An effective circuit training program to burn fat and build muscle is a great way to get into top, cardiovascular condition, as well as build and tone muscle while burning body fat.
As summer quickly approaches, the idea of putting on a bathing suit starts to become a bothersome thought.
As active weight trainers, we may have put on a little too much weight over the winter and we now find ourselves with a spare tire around our waist.
I don’t know about you, but I’m always asking myself the same question: What is an effective workout routine to help burn body fat and build muscle?
I’ve never really given much thought about circuit training, but to tell you the truth, it’s a great way to get into top cardiovascular condition, burn fat and build up muscle mass. The way circuit training is set up, it allows you to continuously exercise from one exercise to the next, while incorporating weight resistance into your program. Let’s find out a little bit more and how you can use a circuit training program to burn fat and build muscle (and use the circuit routine below).
What Is A Circuit Training?
Circuit training is a very underrated and rarely used training method. A lot of people who train have never heard of it, and many of those who have don’t really understand it. The goal of circuit training is to get into better overall shape, rather than focussing solely on gaining mass, strength, or any other common goal.
Circuit training will improve your strength, endurance, and cardio, while burning more calories than regular routines. Rest is kept to a minimum. The idea of minimum rest is usually associated with low weights being used, tarnishing circuit training’s reputation among bodybuilders and hard core lifters.
But a proper circuit training program allows you to use any weight you please. The reduced amount of rest will cause you to increase the amount of testosterone released into your body also, which serves to help your muscles grow.
How Circuit Training Works
The key to circuit training is to keep your body moving at all times, wasting little to no time in the gym resting. Once you’re through with one exercise, you go straight to another one that doesn’t use the same muscle(s) as the previous exercise.
This is called super-setting you’re routine and allows you to rest the muscle you just worked without wasting time resting your whole body. You’ll be working some muscles while you rest other’s, allowing you to stay active the whole time. This adds an aspect of cardio and endurance training to your strength routine.
You are going to do 1 set of each exercise without rest. Once you’ve finished all the exercises take a short rest. That is one circuit. Start with doing 4 circuits, then work your way up to as many circuits as possible. If you can’t start with 4 circuits do as many as possible, but remember if you can do more but don’t your only cheating yourself out of results.
A good goal to reach would be to be able to do 6 to 8 circuits in one session. I recommend doing this circuit twice a week, as kind of like book ends for your regular routine (ex: do on Mondays and Thursdays, while Wednesday is a regular biceps and triceps).
Increase circuits by 1 each week, so you should reach the goal of 8 circuits for week 5. Once you reach 8 circuits per session, I recommend adding more repetitions per circuit rather than adding more circuits. I’ve included an illustration of each exercise, however, if you need to see a description of each exercise, simply click the exercise name and you’ll be taken to a description (just above each illustration).
Here’s the program:
Monday – Thursday
Remember – There’s no resting in between exercises. Rest for 60 – 90 seconds and repeat the circuit. For the first two weeks, try doing 3 to 4 circuits and progress with another circuit the following week. Complete in order and then repeat 3 to 4 times. Don’t forget your cardio session at the end of each weight training circuit.
Tuesday – Saturday
No rest between exercises and 2 minutes rest between circuits. Complete in order and then repeat 3 to 4 times times.
Rest for 60-90 seconds, and repeat for a total of 4 circuits. Now remember, if your new to circuit training, 3 or 4 circuits may be a little too much for you. If you can only complete 1 or 2 circuits, that’s fine. Just remember that you will improve over time and before you know it, you’ll be up to 6 circuits per session.
I recommend that you use a bench with back support for this exercise. Remember, as soon as you’ve completed 12 repetitions, immediately go the next exercise – Barbell rows:
Complete 12 repetitions and keep going! Remember, no rest – immediately go to the next exercise – Incline Sit Ups:
Perform 12 repetitions. Now, you can perform the 5 minutes of cardio or you can wait until all of your circuits are complete. If you’re doing 3 circuits, you may want to hold off on the cardio until they’ve been completed.
Remember, if your doing 1 circuit, you can perform 5 minutes of intense cardio now, however, if you are doing more than one circuit, you may want to wait until all your weight training is complete and do the 5 minutes of intense cardio. However, if you really want to push the envelope, do 5 minutes of intense cardio after each circuit that your doing. Remember, you want to work up to the point where you can actually do 5 minutes of intense cardio after each circuit.
3) Repeat with the left leg. Peform 12 repetitions and without any rest, go the next exercise – Bench press:
You will want to do 12 properly performed repetitions and without any rest, go the next exercise – Lat machine pull downs:
Do 12 repetitions and immediately head to the next exercise, the hanging leg raise without rest.
Perform 12 repetitions and once completed, you may head over to the cardio machine and do 5 minutes of intense cardio. As I mentioned earlier, you can either do cardio after each circuit or you can do it after all of your circuits have been completed. However, your goal is to build up your cardiovascular endurance enough that you can do 5 minutes of intense cardio after every circuit.
If you are doing more than 1 circuit, you might want to rest for about 60-90 seconds, and repeat the circuit. Remember, what you want to do is get up to 4 circuits, maybe more depending on your condition. If your new to circuit training, stick to 1 or 2 circuits until you feel comfortable doing more – Give it two weeks or so.
Remember that while performing exercises, proper breathing is key. Always breathe out while contracting (ex: pressing the weight off of you during a bench press) and breathe in during the eccentric portion (ex: lowering the bar to chest during a bench press). This is most likely how you are already breathing since it just comes natural to most to breathe that way, but pay attention and make sure you are breathing correctly during your lifts.
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All the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.