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Sample Class: Core Circuit Training

Combine two popular fitness trends in one fun class.

According to the 2005 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey, 56% of respondents offer circuit classes, while 63% offer core conditioning. “Core Circuit” provides a great way to reap the benefits of both activities in a single session. This core circuit training class uses closed-chained, multijoint exercises and contains strength, endurance and balance training components. Core muscle conditioning, trunk stabilization techniques and postural alignment exercises combine to create a well-rounded core circuit training routine.

Core Circuit Details

Format: stationary core circuit training for 25–35 participants; 8–10 stations

Total Time: 60 minutes (4–5 minutes each core circuit exercise)

Fitness Equipment Needed: for each core circuit training participant: one set of dumbbells or a Body Bar® (choose an appropriate weight for sufficient muscle fatigue and overload); exercise mat for instructor: whistle and stopwatch to signal station changes

Music: Working on the beat is an option, not an obligation. If core circuit exercises are “choreographed,” 124–28 beats per minute will allow proper execution.

Core Circuit Training Warm-Up (6–8 minutes)

Use large motor movements such as dynamic squatting, alternating lunges, step-touches and marching in place for the lower body. For the upper body, try gentle torso rotations side to side, overhead reaches, shoulder rolls and arm circles. These exercises help prepare the joints and muscles.

Station 1: Squat With Overhead Press and Hip Abduction
  • Stand with feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Set 1: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, flex elbows 90 degrees at shoulder height, abduct and extend arms overhead, 8–12x.
  • Set 2: Without dumbbells, squat down to approximately 90 degrees, return to standing position and abduct one hip, lifting leg off floor. Alternate right (R) and left (L) 8–12x.
  • Set 3: Combine sets 1 and 2. Squat while holding dumbbells, return to standing position, and perform overhead press while abducting one leg. Lower arms as foot returns to begin next squat. Alternate R and L 8–12x.
Station 2: Quadruped Opposite Arm and Leg
  • Start in quadruped position, hands directly beneath shoulders, knees under hips, spine in neutral.
  • Set 1: Lift and extend R arm and L leg. Hold for 3–5 slow, deep breaths (30 seconds). Maintain neutral posture. Repeat with L arm, R leg.
  • Set 2: Holding one dumbbell in R hand, extend and lift R arm and L leg. Lift and lower 8–10x. Switch sides.
  • Set 3: Extend R arm and lift L leg (dumbbell is optional). Flex elbow and knee, moving them toward center of body. Return to start position. Repeat 8–12x, and switch sides.
Station 3: Standing Hip Flexion
  • Stand in neutral posture, knees slightly bent, feet hip width apart, arms at sides.
  • Lower torso toward floor with maximum of 90 degrees of hip flexion (parallel to floor). Return to start position. Repeat 8–12x.
  • Hold Body Bar or dumbbells in hands in front of thighs. Repeat above, lowering torso and weights, 8–12x.
  • While holding Body Bar or dumbbells, flex forward, extend and lift R leg behind (maximum height: parallel to floor). Return to start and repeat, lifting L leg. Perform 8–12x, both sides (alternating R and L).
Station 4: Plank
  • Lie prone, forearms resting on mat, elbows under shoulders, chest and head slightly lifted, legs and toes on floor.
  • Set 1: Lift torso and knees off floor, and engage abdominals. Extend knees until legs are straight. Maintaining neutral spine, hold for 3–5 slow, deep breaths (approximately 30 seconds). Variation: Keep knees on floor.
  • Set 2: Add: Lift one leg off floor.
  • Set 3: Switch sides, and alternate for a total of 4–6 reps.
Station 5: Alternating Lunge With Cross-Chop
  • Stand with feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent, arms at sides.
  • Set 1: Step R leg back into lunge; return to start position. Repeat L. Perform 12x each side.
  • Set 2: With Body Bar or dumbbells lifted in diagonal position, perform cross-chop (kayaking movement) down to R as R leg lunges back. Lift Body Bar or dumbbells up as foot returns to start position. Repeat L. (When using Body Bar, one hand changes grip when alternating R, L.)
  • Set 3: Start with Body Bar or dumbbells lowered to side of hip. Move cross- chop upward while performing lunges.
Station 6: Push-Up Into T-Stand
  • Start in push-up position.
  • Set 1: Maintain position with neutral spine for 3–5 slow, deep breaths (30 seconds).
  • Set 2: Perform 1 set of 8–12 push-ups (from knees or toes).
  • Set 3: Lower, then push up and rotate entire body outward to R, legs extended, feet resting on outside and inside edges, L arm lifted to ceiling (if starting on knees, top leg extends). Pause, rotate back to L, place L hand on floor and begin another push-up. Repeat L. Alternate for a total of 2–3 sequences (4–6 push-ups).
Station 7: Abdominal Stabilizing Strength and Endurance
  • Start in supine position on mat, hips and knees flexed at 90 degrees, head on floor, arms flexed, elbows above head on floor, core engaged.
  • Set 1: Slowly extend R leg, and lower it toward floor. Return to start position, and switch legs. Repeat 8–12x.
  • Set 2: Repeat set 1, but hold leg in lowered position for 2–3 slow, deep breaths (20 seconds). Return to start position, and switch legs. Repeat 8x.
  • Repeat set 1, adding arm movements: Extend shoulder, bring arm toward descending leg, and lift as leg returns to start position.
Station 8: Side-Lying Bridge (Modified T-Stand)
  • Lie on R side, forearm resting on mat, palm down (facing forward), elbow directly beneath shoulder, knees bent 90 degrees.
  • Set 1: Lift torso, buttocks and R thigh off floor, bearing weight on forearm. Extend L leg, keeping foot on floor. Hold for 3–5 slow, deep breaths (30 seconds), maintaining alignment. Switch sides.
  • Set 2: Lift and lower torso, buttocks and thigh. Repeat 8–12x each side.
  • Set 3: Repeat set 2 with both legs extended, bearing weight on forearm and side edges of feet.
Station 9: Abdominals With Knee Flexion and Extension
  • Start in push-up position (on knees).
  • Set 1: Engage core, and hold. Extend R knee, flex back to floor, and repeat with L knee. Perform 8–12x (alternate legs for a total of 16–24 movements; do not lift and lower buttocks).
  • Set 2: Repeat above, starting with L knee.
  • Set 3: Extend both knees simultaneously, maintaining neutral posture. Pause, and return knees to floor. Repeat 8–12x.
Station 10: Gluteal Bridge
  • Start supine, head and shoulders on floor, arms along sides, feet hip width apart, knees bent.
  • Set 1: Extend hips, lifting buttocks (avoid excessive spinal hyperextension). Hold for 3–5 slow, deep breaths, and lower buttocks to floor without completely releasing.
  • Set 2: Extend hips, and lift one leg to height of other (pelvis doesn’t dip to one side). Hold for 3–5 slow, deep breaths. Replace foot and leg to start position, and lower buttocks to floor. Switch sides.
  • Set 3: Repeat set 2, but abduct lifted leg, maintaining core stability. Hold for 3–5 slow, deep breaths. Return foot and leg to start position, and lower buttocks to floor. Switch sides.
Stretch and Relax (5–7 minutes)

Run through a few sequences of the sun salutation, and include some simple yoga stretches that will help “lengthen” the core muscles. Conclude with a guided relaxation, using positive verbal cues to help students unwind and let go of stress.

instructor safety tips
  • Before starting, ensure that all core circuit training participants understand “neutral posture” and are able to establish correct body alignment.
  • Review the proper use of the selected equipment.
  • Emphasize proper body mechanics and technique through verbal and visual cuing.
  • Encourage students to do the core circuit exercises at their own pace and to compete only with themselves.
  • Remind students to slow down or rest if they are tired or feel excessive discomfort.
  • Have fun!
Fred Hoffman, MEd

Fred Hoffman, MEd, 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 2019 IDEA China Fitness Inspiration Award and the 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Award, he holds a master's degree in health education from Boston University and has over 35 years of experience in the fitness and health industry. A member of the ACE board of directors, 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, ACSM

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