Circuit training is one of the group offerings that has shown the most growth in recent years, with 77% of fitness facilities offering it in 2010, compared with 69% in 2002 (Schroeder & Dolan 201). Today, this popular activity is positioned for continued growth. Circuit training’s success can most likely be attributed to its structure and dynamics. 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 multijoint open- and closed-kinetic-chain, 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 (3–5 minutes)

Use full-body, dynamic movements that prepare joints and muscles for the forces and mechanics of the exercises in the class. Examples include alternating knee lifts, hamstring curls, multidirectional lunges and swinging arm raises.

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.


Equipment: 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.


Equipment: 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.


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 (“duration”).


Equipment: Gliding discs

Position: standing, discs under feet

Description: Perform “cross-country skiing” movements with legs and arms.


Equipment: Gliding discs

Position: prone, hands and toes, arms and legs extended, discs under toes

Description: Perform push-up, return to starting position, then abduct and adduct legs; 12 reps or duration.


Equipment: step platform

Position: standing on top of step

Description: Perform alternating diagonal lunges with propulsion (step to floor). Lift one or both arms as leg extends.


Equipment: medicine ball

Position: standing, feet hip width apart, medicine ball in hands, arms lifted and slightly behind head to R

Description: Rotate torso as arms move medicine ball downward, then immediately upward (quickly, with control); 12 reps or until prompted to change sides. Repeat on opposite side.


Equipment: Gliding discs

Position: standing, discs under feet

Description: Perform sliding jumping jacks, lifting arms laterally; 12 reps or duration.


Equipment: Gliding disc and Body Bar

Position: standing in lunge position, disc under R foot, which is behind; Body Bar is lifted vertically, R overhand grip, L underhand grip

Description: Perform backward curtsy lunge, lifting Body Bar upward, forward and toward L while torso rotates; 12 reps or until prompted to switch sides. Repeat on opposite side.


Equipment: step platform

Position: standing at end of step, facing front

Description: Perform squat, followed by “across-the-top” movement with propulsion, then squat at other end. Repeat from side to side for duration.


Equipment: stability ball

Position: supine on ball, head positioned toward floor (“draped” over ball), knees bent, feet on floor, arms crossed at chest level

Description: Perform torso flexion (curl-up) for 12 reps or duration.


Equipment: BOSU Balance Trainer

Position: standing next to BOSU ball, one foot on dome, other foot on floor

Description: Perform propulsive squats, moving from side to side for duration.

Cool-Down, Stretch and Relaxation (5 minutes)

Bring group together at the end for a cool-down that includes a flexibility component and a final relaxation. Thank everyone for their participation, and highlight their success.

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.
  • Don’t forget the fun factor!


Schroeder, J., & Dolan, S. 2010 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Trends, IDEA Fitness Journal, 7 (7), 23–31.

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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