Optimize your functional training circuits.
Many facilities offer some type of “core” or “functional” training circuit classes. While these may meet club members’ demands, instructors don’t always have formal knowledge of their subject. This can be detrimental. A successful circuit is designed with a goal in mind, and the exercises should reflect this. It is also important to consider participants’ fitness levels and injury status.
A good instructor knows how to progress, regress and modify exercises in a matter of seconds without breaking stride or disturbing class flow. Common modifications include changing angles, range of motion and movement speed—skills that come with education and practice. This sample circuit is a small taste of the multiple exercises and progressions that fall under the functional/core-conditioning umbrella.
Format: circuit for 36 participants
Stations: 9 (2 pairs per station)
Station Time: 2 minutes (switch exercises after 1 minute on most stations)
Total Time: 35 minutes for one circuit, 60 minutes for two circuits (including warm-up and cool-down/stretch)
Goal: to offer a full-body functional workout that involves core and joint stability through a range of speeds, intensities and body positions
Equipment Needed: 2 pairs of boxing gloves, 2 pairs of focus pads, 12 mats, 6 medicine balls (2 each: 4, 6 and 8 pounds), 3 Bodyblades, 12 stability balls, 8 BOSU® balance trainers, 16 elastic tubing bands
Music: Core Storm is not a choreographed class; therefore, use music to motivate and inspire. Pitch control and music pace are not issues. Choose popular music from a variety of genres that has a fast enough beat to keep people motivated. Remind participants (especially those used to choreography) not to exercise to the beat.
Warm-Up: Lead the group in an easy jog around the room, progressing to a random path around, through and over the equipment (without touching it). Vary the warm-up by adding a range of activities, such as walking lunges, bridges and push-ups, and by changing direction, level (high, low, medium) and speed.
General Instruction: Tell participants to find a partner and a station. Each station focuses on a different set of muscles. There will be crossover, but one parameter (e.g. strength, power, agility) will be used more than others. Participants should maintain proper technique and activity for the entire minute. If form begins to suffer at a station, modify the exercise to make it easier for the remainder of the interval, or encourage a short rest.
Face your partner in “fighter’s stance.” While one holds the focus pads, the other—wearing the boxing gloves—practices jab and cross movements. Switch after first minute.
First Minute: Sit on ground facing each other, knees bent, feet slightly touching. Maintain neutral posture while leaning back approximately 30 to 45 degrees. Partner 1, hold medicine ball at chest level, rotate chest and shoulders, return to center and pass ball to partner 2. Alternate. To increase difficulty, hold arms farther from the body while rotating chest and shoulders.
Second Minute: [Partners work independently.] While firmly holding a Bodyblade in a vertical position, interlace fingers and hands around center of handle. Assume a quarter squat position with neutral posture, abdominals contracted. Begin moving the Bodyblade from side to side slowly until you find a steady rhythm, then increase intensity. ‰
[Partners work independently.]
First Minute: While seated on a stability ball, experiment with balance by lifting one foot and then both feet. Try the same exercise with eyes closed.
Second Minute: Balance on the stability ball on hands and knees. Try lifting alternate arms and legs for a challenge.
First Minute: Partner up. Hold handle ends of elastic tubing and assume side-by-side quarter squat stances. Partner 1 holds arms straight out at chest height, grasping tubing firmly in both hands and keeping this position for the entire minute. Partner 2 begins in the same position, except upper body is turned to face partner 1 (hands are still straight out at chest height and lower body is turned sideways). Partner 2 rotates upper body away from partner 1 as far as possible without turning hips, then returns to starting position in a controlled manner; partner 2 switches sides after 30 seconds.
Second Minute: Switch roles.
First Minute: Partner up. Sit on stability balls, facing each other, knees at a 90 degree angle to the floor, feet hip-width apart. Each partner, hold one end of elastic tubing in left hand at midchest level and pull back simultaneously, performing a “rowing” motion.
Second Minute: Switch arms.
First Minute: Stand on BOSUs, facing each other, feet hip-width apart. Partner 1, hold medicine ball and squat. Return to start position while passing ball to partner. Alternate.
Second Minute: Stand on BOSUs, facing each other, feet hip-width apart. Partner 1, bend knees slightly and hold medicine ball overhead. Bounce ball toward middle with enough force to make it to partner 2’s chest. Alternate.
Kneel, facing each other, with partner 1 on floor and partner 2 on mat. Partner 1, hold medicine ball at chest height and pass to partner 2, who performs push-ups in between passes. Switch after first minute.
First Minute: Lie prone, facing partner, with a stability ball in the middle and arms reaching overhead. Take turns lifting stability ball 2 to 3 inches off the floor, keeping lower body stationary.
Second Minute: [Partners work independently.] Kneel in front of a stability ball. Place forearms about 6 inches back from ball’s apex and interlace fingers. Roll the ball forward only to the point where the core muscles are able to maintain a neutral lumbar position; avoid “pinching” the lower back.
[Partners work independently.]
First Minute: Hop on top of BOSU with both feet, landing with legs approximately hip-width apart. Use arms for balance.
Second Minute: Repeat, only this time pick a landing spot and close eyes before jumping.
Cool-Down: Ask participants to help put the equipment away, which takes about 2 minutes, clearing the floor for stretching and allowing heart rates a chance to decrease.
Stretch: Do a general, full-body stretch for the final 5 to 10 minutes, paying particular attention to those areas that are usually tight in most people (hamstrings, hip flexors, abdominals, chest/shoulders).