What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is a fast-paced class in which you do one exercise for 30 seconds to 5 minutes and then move on to another exercise. It’s like a game of musical chairs: Everyone begins at a station (that is, a place where an exercise is done), and when the instructor yells “Time!” everyone moves to the next free station. Some classes alternate an aerobic activity (like stepping or stationary cycling) with a muscle-strengthening activity (like using weight machines). Others focus exclusively on muscle toning or aerobic exercise.

Consider the following if you are interested in taking a circuit training class:

  • What circuit training does for you: Increases your strength and aerobic fitness and burns lots of calories. However, you don’t get the same level of conditioning as you would from doing your aerobics and strength training separately. If you take circuit classes, aim to get in an additional 20 minutes of straight aerobic exercise at least three days a week.

  • The exhaustion factor: Moderate. Circuit training tends to be intense, but it’s completely adaptable to the individual. Beginners use less weight and perform simpler moves than more-experienced exercisers, but everyone gets a good workout.

  • The coordination factor: Low. Nothing to worry about.

  • Who digs circuit training: Anyone looking for a good sweat to shake out of a training plateau. Circuit classes also are popular among busy people who want to combine a strength and aerobic routine in one workout. Anyone who wants a really fun and fast-paced workout will like circuit classes.

  • Signs of a sharp instructor: Good instructors are aware of each class member’s level and modify the moves accordingly. Even though you’re moving quickly from station to station, the instructor still needs to focus on proper technique. Look for no more than a one-minute rest between stations. Expect a heart-rate check 12 to 20 minutes into the main workout.

  • Tips for first-timers: Pay attention to how you feel. Many people are surprised by how challenging circuit work can be.

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