Circuit training remains a popular activity, which is not surprising since it provides an integrated and accessible full-body workout. Not only can you combine cardio and strength moves in one class, but you can offer a wide variety of easily modifiable moves, accommodating participants of all abilities.
The following 10-station cardio and strength circuit alternates bouts of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activities with strength training moves that target all the major muscle groups. The class incorporates five pieces of equipment; however, be as creative as you wish: Use whatever small studio equipment is available, or design the class with body-weight exercises only.
Cardio-Strength Circuit Details
Format: a multistation cardio and strength training circuit, intermediate level
Time: 20–50 minutes (45–60 seconds per station; 2–3 cycles)
Music: 128–132 beats per minute. Choose music that motivates! Working on the beat is an option, not an obligation.
Equipment needed: This class incorporates step platforms, BOSU® Balance Trainers, Body Bars®, stability balls and Gliding™ discs, but you can use whatever is available! The instructor needs a whistle and a stopwatch or timer app.
- Create signs with abbreviated explanations of the exercises, and place the signs on the floor in front of the corresponding stations, or tape them to the wall. Use large text for easy reading, and provide several copies to accommodate large numbers of participants.
- Before class, quickly review proper use of the equipment and demonstrate each move.
- Ensure that all participants understand the importance of maintaining good body alignment and core engagement.
- Emphasize proper body mechanics and technique during class with verbal and visual cues.
- Encourage participants to work at their own pace.
- Throughout the workout, call out duration cues such as “You’re at 40 seconds” or “15 seconds left to go.”
- Most important: Have fun!
Warmup (4–6 minutes)
Use movements that prepare the joints and muscles for the forces and mechanics of the selected exercises. Suggestions: knee lifts, basic squats, reverse lunges, arm circles, small hops side to side, hamstring curls, gentle torso rotations and overhead arm reaches.
Cardio-Strength Circuit (20–50 minutes)
Strength: Mountain Climber on Stability Ball
Starting position: on knees, forearms on ball.
How-to: From hands and knees, forearms on ball, roll out until legs are extended in plank position. Do mountain climber 8×, then lower knees to floor. Return to start and repeat.
Cardio: Curtsy Lunges With Gliding Discs
Starting position: standing on discs, knees bent, torso flexed slightly forward.
How-to: Perform alternating dynamic backward lunges, crossing behind diagonally (curtsy lunge). Push arms out in front to same side as leg that’s crossing back (for example, arms push right as R foot crosses back).
Strength: Hip Abduction/Adduction With Gliding Discs
Starting position: from pushup, arms and legs extended, discs under toes.
How-to: Slide R leg out to side, return to start, and repeat L, in alternating hip abduction and adduction, 8×. Follow with bilateral movement, 8× (both legs abduct and adduct simultaneously, like a plank jack).
Cardio: Alternating Knee-Up With Propulsion on Step
Starting position: standing in straddle position, with step lengthwise between feet.
How-to: Step up, lift opposite knee and hop on step, down, down, repeat, other foot, 4×. Follow with squat jump on step platform, walk down 4× (bend knees, jump onto platform, walk down to starting position).
Strength: Dynamic Bridge on Stability Ball
Starting position: supine bridge position on floor, hips lifted, knees bent, both feet on top of ball (relatively close to buttocks).
How-to: Keeping hips lifted, make small circular motion with feet and legs R, 6×; then L, 6×. Extend knees, straighten legs and move ball away from buttocks. Flex knees, return to start, 6×. Repeat all.
Cardio: Sliding Jumping Jacks on Discs
Starting position: standing, feet on gliding discs.
How-to: Slide feet apart and together laterally with small rebound, arms lifting overhead, 16×. Follow with cross-country skiing, 16× (one foot slides forward and the other back, arms moving naturally in opposition to feet).
Strength: Squat and Rotate With Body Bar
Starting position: standing, feet together, holding Body Bar horizontal, arms extended overhead, hands shoulder-width apart.
How-to: Bending elbows, lower bar to chest height while stepping out R into squat. From squat, rotate torso R and extend arms, pushing bar away. Return bar to torso and rotate back to center. Extend knees as you return foot to starting position and extend arms up, lifting bar back to starting position. Repeat, L.
Cardio: Propulsive Lunges on the Step
Starting position: facing step.
How-to: “Run” onto step R, L. From top of step, do propulsive lunges back R 1×, L 1×, step down R, L. Repeat for duration.
Strength: Kayak Rows With Body Bar
Starting position: standing, holding bar upright with underhand grip at top, overhand grip at bottom.
How-to: Lunge back with R foot and perform kayak rowing movement with bar R, L, R. Return to starting position and repeat, L. Repeat all, alternating R and L.
Cardio: Leap, Lunge and Squat With BOSU Balance Trainer
Starting position: standing, R side to BOSU Balance Trainer.
How-to: Leap up R foot on side of BOSU ball, step down, lunge back R on floor, repeat 2×. Move laterally over dome with propulsion; finish with small squat on floor (feet neutral). Repeat all, L.
Cooldown and Stretch (5 minutes)
Conclude the class by bringing participants together for a short cooldown with simple, full-body movements, as well as a variety of stretches for all of the major muscle groups. Suggestions: low-intensity step-touches, overhead arm reaches, torso rotation, reverse lunge, quadriceps and hip flexor stretch, and chest and shoulder stretches.
To purchase the online course Cardio-Strength Circuits For Fun And Function! by Fred Hoffman, MEd, filmed at the 2017 IDEA World Fitness Convention™, visit the IDEA Store.