Generally speaking, people have been instructed to perform 3 sets of any given exercise for 8-12 reps. Circuit training offers a radical change from this methodology. Individuals who have been following more of a traditional approach should find that circuit training is a welcome change. Since the body adapts very quickly this change is often exactly what is required to “shock” the body into producing results.
One of the reasons why circuit training is effective is that it involves less rest in between sets which serves to increase the intensity of the workout because you will probably be doing more work in less time. This movement from exercise to exercise also produces an aerobic training effect which can burn more calories. Remember, increasing the intensity means increasing the opportunity for results.
Circuit training takes planning. You have to know what exercises you will perform and in what order and the amount of resistance. This is often difficult in crowded public gyms where the equipment is always in use. It may be better to use machines that only require you to move the pin to change the weight than to use free weights that involve more preparation. You must take these factors into consideration when planning your workouts.
To make this planning easier, keep it simple. Try to progress from larger muscle groups to smaller ones. Using this strategy it would be effective to do legs first, then chest, back, shoulders and arms. Choose one exercise you like for each muscle group and perform 8-12 reps and then immediately move on to the next exercise.
It would be best to stick to compound multi-joint exercises for the major muscle groups when constructing a circuit training regimen. Squats and leg press for the quads, bench and incline press for the chest, chins, pulldowns and rows for back are all examples of excellent choices for your program. Due to the nature of the workout and the fact that you will have little or no rest between sets, keep the poundages light and manageable at first. You can increase them later if you wish as you get the “feel” for this type of training.
You can also split your circuits up into upper and lower body days. On your lower body days you would do quads, hamstrings, calves and abdominals, as an example. Your upper body circuit could consist of chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps. These workouts are intense so it is very important to “listen” to your body to ensure that you are not overtraining.
These circuit workouts are intense. They are tough on the body and challenging. Use them for brief periods where you want to burn fat and gain some lean muscle. Circuit training is terrific as a much needed break from your regular routine but, as with any other form of training, it is best to use circuit training in cycles. A 4-6 week cycle of this type of training may be exactly what you need to give your body a “kick”. Then when you return to your usual workouts, you will feel refreshed and motivated.