHA
workouts switch between lower body and upper body exercises. For example,
a PHA workout would consist of squats, chest presses, dead-lifts, rows, lunges,
shoulder press, step-ups and pull-ups. Only advanced athletes/trainees looking
for a challenge should perform PHA workouts. This is because PHA places
additional stress on the heart, but for the properly trained individual this can
be an enormous benefit.

Bonus Tips
Many health clubs get very busy at night. With so many people exercising in
one place, it may be difficult to „hold‟ five machines, different benches or
bars, in order to complete a planned circuit. There are few ways around this

During this busy time, grab a few sets of dumbbells and an adjustable bench.
Place the equipment in a corner and go to work, using the selected dumbbells
for the weight. Another way to survive “primetime” is to hire a personal
trainer. An experienced trainer knows how to navigate through the traffic,
and some gyms even have specific sections of the gym dedicated for personal
trainers and their clients.

Circuit training is beneficial for the beginner, the advanced athlete and
exercisers of all fitness levels. Circuit training will not turn you into a
bodybuilder, but it will make the trainee healthy and fit, the reason most
people join health and fitness clubs in the first place.