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Body Circuit

Do you work at a facility on a tight budget, or are you just looking for a creative new way to teach a challenging class? Don’t forget that your own body can be a valuable piece of equipment for both cardiovascular and strength training. Used effectively, body weight can provide optimal functional resistance for anaerobic interval training.

Anaerobic training is an essential component of cardiovascular work. Movement performed at and around the anaerobic threshold trains the body to clear lactic acid more effectively, in turn allowing exercisers to achieve higher intensity (and thus better results) in a steady-state workout. An interval-training format challenges your most athletic participants while giving a safe, fun and effective workout to the general population. This class also incorporates strength training, to provide a well-rounded workout in 1 hour.


FORMAT: cardio and strength intervals
TOTAL TIME: 60 minutes
MUSIC: 125–40 beats per minute (bpm) (Use a 130 bpm CD and pitch it up for cardio, down for strength.)

An extended warm-up is essential to protect against injury when working at high intensities. Participants are also more likely to exert themselves during the intervals if their bodies feel well prepared. Keep movements simple yet athletic, and gradually increase intensity. Include light jumping or leaping exercises to prepare for the plyometric aspect of the workout, and finish with dynamic stretches.

Use this time to explain to participants how they should expect to feel during the work intervals and why anaerobic training is important. Here are some suggested movement patterns:

  • double step-touch (eventually progressing to a shuffle side to side)
  • single step-touch moving backward and forward (progressing to leaps)
  • single hamstring curls, double hamstring curls (eventually adding hops)
  • alternating knees (progressing to repeaters, 3 and 7)

Alternate simple cardio moves with upper- and lower-body strength moves. Selectively use both high and low impact, as well as lateral and linear movements. Repeat each exercise twice, switching lead legs when appropriate. Give a brief, unchoreographed rest interval after each exercise. Work intervals are 30 seconds to 2 minutes long, while rest intervals are between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Suggest modifications for those who cannot complete the work intervals.

Keep in mind that true anaerobic training should leave your students out of breath and uncomfortable. Encourage them to go beyond their comfort zones and experience true lactate-threshold training. Participants who do not take advantage of the rest intervals are probably not working hard enough during the work intervals!

Exercise 1: Cardio (90 seconds, or about 6 musical phrases)

Lateral Shuffle With Jump Squats. Shuffle right (R) 4 counts, and jump-squat 2x, reaching hands to ceiling. Shuffle left (L), and jump-squat 2x. Repeat this pattern for length of interval. Rest 30 seconds (2 phrases) and repeat. Option: Change jump-squats to jacks or regular squats for second set.

Exercise 2: Strength (45 seconds, or 3 phrases)
Deep Lunge. Standing on R foot, take a large step back with L foot. Keeping L leg straight, drop hips to knee level and reach L hand to floor. Stand to balance, and repeat on same leg for length of interval. Each lunge should take 4 counts. Rest 45 seconds, and repeat on other leg.

Exercise 3: Cardio (1 minute, or 4 phrases)
Wide Jog.
Jog in place with feet wide apart. Emphasize lateral movement (changing directions) and lifting heels. Rest 30 seconds (2 phrases) and repeat.

Exercise 4: Strength (30 seconds, or 2 phrases)
Squat With Lateral Jump.
Squat with feet hip distance apart, weight on heels. Keeping back straight, reach hands down and touch floor if possible. From squat position, jump up and move to the right, landing immediately in another squat. Perform 8 squats moving R and 8 squats moving L, with 4 counts per squat-jump. Rest 30 seconds (2 phrases) and repeat, beginning L.

Exercise 5: Cardio (1 minute, or 4 phrases)
High Knee Jog.
Jog in place, driving knees up toward chest. Keep chest high and land softly, deep abdominals engaged. Option: Jog 4 counts with heels back and 4 counts with knees high. Rest 30 seconds (2 phrases) and repeat.

Exercise 6: Strength/Cardio (1 minute, or 4 phrases)
Fast Feet With Push-Ups.
In quarter-squat position with heels lifted, move your feet as quickly as you can (Flashdance-style). Emphasize core activation and foot speed while maintaining neutral spine (16 counts). Drop down quickly for 4 push-ups (16 counts). Immediately get back up for fast feet. Cycle 4x through the pattern (this is a hard one!). Rest 45 seconds (3 phrases) and repeat. Option: Use triceps push-ups for second set.

Exercise 7: Cardio (30 seconds, or 2 phrases)
Tuck Jumps.
Jump from both feet, bringing knees up to tap hands at waist level. Keep back straight, and lift chest away from knees. Land softly. Jump every 4 counts (e.g., on counts 1 and 5 of each 8-count segment). Rest 1 minute (4 phrases) and repeat.

Exercise 8: Strength (30 seconds, or 2 phrases)
Balance on right foot, left foot hovering over the floor. With arms out to sides, perform a single-leg squat while rotating to touch left hand to right foot (if possible). Keep arms and back straight. Weight should be in the heel with knee in alignment. Alternate hands, for a total of 16 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds (2 phrases), and repeat on other leg.

Change the class pace by using your space differently. Instruct participants to jog in a clockwise circle around the room. Every minute, instruct them to stop, face the center and perform an exercise such as figure-four squats (one-legged squats, with one leg crossed over the other) or skipping in place. Add an element of fun by letting students come up with the exercises! Be sure to change jogging direction halfway through.

Reward your exhausted class with a truly relaxing conclusion. After bringing their heart rates down with simple movements and active stretches, have them lie down on mats for a few static stretches. Dim the lights and give them a couple of minutes to relax completely, close their eyes and melt into the floor. They will leave the workout inspired, rejuvenated and enjoying a sense of accomplishment.

SIDEBAR: Timing Your Intervals

Use music to time your intervals! At 130 beats per minute, four 32-counts of music (one musical phrase) will take about a minute. Adjust the number of musical phrases based on the exercise itself and on how students feel.

Eve Fleck, MS, is a Reebok University master trainer and an author for ACE FitnessMatters.

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