Circuit training is an excellent way to get your cardio and strength training all in one workout.
Circuit training is best for strength building and muscle endurance and the workout is designed in a series of stations that make up one 'circuit', sort of like a circle of exercise stations.
That doesn't necesarily mean that it has to be set up that way, like in a Curves gym. That is a perfect example of what I am talking about here.
You do one exercise - a certain number of repetitions or 'reps' or for a certain length of time and then you move on to the next exercise without any rest.
Usually you do strength training moves like weight machines as the exercises then do some type of cardio in between, like jumping jacks, jumping rope, stepping up and back down stairs, stepping on a bench or jogging in place.
So the workout might look like this:
20 leg extensions
2 minutes of jogging in place
5 pull ups
2 minutes of jumping jacks
15 bicep curls
2 minutes of burpees
and so on.
You can basically design the circuit training workout to include whatever exercises you would like.
When you do the short bursts of strength training exercises, you want to use moderate weights, not the heaviest you can lift. You can use heavier weights though as you progress. Also, each exercise needs to target different muscle groups.
You don't want to go from doing a series of squats to running in place then doing lunges. Try doing lat pull downs or chins ups, targeting the back, arm and shoulder muscles instead of the legs again.
When you do the cardio in between, you want to make it at a high intensity.
The whole routine lasts between 25-45 minutes, depending on the intensity and your fitness level.
This type of workout is also great for fat loss. The high intensity and short bursts of power you put out fire up your metabolism...more technically your metabolic rate is increased.
So even though you may not be burning fat as fuel for the duration of the workout, your metabolism helps to change your body composition. Lean muscle stays, fat goes.
So there are several benefits:
1. This type of workout forces your body to continuously burn calories.
2. You get the benefits of cardio and building muscle all in one workout.
3. Your metabolism is revved up to continue to burn calories even after you are done exercising.
4. This saves you time - you get both your cardio and your weight training in one workout.
5. You can still use the heavier weights to keep all of your lean muscle gains that you have been working so hard for. Remember - going all on on just doing cardio and no weight training will leave you with an un-toned body look.
Barbell/dumbbell Bent Over Row: 6 sets of 6-8 reps
Cardio (jump rope, step stairs, jog in place) 1 minute
Barbell/dumbbell Bench Press: 6 sets, 6-8 reps
Cardio 1 minute
Barbell/dumbbell Curls: 4 sets, 6-8 reps
Cardio 1 minute
Calf Raises: 4 sets, 10-12 reps
(See videos below for demonstrations of the exercises)
Barbell/Dumbbell Bench Press