In most gyms, the battle lines are clearly drawn: People who lift weights stay on one side, and the people who do cardio stay on the other. Of course, it’s best to do both, and, if you want to do them at the same time, you can circuit train.
A circuit is simply a series of exercises done back-to-back to train the whole body. In so doing, you’ll raise your heart rate, and keep it elevated, which serves as cardiovascular training.
In fact, a study at the University of Hawaii found that circuit training with weights raised subjects’ heart rates 15 beats per minute higher than running at 60 to 70 percent of their maximum heart rate. Since circuits combine strength and cardio, they burn lots of calories and boost the metabolism for hours afterward, making them an excellent approach for losing fat.
How to Use Circuit Training
The way you set up your circuit will depend on the time you have available and the equipment you have access to, but the formula for choosing exercises remains the same.
Don Saladino, a New York City-based trainer who has worked with actors like Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, and Sebastian Stan to prep them for superhero roles, uses circuits to make the most of the short time he gets with his busy clients. Saladino suggests designing your workouts in this order: a lower-body exercise, then an upper-body push, an upper-body pull, and then a core exercise.
If you have the time and the space, Saladino recommends repeating the order with different exercises that satisfy the same categories, in order to work the muscles a bit more thoroughly.
For example, if you did a goblet squat, incline dumbbell bench press, lat pulldown, and plank in the first round, you could perform another circuit with a Romanian dead-lift, overhead press, dumbbell row, and Pallof press to finish the workout. If you like, you can also tack on what Saladino calls a metabolic finisher, which is any-thing that gets you breathing hard — jumping rope, a treadmill or bike sprint, or burpees. But, don’t go beyond 10 total exercises.
A few additional pointers from Saladino:
For a full compendium of fitness knowledge, check out the Men’s Health Encyclopedia of Muscle. The volume is chock full of workout routines, helpful training tips, and definitions for just about every gym-related term you’ve ever wanted to know.
The Superhero Circuit Workout
Do the following circuit using just your body weight. It will take 15 to 20 minutes. Perform the exercises in sequence, completing one set for each and resting 15 seconds between moves. Rest for 60 seconds after the last exercise, and then repeat the circuit for two to four total rounds.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Reps: 10 (each leg)
Stand lunge-length in front of a bench or other elevated surface. Bend one knee and rest the top of that leg’s foot behind you on the bench. Keeping your torso upright, lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor, or you feel a good stretch in your hip. Complete all your reps on one side, and then repeat on the other leg.
Place your hands on the floor at shoulder width and rest your feet on a bench or other elevated surface, so that your body is angled toward the floor. Draw your ribs down and brace your core so your body forms a straight line. Pull your shoulder blades together as you lower your body toward the floor, tucking your elbows 45 degrees to your sides. When your nose is just above the floor, press back up, spreading your shoulder blades apart at the top.
Grasp onto a bar, rings, or a sturdy object that’s set to about hip level. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Walk your legs forward and hang from the bar so your body forms a straight line. Draw your ribs down and brace your core. Pull your body up to the bar until your back is fully contracted.
Reps: Hold for 30 seconds
Get into a pushup position, and then bend your elbows to lower your forearms to the floor. Hold your body in a straight line with your ribs pulled down and your tailbone tucked under.
From standing, squat down and touch the floor at the sides of your feet. Then, plant your hands flat and jump your feet back so you land in a pushup position. Reverse the motion to come back up and jump as high as you can.
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