High-intensity, short-duration circuit training is a type of metabolic training that breaks the mold of traditional group exercise. You can use this circuit format with recreational exercisers—to jumpstart their routines—or intensify it to challenge your fittest participants and athletes with great success.
Circuits consist of three to five compound exercises that challenge major upper- or lower-body muscle groups, as well as some type of cardiovascular interval, for a complete workout. Structure the circuits using time or repetitions, and perform the exercises at an intensity level that creates a very high level of fatigue by the end of the circuit. Rest is self-selected.
Format: high-intensity, short-duration circuit training
Total Time: approximately 60 minutes
Equipment Needed: Some circuits use no equipment, while others use a step and/or resistance tube.
Music: Music is optional. You can do the class boot camp–style with no music or use music as background. If you choose to perform the exercises in time to the music, you’ll need to adjust the music speed for each move. In general, exercises should be performed as quickly as possible while maintaining proper alignment and stabilization, as well as full range of motion.
Each circuit is designed as a stand-alone workout that takes 20–30 minutes. Combined with an extended warm-up, a cool-down, abdominal exercises and stretching, it can fill a 1-hour class.
Keep the warm-up simple and athletic, to match the style of the class. Use an extended format, and gradually increase intensity to prepare for high-intensity intervals. Here are some suggestions:
- Jog in place, narrow and wide.
- Alternate quarter squat and full squat with rotation (touch floor with right hand outside left foot and vice versa).
- Do cross-jacks (perform regular jumping jacks, but cross feet when they come together).
- Try high-knee jog in place, narrow and wide.
- Perform plank with opposition lift (lift left hand and right foot, maintaining alignment, and switch).
- Throw in some mountain climbers.
Perform each exercise at nearly maximal intensity for 30 seconds. Complete 10 rounds.
Lateral Jumps Over Tube. Place resistance tube on floor beside you in straight line. Jump side to side over tube. Advanced participants, perform tuck jump as if there was a hurdle (or use a step).
Tube Biceps With Front Raise. Standing on tube, perform three biceps curls and one front raise. Advanced participants, have both feet on tube and wider leg position or use stronger tube.
Balance Lunge With Hop, Right-Leg Lead. Standing on right (R) leg, perform single-leg lunge, reaching left (L) leg behind you, but not touching ground. Drop R hip as low as you can while maintaining joint alignment and balance. Swing L knee up and hop on R leg (swinging arms in opposition). Return to lunge position on same leg. Repeat with L-leg lead.
Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise. Finish 10 rounds as fast as you can.
Push-Ups. Do straight-leg or bent-knee push-ups. Advanced participants, lift one leg.
Burpees. Crouch down and touch hands to floor. Jump or step feet back into plank position. Jump or step feet back to hands. Stand up and jump.
Squat Jumps. Squat and touch both hands to floor, keeping back flat. Jump high in air, landing in squat position with hands on floor.
Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise. Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.
Plunges, R Leg Forward. Stand with feet hip distance apart in stagger stance, R leg forward and L leg back. Bend both knees and touch hands to floor. Jump high into air, and land in lunge position with hands touching floor (R leg is still forward). Repeat with L leg forward.
Tube Overhead Press. Standing on tube, press overhead, bringing elbows down to ribs between each repetition. Keep abdominals engaged while pressing overhead.
Tuck Jumps. Jump up and bring knees toward chest. Land with knees bent and immediately jump again.
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Complete 12 rounds.
Sit and Jump. Set up step board at about knee height. Sit on board, then stand and jump. Land with knees bent and use legs to lower yourself back down.
Tube Scaption With Horizontal Adduction. Stand on tube and grip it just below handles with both hands, thumbs at top. Raise arms to shoulder height, slightly in front of torso. Keeping arms at shoulder height, bring hands together in front of chest, then take arms back out and down.
Plank Jump. Standing with long side of board next to you, place hands on board and jump feet from side to side (board remains at knee height).
Tube Back Pull. Hold tube (not handles) with hands, shoulder width apart. Have tube be tight between hands, with excess hanging down on outside. Keeping arms straight, stretch tube by horizontally abducting arms at shoulder joint. Return to starting position in controlled manner. Keep wrists and elbows straight.
Transition by doing standing core exercises and balance moves before finishing with abdominal work and stretching. For example:
Standing Knee Extensions. Standing on L leg, raise R knee and clasp hands under R thigh. Maintaining spinal alignment and balance, perform 8–10 knee extensions. Next, extend arms to sides at shoulder height and let R foot rest along inside of L knee, externally rotating from hip (point knee to side). Bring knee toward midline and then back out to side 8–10 times, focusing on spinal alignment, stabilization and balance, with abdominals engaged. Repeat on other side.
Incorporating these high-intensity “metabolic training” circuits once per week will jumpstart any fitness program and help your students find their inner athletes. Once they allow themselves to push beyond their comfort zones, they will find new motivation and great results! n