The ba­sics

Sunday Star-Times - - PLAYING UP -

Per­fect for those who are bored with their ev­ery­day work­out regime, cir­cuit train­ing will see you per­form a mixed bag of ex­er­cises that tar­get dif­fer­ent mus­cle groups across short in­ter­vals. You name the ex­er­cise and you can prob­a­bly in­clude it in cir­cuit train­ing – from hand-held weights to re­sis­tance ma­chines and body­weight ex­er­cises – though ideally a cir­cuit should in­clude a com­bi­na­tion of mo­tions that work the up­per, lower and core sec­tions of the body. The orig­i­nal method in­vented in the 1950s at the Univer­sity of Leeds com­prised be­tween nine to 12 sta­tions in a cir­cuit with lit­tle or no rest be­tween, though the num­ber, time spent and ex­er­cises in­volved can be tai­lored ac­cord­ingly.

Giv­ing it a bash

I com­pleted a six-round cir­cuit com­pris­ing cy­cling, row­ing, skip­ping, burpees, squats and stom­ach crunches.

The time was loosely set at about 40 min­utes (or un­til ex­haus­tion) and my phone was sched­uled ev­ery two min­utes to sig­nal the start of the next ex­er­cise. The alarm be­came a saving grace from ev­er­last­ing in­ter­vals and a dreaded re­minder of the ac­tiv­i­ties to come.

Rounds one and two were no trou­ble. It was a joy not to be count­ing down the min­utes dur­ing a 30-minute tread­mill ses­sion. Cir­cuits are typ­i­cally com­pleted in groups for the en­cour­ag­ing ca­ma­raderie that comes with, and so you can spot the next ex­er­cise com­ing up. As the lone par­tic­i­pant, it was a strug­gle to re­mem­ber whether the next step was squats or burpees be­tween tow­elling off and scram­bling for a drink.

Ei­ther way, it was the fi­nal two cir­cuits that re­ally took their toll. Find­ing the mo­ti­va­tion to rise from the row­ing ma­chine and pick up the skip­ping rope was dif­fi­cult, the burpees, squats and stom­ach crunches be­came pro­gres­sively slower dur­ing their two-minute in­ter­vals. The sta­tions dur­ing the fi­nal cir­cuit were cut short with noth­ing left in the tank to keep bat­tling through. It proved to be an ef­fec­tive and jam-packed ex­er­cise pro­gramme for the en­tire body.

Why you should try it

Stud­ies have shown that cir­cuit train­ing is one of the most time­ef­fi­cient ways to en­hance car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness and mus­cle en­durance. With a near-end­less va­ri­ety of ex­er­cises that tar­get dif­fer­ent mus­cle groups, it also means that you can cut down on the rest time be­tween sta­tions, some­thing that trans­lates as high­in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing, the per­fect equa­tion to in­crease the heart rate and burn more calo­ries. It also keeps things interesting and you won’t find your­self con­stantly check­ing the time or glued to the gym tele­vi­sion.

Risk rat­ing

De­spite the short time­line to com­plete ex­er­cises, proper tech­nique should still be ap­plied to avoid in­jury. You should con­sult a trainer be­fore com­plet­ing un­fa­mil­iar ex­er­cises or prac­tise un­der the guidance of a cer­ti­fied in­struc­tor.

Make your in­struc­tor aware of any in­juries that may re­strict or pre­vent you from com­plet­ing any of the sta­tions, and if you have his­tory with back or heart prob­lems, see a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional first.

Find out more

Guided cir­cuit train­ing is avail­able at prac­ti­cally ev­ery gym in the coun­try.


Cir­cuit train­ing in­volves ex­er­cises that tar­get dif­fer­ent mus­cle groups across short in­ter­vals.

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