Circuit Training Workouts

Circuit training is a great way to strengthen many different muscles within one workout. You can also do an endurance circuit that combines strengthening exercises with short spurts of aerobics.

By combining both strength training with short spurts of aerobic exercises you are getting the benefits of building muscles and burning calories and fat. 

A typical circuit may consist of 10 to 12 repetitions of a strength training exercise followed by a short period of rest.

If you are doing an endurance circuit, you would replace the rest period with some cardio for a set period of time. 

The aerobic sections of the circuit can be from a fast walk to a high intense running or jump roping as an example.

The shorter the aerobic set the higher the intensity level.

Similar to interval training, endurance circuit training combines both anaerobic workouts, in the form of the strength training and aerobic routines like jump rope or brisk walk or jog.

Interval training is typically all aerobic forms of exercise with spurts of high intense activities like sprinting or running. During the sprint or run, the routine becomes anaerobic.

Circuit training however focuses more on the anaerobic strength training exercises with spurts of aerobic exercises or periods of rest if it's just a strengthening workout.

For beginners, start with a shorter circuit incorporating 4 to 5 strength training exercises with spurts of aerobic exercises (for endurance ) or short periods of rest in between. 

For intermediate and advanced levels, you would add additional circuits of strength training. For these levels, anywhere from 6 - 12 different strengthening moves would be a typical workout.

Below are examples of circuit workouts for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels.

Beginner Example Circuit Training Workout Rountines

Before starting any of the below circuits, make sure to warm up and stretch. 

The first example uses resistance band exercises for the  strength training.

You can use dumbbell exercises or a home gym as well or just use body weight to provide resistance.

The second example uses dumbbell weights, but again you can substitute these for what you have available. Just do what is comfortable for you to start with.

exercise equipmentEach example below are for beginning levels.

Below each workout example are adjustments to make them either an intermediate or advanced level routine.

Example Workout #1          Example Workout #2        Intermediate/Advanced

Circuit Workout 1

This circuit training example will require a jump rope and resistance band. If you don't have these available, just use to the moves as if you had these pieces of equipment.

Exercise Duration Explanation
Warm Up 5 Min Walk or jog in place for about 5 minutes and stretch before starting your circuit training routine.
Squats 1 min Place both legs on the resistance band and pull the band up to your shoulders.  Now sit back on your heels and bend like you are sitting in a chair. 

As you come back up, tighten your glutes to get the most from this move.  Repeat for 60 to 90 seconds.
Rest (Jump Rope)
1 min For a typical circuit, use this 60 seconds for a rest period.

If you are doing an endurance circuit, jump rope for a one minute.

Using a jump rope or without a rope, jump with both feet together about an inch or so off the floor.  
Single Leg Kickbacks 1 min Place both hands and feet on the ground in a four point position.  Place the resistance band around your right leg and hold it with your right hand. 

Now kick your right leg back and up until fully extended.  Bring your right leg back to where your knee is bent without placing it back on the floor. 

Repeat this for 30 seconds and then switch legs and repeat for 30 seconds with the left leg.
(Walk / Run)
1 min (rest)

3 min
For the endurance workout, walk in place at a brisk pace for 60 seconds.  Now run in place at a fast pace for 30 seconds.  Bring it back to a brisk walk for 90 seconds.

If you are not doing an endurance circuit, take a 60 second rest period.
Lunge 1 min Placing the resistance band under your right foot, bring the bands straight up to your shoulders. 

Place your left foot behind you with toes on the ground. Bend both knees until your right leg is even with the floor.

Stand back up to end this move.  Repeat this for 60 seconds.
(Jump Rope)
1 min Use this time to either do a rest period or jump rope.
Kick Back 1 min Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Place the band around your right foot and hold it both ends with your right hand.

Kick your right leg out and up until the knee is straight.

Do this for 30 seconds and then repeat for 30 seconds on the other leg.
1 min Use this time for a rest period. For endurance circuit, run in place at a fast pace for 60 seconds.
Cool Down 5 min If you are only doing Circuit I, then now is the time to do your cool down.  Walk or march in place for 5 minutes.  Remember to stretch your muscles after your cool down.
Total 18 min

20 min (endurance)
This circuit training workout is 18 minutes (for typical) and 20 minutes for the endurance circuit.

The above example is a circuit with emphasis on the lower body. Each time you do a circuit, add different strengthening moves to work all muscles with an emphasis on a certain group.

For instance, one circuit could include tricep curls, bicep curls, shoulder raise and chest press to work the upper body.

Another example would be to include abdominal and core exercises in your circuit training.

You can mix and match however you want to fit your schedule and equipment. Mix it up throughout the week so that you never get bored with your workouts.

 Circuit Training 2

Here is another example workout using circuit training intervals with an emphasis on the upper body. You can always substitute dumbbells with resistance bands or just use your own body weight for the stengthening sessions.

Exercise Duration Explanation
Warm Up 5 min Walk or jog in place for about 5 minutes.  Then stretch your muscles before starting your circuit training.
Tricep Curls
1 1/2 min Using a 2 - 5 lb dumbbell, place it in your right hand, holding your arm straight up by your ear.

Bending at the elbow, and keeping your arm next to your ear, drop your arm behind your head. Bring it back to starting position.

Do this for 45 seconds and repeat on the other side for 45 seconds.
1 min

1 1/2 min
Rest for 1 minute or Jog or run in place for 60 to 90 seconds at a fast pace for endurance training.
Bicep Curls 1 1/2 min Using 2 dumbbells, grab one in each hand. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.  Hold the dumbbells palm up at your shoulders.

Bring your arms down until the elbows are almost straight. Return to starting position.

Repeat this for 90 seconds.
(Jump Rope)
1 min Rest for 1 minute for typical circuit.

For endurance circuit, jump rope for 1 minute
Shoulder Row 1 1/2 min Holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing down, place feet slightly apart.

Bend and your waist with arms hanging down. Bending your elbows, lift both arms brining the weights up towards your chest. Return to starting position.

Repeat this for 90 seconds.
(Walk / Run)
1 min

3 1/2 min
Take a 1 minute rest if you are doing a typical circuit.

Otherwise, walk briskly for 90 seconds.  Now step up the pace and run in place at a high speed for 30 seconds.  Then slow it down to a brisk walk for 90 seconds.
Chest Press 1 1/2 min Grab a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing down. With elbows bent, place your hands next to your chest with elbows back and behind you.

Bring your arms out in front of you until dumbbells touch each other. Return to starting position.

Repeat this for 90 seconds.
Jump Rope 1 min If you are doing an endurance circuit, then jump rope for 60 seconds. If you are doing a typical circuit, then go to the cool down.
Cool Down 5 min Walk or march in place for 5 minutes.  Remember to stretch your muscles after your cool down.
Total 19 min

23 min

The total time for a typical circuit (with only the rest periods) is 19 minutes.

The endurance circuit training workout totals 23 minutes.

The above circuit workout adds a few more minutes to both the strengthening exercises as well as the aerobics. So if you feel you are ready to move things up a notch, then try this workout.

You can always add or substitute different strengthening and aerobic exercises with the ones in this example. For instance, add some abdominal exercises to tone your stomach or even back strengthening moves. Try some jumping jacks as an aerobic step to mix it up a bit.

Intermediate/ Advanced Levels

Using the above circuit training workout examples, you can turn them into either an advanced level or intermediate. Just make some adjustments to the segments and/or do the circuits for multiple rounds. Below are some suggestions to take the above examples to the next levels.

Intermediate Level

For an intermediate circuit training workout, add 3 - 5 more strengthening moves for a 1 minute period. Don't forget to add in your rest periods in between.

You can add additional upper or lower body moves (depending on the primary focus of each workout). You can also combine the lower body and upper body strength training into one session by completing both the above examples one time each.

If you want it to also include endurance training, add 1 - 3 minutes of aerobics between each of the strength training exercises.

As an alternative, you can just go through the above example twice to move it up to an intermediate level workout.

Advanced Level

If you really want to rev up these workout routines, take it to the advanced level. You can either add at least 6 - 10 more strength training exercises for the above examples. 

If you would like to combine both upper and lower body strengthening, then just use the above examples and go through each circuit completely. Then repeat a second time to make it an advanced workout.

Keep your rest period to no more than 1 minute. You can even try for only 30 seconds of rest for the advanced level.

For the endurance version, add a set of aerobics after each strengthening exercise. The aerobic segments should be from 1 - 5 minutes in length at medium to medium/high intensity.

Another way to take this to the advanced level is to just repeat the above circuit 3 or 4 times.

Check out these abdominal exercises to add to your next circuit training routine.

Remember to mix up the different muscles each time you do a new circuit training workout. These examples only cover a handful of lower and upper body toning. So be sure to add some core muscles and different moves when designing your weekly workouts.

Additional Articles

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