Circuit Training Ideas

Updated April 17, 2017

If you are looking for a workout that burns more calories in less time, consider circuit training. According to Fitness Magazine, circuit training burns 30 per cent more calories than traditional weight-training workouts. Circuit training combines cardiovascular intervals with weight training and strength exercises. The combination of weights and cardiovascular activities keeps you moving throughout your weight training and prevents boredom from mundane workouts.

Free Weights

Free weights are the main component of any circuit training program. Work opposing large muscle groups to form a rotation in your circuit with a cardio component or mat work in between each large muscle exercise. Concentrate on the back, pectorals, quadriceps and hamstrings. Free weights are also useful in working smaller muscle groups such as the biceps, triceps and calves. Add smaller muscle group exercises to your circuit when you need to catch your breath or slow your heart rate.


You get cardiovascular exercise you move quickly from one exercise to another. Sometimes individuals add extended cardio workouts to their circuit training by using a treadmill, elliptical or stair-climbing machine for five to 10 minutes between circuits. Other exercises done without weights can increase the heart rate and act as cardiovascular exercises as well; these exercises are often performed on a mat or while standing. Some typical standing exercises include lunges, skipping rope and squats.

Mat Exercises

Rotating mat work into a circuit training program helps prevent boredom; this is also helpful if the gym is full and you cannot use the weights or machine you need for the next part of your circuit. Mat exercises include stomach crunches, push-ups and leg raises, or any other body-weight exercises completed without the addition of dumbbells or a machine.


One circuit should consist of two or three exercises from each of the free weight, cardiovascular and mat exercise components. Work steadily from one exercise to the next without stopping for breaks until an entire circuit is complete. Rest for less than five minutes between each circuit to keep your muscles warm and prevent injuries.

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About the Author

Lindsay Zortman has worked as a writer since 2001. Her work focuses on topics about cancer, children, chemical dependency, real estate, finance, family issues and other health-related topics. She is a featured writer with the National Brain Tumor Foundation. Zortman is a nationally certified counselor and holds a Master of Arts in counseling from the University of South Dakota.