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Want to work it? Do a circuit!

Cynthia Morales and Jan Schroeder, Ph.D.

Fitting exercise into our schedule can sometimes seem impossible as we tend to have very busy lives. Whether we are busy with work, school, or our families, sometimes 24 hours in a day are just not enough. There is a way you can exercise and not worry that it will take too much of your time. For this reason, I want to introduce you to circuit training.

What is circuit training?

Circuit training is typically composed of 8-10 exercise stations alternating muscle groups, which means that rest in-between stations is not needed. As soon as you are done with one exercise you quickly move onto the next exercise. Rest times are taken after all exercises in the circuit are completed. You can choose to complete one or more rounds of the circuit. Circuit training can focus on muscular strength and muscular endurance exercises which target all muscle groups, or you can add cardiorespiratory stations such as jumping jacks, jump rope, or sprints between strength stations.

Why circuit train?

Circuit training is a major time saver!! Did you know that one of the most popular reasons for not exercising is “I have no time!”? With circuit training, this excuse/reason is out the window! You can get a full body workout within 20 minutes. Also, you get the benefits of muscle building while going at your own pace. This style of training is great for any fitness level and is a great way to keep you engaged.

Circuit training allows for creativity and personalization because of all the different variations. If you are someone that is looking for something new to try or just trying to switch it up, circuit training is for you. Also, if you are someone that gets easily bored, this training is for you as the exercises can always be changed. Whether you do it by repetitions or by time, with weights or body weight, with friends or alone circuit training is always new. Circuit training can be done anywhere-in your gym (if it is open), at home, the park, the beach, it can be done anywhere you have space. A circuit can be done with machines, dumbbells, bands, water jugs, or just body weight. The exercise stations can be novice to advanced. The choices are endless!

One way to get the most of circuit training is by using compound movements. These movements are multi-joint exercises such as a squat. An example of a single joint exercise would be a biceps curl. Since the workout session is meant to be a short one using these movements target more muscles so we need less exercises. Compound movements are also beneficial because it helps to gain more strength and muscle mass as well as they are very functional in nature…meaning they mimic your activities of daily living.

Circuit training is a great way to improve muscular strength and endurance which is demonstrated by a positive result in body composition (an increase in muscle mass and decrease in body fat percentage). It has also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol. As mentioned before, cardiovascular exercises can be added to this training allowing you to improve your VO2 max or your aerobic fitness.

Circuit training is popular because it is adaptable to different training levels. Since it is easy and can be done anywhere, self-efficacy is improved, which also improves self-esteem. In addition, it helps people, specifically women, to improve body image. Trying to fit into society’s ideal and unrealistic body image is a struggle for many women, especially young women. It is important for women to show that being healthy and feeling great is more important than trying to fit into a perceived ideal body image.

We are headed into the busy holiday season so when you are short on time, try one of the Circuit Programs below.

Circuit: Strength/Endurance

Equipment needed (optional): dumbbells, resistance bands, water jugs

Rounds: 1-3 Rest: 2 minutes between rounds

Exercises Time Lunge with overhead press 30 sec Push-ups 30 sec Superman 30 sec Abdominal crunches 30 sec Squats 30 sec Dead rows 30 sec Russian twist- sit with bent knees, 30 sec

sit slightly back, keeping back straight.

Twist to one side, back to the center,

then to the opposite side

Circuit: Strength/Aerobic

Equipment needed (optional): dumbbells, resistance bands, water jugs

Rounds: 1-3 Rest: 2 minutes between rounds

Exercises Time Lunge w/twist 30 sec Jumping jacks 30 sec Chest press with band 30 sec Jump squats 30 sec Plank 30 sec Air punches 30 sec Deadlift 30 sec Lateral skiers 30 sec Reverse flyes 30 sec


Savage, W. B., & Savage, S. (2006, December 02). Effects of Aerobic and Circuit Training on Fitness and Body Image Among Women. Retrieved from

Seo, Y. G. Y., Noh, H. M. Y., & Kim, S. Y. (2019). Weight loss effects of circuit training interventions: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 20(11), 1642–1650. doi: 10.1111/obr.12911

Cynthia Morales is currently finishing her Bachelor's of Science degree in Kinesiology with a specialization in Fitness at Long Beach State University. She loves promoting healthy lifestyle changes and helping people through their own journey to reach their wellness goals.

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