What is circuit training?
Circuit training was first developed in 1953 by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson at the University of Leeds in 1953. The formula was as follows:
“A circuit consists of 9 to 12 stations, with each station representing one exercise. At each station, an exercise is performed with a specific resistance and for a specific number of reps. Work at each station takes 30-60 seconds, after which the trainee moves directly to the next station on the circuit (with no break) and begins the exercise. An aerobics station requiring 15-180 seconds of work is placed between the main exercise stations.”
Morgan and Anderson developed this form of circuit training in order to enable individuals to work at their own intensity while also training with others. This is why it is a popular training method for army recruits and other team exercise sessions.
During circuit training, the body is forced to work through exercises of varying intensities, resulting in the use of different energy systems all within one session. Training in both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems provides an excellent workout improving overall fitness, speedwork and endurance.
Over the years, trainers have adapted and changed the formula to suit their needs, such as boxing circuits or bodyweight circuits, but the main structure and end result remain the same.
What are the benefits of circuit training?
- Multiple people can train at once and work at their own intensity
- The variety means there’s no room for boredom
- Circuit training boosts cardiovascular fitness
- Circuit training boosts muscular fitness
- It offers a full-body workout in a short space of time
- It's social
- No wasted time as rest periods are minimal
- Significant calorie expenditure
Research Supporting Circuit Training
A study at The University of Alabama found that circuit training can maintain heart rates at near 80% of the max, at this level of intensity aerobic development can occur - this takes place between 78- 85% of the maximum heart rate.
In a study of weight training circuits conducted by The National Athletic Health Institute in the 1970’s participants performed back to back strength exercises with no rest for 10 weeks. The study’s participants gained 3 pounds of muscle and lost 2 pounds of fat. Both men and women achieved reductions in skinfold thickness and increased their overall muscular strength. Despite the lack of any cardio within the circuits, participants saw an improved running time to exhaustion on a treadmill by 5 to 6% and an 11% increase in their VO2 max.
A study for Aging and Disease called “Impact of Resistance Circuit Training on Neuromuscular, Cardiorespiratory and Body Composition Adaptations in the Elderly” found that in order to optimise the body composition, muscle strength gains, and developed cardiovascular function from circuit training, the following protocols need to be maintained:
- 2 circuits should be completed weekly and can be implemented with endurance training.
- Circuit weight training should last 30–50 minutes. The number of sets and the repetitions per exercise is going to depend on the intensity of training.
- The loading intensity to promote hypertrophy (build muscle) should approach 60–85% (more highly trained individuals 85%) of 1RM, although low intensity is also recommended (e.g. 40% of 1RM), high velocity contractions on at least 1 day per week to develop muscle power.
- The work to rest ratio is also a critical factor in the prescribing of circuit training. The work to rest ratio 1:1 (30:30 s) may be an excellent stimulus to promote improvements on aerobic fitness, and modifications on body composition (i.e. decrease body fat).
Circuit Training Workout Routine
5 - 10 minute warm up light run.
Complete 3 rounds of the following exercises, try 45 seconds on with 15 seconds rest (just enough time to switch between exercises)
1.Bench step ups
3. Bench push ups
3. Travelling plank
1.Box jumps onto the bench
2.Bench plank rotations
3.Lateral Step up with abduction
1.Bunny Hops with hands on the bench
2.Mountain Climbers with hands on the bench
3.Feet elevated plank
5 - 10 minutes cool down stretches.
The beauty of circuit training is that a circuit can be set up anytime anywhere, you can change the routine to suit the equipment you’ve got, or use none at all. The main factor is your level of effort, as long as your circuit works you hard, you’ll reap the rewards.
You don't need weights to get great results as body weight exercises can be hugely effective. Add these 5 bodyweight exercises to your workout routine to boost the burn and ramp up your results.
1. Lunge Kickthrough
If you want to torch your legs without doing squats, this is the move for you. This exercise will target every muscle in your legs from the glutes to the calves and can even target your core if you do it correctly.
Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Step back into a lunge on one leg, making sure you bend the knee at a 90 degree angle and keep your chest proud. Using your arms for balance, bring that leg forward and instead of placing it back on the floor, kick it in front of you. Really squeeze your glutes as you kick and then step straight back into a lunge on the same leg. This will also test your balance! Complete 10 reps on one leg and then swap to the other.
2. Two-Footed Jumps
Not only will this exercise tone your legs, it will increase your power and therefore help your sports performance. This is a full body exercise utilising your arms, core, and legs to achieve the best result. It will also work your cardiovascular system and help to improve your lung capacity and VO2 max.
Mark your starting point with something; this can be anything from a jacket to a towel to a water bottle, anything you have nearby. Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Slightly bend your knees and draw your arms behind you. Jump forward with both feet as explosively as you can. Once you land, shuffle back to your marked starting point. Jump as far as you can and try to beat it each time.
3. Pull Ups
This is a classic exercise that will be found in all good strength training routines and is well-loved by those who do callisthenics, CrossFit, and free running. This is an upper body move and will target your lats and shoulders mainly with a little of the core being hit too.
Place your hands wider than shoulder width on a bar and dangle your body so that your feet don't touch the ground. Pull your entire body weight up until your chin goes over the bar. Pull your elbows in and tighten your lats. Breathe out as you pull up to assist in the movement. If you cannot complete this move unassisted, have a friend hold your legs to help you or use a resistance band.
4. Plank Get Ups
This is a killer exercise which is perfect at the end of your workout. It will target your shoulders, triceps, core, and chest. It is a mix between the classic plank hold and push ups and will really test your strength both physically and mentally.
Start in a push up position with your wrists under your shoulders and your feet slightly wider than hip width. Lower yourself down onto your forearms one arm at a time, then push yourself back up onto your hands, again one hand at a time. Keep your core squeezed tight and don't rock your hips as you move. Complete as many reps as you can in 30, 45, or 60 seconds.
5. Back Extensions
The posterior chain refers to the muscles down the back of your body, from your hamstrings to your glutes and into your back. This is a really important set of muscles to work as they will help keep your posture correct and can often be neglected during a workout. Back extensions are the perfect way to really target your posterior chain and help to tone your legs and butt as well as reducing back pain.
Start by laying on the floor face down with your fingers by your temples. Keeping your eyes looking at the floor and your elbows high, lift the upper part of your body off the floor. It will feel quite tough and you might not be able to move very far, but really squeeze through your back and glutes. Take the reps slowly and really focus on every movement.
Resistance bands are a great way to get a workout in wherever you are. You don't need expensive equipment or even a gym membership, just a resistance band and your body weight. Follow this resistance band workout with exercises for arms and legs for a full body workout that will get results.
What are the benefits of resistance bands?
There are many benefits to using a resistance band to workout. They are very convenient and portable so you can take them with you wherever you go for an outdoor or home workout. You could even take your resistance band on holiday to keep your fitness and strength ticking over while you're away.
Body weight exercises are great, but adding resistance will really ramp up your workout and give you better results. By using a resistance band you can increase the return on your workout and get better results in a shorter time. They are not only great for strength workouts, but also for lower intensity training like stretching and physio.
Resistance band exercises for legs
Using a resistance band when you train your legs can not only strengthen the muscles but also the joints and supporting muscles which will lead to better balance and reduced risk of injury. Try some of these resistance band exercises for the legs and feel the burn!
Place the resistance band around your ankles and stand square with your hands on your hips. Find your balance on your left leg and lift your right leg out to the side as far as you can. Make sure you keep your foot facing forwards and squeeze from the hip. Repeat 10 reps on each leg.
With the resistance band still round your ankles, this time squeeze your bum and lift your leg out behind you, keeping the leg straight. This will really challenge your glutes and hamstrings as well as working your core. Do 10 reps on one leg then swap and do 10 on the other.
Lie on the floor and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. With the resistance band just above your knees, lift your back off the floor and squeeze your bum into the air. Keep your arms and hands flat on the floor and use them to help push you up. Keep your knees out and push them against the resistance from the band. Do 10 repetitions.
This is a great exercise if you've got flat feet or if you struggle with your squat form. Place the band just above your knees and make sure you use a fairly light weight. Drop into a squat, but keep your knees pushed outwards against the resistance of the band the entire time. You'll notice that they want to cave in, so stay strong. You'll realise how much you need to use your glutes to fire you back up, and this will highlight any muscle weaknesses. Try 3 sets of 10 reps.
Having little ones at home can leave you feeling like you don't have a spare second in the day. Between rushing to and from school and picking the little ones up from activities and trying to squeeze in daily errands too, it's no wonder that the average mother only gets 17 minutes of 'me time' each day. So how can you fit in exercise when you have no time? We give you all the tips you need along with with a working mom workout routine for you to try.
How can I find time to workout with kids?
Finding time to exercise as a working parent can feel almost impossible, but it doesn't have to be! Try some of our ideas and see if you can fit exercise into your busy day.
1. Get a training buddy
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to partner up. Whether it's a work colleague, your husband/wife, a friend, or a family member, working out together can make things more fun and interesting. Not only this, but if you have someone to be accountable to and someone who you will let down if you skip your session, you'll be more motivated to get that training session done!
2. Utilise playtime
When it's your child's playtime, get involved and burn some calories! If you have an energetic toddler, run around with them by playing adrenaline-fuelled games that involve running or chasing. If your children are a little older, find games where you can both get active, especially in the garden if it's summer time as there are lots of benefits to training outdoors.
3. Try dancing
Dancing is something that burns a lot of calories, will get you up and active, and can be very fun! If your children are very energetic, put on some music and dance away. This will not only help them burn off that extra energy and get you moving, it can be a great bonding experience.
4. Swap your car for walking or cycling
By combining your errands with exercise, you can make the time to get active without compromising any of your daily activities. Try walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving, or walking your children to school. It may be easier than you think to get around without your car!
5. Exercise before you start your day
By getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, you could fit in an entire workout and start your day right. There are lots of workouts you can do in under 30 minutes, like this 5-minute punchbag workout, 10-minute tabata workout, or this 20-minute home workout. Even a short workout is better than no workout at all, and it'll energise you for a productive day. If you don't want to get up earlier than you already do, try this lunchtime HIIT workout instead.
How can a stay at home mum lose weight?
There are lots of tips and tricks to losing weight if you are a stay-at-home parent. Follow these dos and don'ts to make sure you're staying healthy while at home with the little ones.
1. Don't eat anything you wouldn't feed to your kids
There are lots of things you wouldn't feed to your children because the salt or sugar content it too high, so why feed them to yourself? A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you wouldn't give it to your child because of the ingredients, you should avoid it yourself too. Stick to whole foods and try to avoid anything overly processed or pre-packaged.
2. Don't snack mindlessly
If you find yourself in a rare moment of calm when your child is playing happily alone or watching a television show, it can be tempting to mindlessly eat food that you don't really need. Avoid temptation by not having snacks in the house, and stick to eating at set times.
3. Do make mealtime an occasion
If mealtime is an occasion to look froward to when you eat together with your kids, you'll be less likely to have an unstructured day. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family where you sit at a table and focus on what you're eating, rather than grabbing whatever is nearby because you're so rushed off your feet. This might mean deliberately making time for it in your day, but it will be worth it ultimately.
4. Don't eat through stress
Being at home on your own with the kids all day can get pretty stressful. If tempers raise and tantrums ensue, make sure you're not reaching for food as comfort. Comfort eating is something that many of us do without realising and can be an almost impossible habit to break. As above, not having any temptation in the house will help with this and always count slowly to 10 before you eat a snack so that you're not eating it out of a stressed panic.
5. Do make food fun and creative by getting the children involved
Getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a fantastic way to bond and to help them develop vital skills for later in life. Let them get creative by coming up with new recipes and help them with the cooking. If you really want sweet treats, bake cookies or cupcakes together so that you really feel you've earned them and can have fun in the process.
Working mom workout routine
If you have kids at home or are pregnant, try this working mom home workout routine by Sundried ambassador Carly Newson.
Training outdoors has a host of benefits, but it can be hard to get motivated to train outdoors, especially in winter. So why should we do it?
What are the benefits of training outdoors?
Outdoor training increases endorphins
Did you know that the word 'endorphin' is actually a made-up word combining the terms 'endogenous' and 'morphine'? If something is endogenous, that simply means it was made within the body. So, endorphins are basically a type of morphine made by our body. That explains why they make us feel so good!
Endorphins are natural pain-relievers and make us feel happy, just like morphine. Training outdoors has been associated with higher levels of these 'feel good' chemicals being produced in the body. According to a study published in The Environmental Science & Technology Journal, just 5 minutes spent exercising outside in an open green space is enough to significantly lift your mood.
You burn more calories training outside
When you train in a gym or run on a treadmill, your body doesn't have to combat the elements. The surfaces are smooth and man-made and you don't need to work as hard to battle them. When training outside, you have the added elements of wind-resistance and heat from the sun, as well as uneven terrain to keep you on your toes. Research says you can burn up to 10% more calories than your regular gym session.
High oxygen levels improve almost every chemical reaction within your body. Research shows that spending time in fresh air, surrounded by nature, increases energy in 90 percent of people. “Nature is fuel for the soul, “ says Richard Ryan, Researcher and Professor of at the University of Rochester. “Often when we feel depleted, we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energised is to connect with nature.”
Outdoor training can improve bone density
The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. In fact, there is a type of vitamin D that we can only get through sunlight and cannot be produced by the body or absorbed through food. Vitamin D is essential for our bodies to absorb calcium and it also improves your mood. Lack of vitamin D is one reason so many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter.
According to the National Osteoporosis Society recommendations, we should try to get at least 10 minutes of sun exposure to bare skin once or twice a day. Even if it’s cloudy, your body can still get vitamin D from sunlight; it just takes a little longer.
Exercising outdoors saves money
By training outdoors you are enabling yourself to train for free. You don't need expensive equipment in order to do a good workout, in fact, you don't need any equipment at all! Simply use park benches, trees, and other natural things in order to complete your workout. Just make sure you have the right fitness clothing so that you're comfortable and protected against the elements.