Circuit training has reached new heights of popularity with methods like CrossFit and Orange Theory. And it comes at no surprise. Not only do athletes see results, but daily workouts can take as little as 30 minutes. Nationally certified fitness instructor and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Carolyn Fogelsanger explains why it works.
Q: What is circuit training?
A: The basic definition of circuit training is different exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. Most exercises are done for 30 to 60 seconds with a 30, five or zero second rest period between exercises.
Q: Why does circuit training work?
A: You can get a really good workout in 30 minutes if you push your intensity and limit your rest periods between. Most gym members’ downfall is that they do a set of an exercise and then just stare off in space until they’ve recovered or are finished talking to someone. Circuit training times your exercise move, followed with a short recovery, then you’re off to the next exercise—allowing for no spacing out!
Q: What exercise elements does circuit training incorporate?
A: The circuits can vary from weight training, to cardio, to sport drills, and all the way to plyometric drills. The combinations are endless and all will vary with the level [of fitness each person is on]. The more advanced athlete you are, the harder the drills, the exercises, and the heavier weights become.
Q: Are there dangers to such intense workouts?
A: The only thing to avoid is overtraining; you don’t want to work the same muscles every day. Then, it’s just a matter of time before you would get an injury. On this type of workout done everyday, you would have to split up the body parts you’re training to avoid imbalances and injuries.
Try this circuit abdominal workout from Fogelsanger:
Always start with the lower abs, then obliques and finish with the upper abs. For this circuit workout, the moves are done back-to-back with no rest in between, and each exercise should be executed for 30 seconds (a two-minute workout total).
1. Alternate leg drop: Lie on your back and bring both legs straight up to a 90-degree angle. Drop one leg down almost to the floor without touching, then bring it back up while taking the other leg down to create a scissor motion.
2. Tornado: Bring your arms out to a “T” with palms down. Keeping your shoulders on the floor and your legs straight at a 90-degree angle, tilt both legs to the left and begin to draw a circle, coming around to the right and then back to start. Reverse this to the left.
3. Oblique crunches: Bend your knees and drop them to the left. With both hands behind your head, elbows facing out and your chin off of your chest, crunch straight up and hold for one second, squeezing your oblique. Repeat with your legs dropped to the right.
4. Circle time: With your knees centered and bent, tilt your pelvis so your lower back is touching the floor. Place your hands behind your head, lift your shoulders and think of drawing a big circle with your chest. Circle twice clockwise, crunch straight up two times, then circle counterclockwise twice.