Heart-Core Circuit

by Fred Hoffman, MEd on Jun 23, 2011

The structure and dynamics of circuit training go a long way in explaining its success. The format allows participants to experience a large variety of exercises and equipment at whatever intensity the students choose. They compete only with themselves, and they don’t have to be in sync with others. Heart-Core Circuit focuses on strength and cardiovascular training and alternates open- and closed-kinetic-chain, multijoint resistance exercises with full-body, dynamic, cardio-inspired moves. The class integrates strength and endurance, balance, core conditioning, trunk stabilization, postural alignment and propulsion. The exercises are accessible for most levels and can easily be modified to increase the intensity and complexity.

Heart-Core Circuit Details

Format: cardio-resistance multistation circuit for 25–50+ participants
Level: intermediate (give modifications as needed)
Total Time: 55–60 minutes, which allows participants to complete the circuit three times
Equipment: exercise mats, Body Bars® (choose an appropriate weight for muscle fatigue and overload), Gliding™ discs, step platforms, BOSU® Balance Trainers, stability balls, medicine balls (2–4 pounds). The instructor needs a whistle and stopwatch to signal the start and completion of each station.
Music: Working on the beat is optional. To allow proper execution of the exercises, choreographed or not, 126–130 beats per minute is recommended.
Warm-Up: Use full-body, dynamic movements that prepare joints and muscles for the forces and mechanics of the exercises in the class.

Main Workout (~50 minutes)


  • Participants perform a designated move at one station for a predetermined time and, when prompted by the instructor, move to the next station.
  • People should be given enough time to reach the next station, familiarize themselves with the exercise and get in position with the equipment before the next activity begins.
  • There are 12 stations total, alternating between strength and cardio.
  • For all strength exercises, a minimum of 12 repetitions is suggested, but since the stations are time-based, you can encourage participants to continue until you signal the end. For cardio exercises, participants keep moving for the allotted time.
  • Each station lasts approximately 1–1.5 minutes, including prep time and recovery.

Sample Station 1: Strength
BOSU Balance Trainer
Position: on all fours, right (R) knee on BOSU ball, left (L) knee and both hands on floor
Description: Lift and extend R arm and L leg. Perform flexion and extension for 12 reps or until prompted by instructor to change sides. Repeat entire sequence on opposite side.

Sample Station 2: Cardio
step platform
Position: standing, facing platform
Description: Squat-jump onto platform, then step down (alternate lead leg down; modify squat-jump as needed). Let arms assist by moving upward during jump.

Sample Station 3: Strength Equipment: stability ball
Position: kneeling, hands and forearms on stability ball
Description: Perform forward roll-out, engaging torso and lowering buttocks to create plank position from shoulders to knees. Roll back to start; 12 reps or until time is up.

Sample Station 4: Cardio
Gliding discs
Position: standing, discs under feet
Description: Perform “cross-country skiing” movements with legs and arms.

Instructor Tips and Recommendations

  • Create station signs with abbreviated explanations of the exercises. Place the signs on the floor in front of the corresponding stations, or tape the instructions to a wall.
  • Review the proper use of each piece of equipment and demonstrate each exercise.
  • Before starting, ensure that all participants understand the importance of maintaining good body alignment and core engagement.
  • Emphasize proper body mechanics and technique through verbal and visual cuing. Encourage participants to work at their own pace and to rest or slow down as needed.
  • Throughout the workout, call out duration cues; for example, “We are at 40 seconds” or “You have 15 seconds left.” Give participants an idea of how much time has passed or how much is left. Remind them to change sides (leg or arm) halfway through the station, if appropriate.
  • Warm up before the circuit and cool down after it.
  • Don’t forget the fun factor!

For more information, including warm-up suggestions and eight more stations, please see “Sample Class: Heart-Core Circuit” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2011 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

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© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Fred Hoffman, MEd

Fred Hoffman, MEd IDEA Author/Presenter

Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., is the owner of Fitness Resources Consulting Services and the author of Going Global: An Expert’s Guide to Working Abroad in the International Fitness Industry. The recipient of the 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Award, Fred holds a Master’s Degree in Health Education from Boston University and has over thirty years of experience in the fitness and health industry. Fred is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and from 2013 to 2016 he served as a member of the ACE Industry Advisory Panel. Fred’s expertise has taken him to nearly 50 countries on six continents to speak at more than 200 conferences and conventions. In 2001 he was elected to the International Who's Who of Professionals. Certifications: ACE and ACSM Education provider for: ACE