Circuit training is type of workout routine that has been used for decades by sports teams and the military. This technique has been picked up by fitness centers and “fitness bootcamps” and for good reason. It is an incredibly efficient method for getting people in shape in record time and it gives trainers the ability to train (and charge) large groups of people at one shot. It is the method I use to condition myself and my high school soccer players.
This type of training often involves using weights but can be performed exclusively using bodyweight exercises. A third mode would be to use a combination of bodyweight and weights. I use bodyweight circuits with my soccer players. When I perform circuits I use a suspension trainer for some of my exercises. Typically there are between 8-12 exercises which alternate between upper and lower body. I like my circuits to take a whole body, upper body, lower body, sequence. There should be between 21 and 30 total sets. Rest between exercises can vary from 30 seconds down to no rest.
The length of the rest period makes one of these workout routines last from 15-30 minutes. My workouts (both my own and the ones I use for my athletes) have no rest period between exercises. Most fitness experts consider circuit training to be a moderate intensity exercise but by shortening or in the extreme case, eliminating rest periods, you can reach the level of cardio of interval training without the dangers of the overuse injuries that come from repetitive, steady state cardio. You also have the added benefits of resistance training.
One more anecdote about the benefits of circuit training. A year and a half a go I stopped running and performing conventional (bodybuilder style) weight lifting for conditioning, and adopted mostly bodyweight, with a small mixture of dumbbell circuits. I am just as strong, faster, and more defined than I was prior adopting this method. Additionally, I and have more endurance than I did before due to carrying less body fat.
Now that you have some good information on circuit training. Here’s a bodyweight circuit that you can try yourself. Try to get through the sequence 3 times. If you must pause, try to make it for no more than a minute, at the end of the sequence.
60 Jumping Jacks
20 Walking Lunge
10 Lying Hip Extension per leg
Wall Squat 45-60 seconds
Plank 60 seconds
50 High Knees