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Circuit training promises a fast, whole body workout that is a great way to improve skills, mobility, strength and all-round body conditioning. This type of training offers variety, flexibility in its activities, can be simple, complex, general or specific. Usually designed by coaches and fitness instructors, it is a high intensity workout that is easily adaptable for people of all fitness levels and abilities.

To get started: 

  1. Ensure participants have the required equipment to complete the circuit.
  2. The amount of stations set up largely depends on the amount of participants, but 9-12 tends to be a good amount to start with. Set up and explain fully and/or demonstrate each exercise for the different stations. It’s also helpful to have cards at each station that state what each exercise is to avoid having to pause the workout.
  3. Exercises in a circuit should be designed in an order that allows opposing muscle groups to alternate between resting and working. This idea also applies when coming up with activities that vary in intensity levels, for example – one station may be jumping jacks, the next crunches, then running in the spot, etc.
  4. Have participants perform a dynamic warm-up to prepare the body for the workout ahead. For example: squats, jumping jacks or running on the spot.
  5. Participants will then perform a designated move at one station for a predetermined time and when instructed, will move to the next station. How long each participant is at a station and how long the workout is to be is up to the instructor. Make sure to give enough time for the participants to change stations and familiarize themselves with the next exercise.
  6. Training should be followed with an adequate cool down and plenty of water.

Circuit training generally needs little to no equipment, needs very little space, can be used with small or large groups and is only limited by your imagination. With this type of training, ACSM recommends coaches or instructors use caution when working with individuals who are overweight/obese, detrained, previously injured or elderly to reduce the risk of injury.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Berg M. Circuit training for everyman. Smart training: these three circuits, each addressing a specific goal, will get the job done when you’re short on time. Men’s Fitness. October 2002;18(10):138;140-141.
2. Frith J, Kerr J, Wilson G. Immediate improvements in emotion and stress following participation in Aerobics, Circuit Training and Tai Chi. International Journal Of Sport Psychology. September 2011;42(5):480-492.
3. Henry R, Anshel M, Michael T. Effects of Aerobic and Circuit Training on Fitness and Body Image Among Women. Journal Of Sport Behavior. December 2006;29(4):281-303. 
4. Klika B, Jordan C. HIGH-INTENSITY CIRCUIT TRAINING USING BODY WEIGHT: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. May 2013;17(3):8-13. 
5. Liu D. The Effect of Circuit Weight Training on Muscle Strength, Aerobic Capacity and HRV. Journal Of Beijing Sport University. April 2010;33(4):52-55.
6. Sanders M. Circuit play in the pool. Journal On Active Aging. May 2009;8(3):84-91.
7. Sandler D. JOIN THE CIRCUIT. Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness. February 2010;71(2):209.
8. Shepherd J. Circuit training. Athletics Weekly (Descartes Publishing Ltd.). October 22, 2009;:36-37.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.