Have you ever thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could save a ton of time and find a way to combine strength training with cardio?” Well, circuit training is basically that – several exercises (resistance, cardio, body weight, etc.) performed back-to-back in a circuit fashion, which causes your heart, lungs and muscles to work overtime. Circuit workouts for women may not be the first mode of exercise bodybuilders and powerlifters go with (since they’re aiming for size and strength, respectively), but if you’re looking to save time, burn calories and burn fat, it’s definitely worth looking into.
The Benefits of Circuit Training Workouts and Fitness
The benefits of circuit training are pretty substantial, but let’s start with the basics.
- First, it’s difficult to burn out with circuit training workouts for the simple fact that your options are only limited by your imagination. You can combine any exercises you can dream up and program them into a circuit.
- Secondly, circuit training for women can be done just about anywhere; in a gym, at home, in a park, in a pool, standing in line at the grocery store – you get the idea.
- Third, and maybe most important in this stressed-out-over-scheduled society we live in, circuit workouts for women save you time. The intensity of circuit training means you’ll get the job done in an efficient manner and won’t feel obligated to hang out on the treadmill for an extra 30 minutes. Performing exercises in a continuous back-to-back configuration will force your body to tap into the aerobic energy supply to deliver a steady supply of oxygen and energy to those hard-working muscles, resulting in improved cardio fitness and you praying for the workout to end.
Weight Loss and Fat Burning Potential
The combination of constant movement and muscular resistance means that you’ll end up burning through a decent amount of those calories. The more calories you burn (without negating them by binging on Cold Stone), the more fat you’ll burn and, potentially, pounds you’ll lose. In fact, several studies have found circuit training workouts, specifically of the high intensity nature, to be a quick and efficient road to fat loss.
Did you know 30 minutes of circuit training can burn almost 300 calories? Add in some weights and you’ll torch even more!
- EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, is partly to thank for the fat-burning nature of circuit training for women. One study had 10 untrained college men (unfortunately, most of the studies I came across were on men, but we can assume that women will reap similar benefits) perform standard weight training and circuit style weight training. Researchers found that the magnitude and duration of EPOC produced by the circuit workouts were significantly higher than in the standard weight training workouts. Oh and did I mention the standard weight training workout took 50 minutes while the circuit workout lasted only 19?!
- Some more searching finally yielded a study done on women, and great news! Young women who performed high-intensity circuit training workouts three times per week for 15 weeks lost significantly more total body weight and fat mass (specifically on the legs and trunk) than women who performed steady-state exercise for the same amount of time. Insulin sensitivity also displayed better improvements among the circuit trainers.
Toning and Muscle Building Potential
Working your muscles above and beyond their everyday load is bound to build and strengthen those fibers, at least to a point. The muscular benefits of circuit training will depend on how much muscle you build and how toned you can make those limbs look.
Circuit workouts for women can be performed with only bodyweight exercises, resistance exercises, or a combination of the two. Whichever route you take, there’s a good chance you’ll see a difference in muscle tone, especially if you’re pushing yourself to melt off that layer of fat that, for some reason, wants to keep your sexy assets hidden.
Classes: What to Expect; Should I Take Them?
Coincidentally, circuit training classes are pretty easy to find – mainly because circuits are what almost every group class in a gym setting abides by, including many CrossFit WODs.
Whether you take a class or not is entirely up to you: do you like working out with/in front of other people? The majority of classes will likely be pretty full so you won’t get a lot of individual attention from the instructor.
However, the option to hire a trainer is always there and he/she can design circuit workouts for you to perform during your sessions and give you hands-on instruction. You may also want to seek out a trainer if you have questions regarding proper technique for any resistance exercises you’d like to use in your circuit training.
To be completely honest, unless you want to spend money on classes or a trainer, circuit workouts for women are simple enough you can do it on your own. One perk about classes, aside from the social aspect, is that all of your equipment is there and ready to use. If you try to crank out a circuit on the gym floor, you might have some issues securing all of the equipment necessary if you’re using weights and racks. Bodyweight, dumbbell, or kettlebell circuit equipment should be pretty easy to get your hands on. And, of course, at home you can do and use whatever your little heart desires.
Instructional Circuit Training Videos and Training Tips
Basic Training Tips
- Perform a warm-up – Circuit training for women is intense so before you even start your workout, spend 10-minutes to prepare your body for what lies ahead.
- Choose exercises that target all of the major muscle groups in the body – Shoulders, chest, back, core, hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves all need to be included in your workout. You can choose to do one exercise for each muscle group or throw in some compound movements to shorten up your workout time and up the intensity.
- Work all parts of the body equally — Avoid over-targeting one specific area and neglecting others.
- Order your exercises to allow for alternating of opposing muscle groups — For example, move from upper body (shoulder press) to lower body (squat jumps) or pushing (push-ups) to pulling (deadlift). This way your muscles get a chance for acute recovery but your body is still dishing out the effort.
- Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions of each exercise — This should take you about 30 seconds, which is roughly how long you can push yourself hard without rest. Another option is to do as many reps as possible in a given time frame, like 30 to 60 seconds, cycling through one exercise after the other.
- Intensity matters — Circuit training in hopes of losing weight, means you’ve got to push yourself – going at half throttle is going to give you half the results, if you’re lucky. Minimal rest breaks will keep your body working hard and your metabolic furnace stoked.
- Begin with just one circuit — If you’re new to exercise or are just not in tip-top shape, circuit training is rough and can kick your butt in no time. As your fitness and strength improve, go ahead and add a second, third or, even fourth circuit to your workout.
Sample Body Weight Circuit
- 5 to 10-minute warm-up
- Burpees for 30 seconds
- Side plank with pulse 30 seconds each side
- Jumping lunges for 30 seconds
- Push-ups for 30 seconds
- Tuck jumps for 30 seconds
- Reverse snow angels for 30 seconds
- Mountain climbers for 30 seconds
- Side lunges alternating sides for 30 seconds
- Glute bridge with marching for 30 seconds
- Complete the circuit one to four times and end with a 5 to 10-minute cool-down, making sure to stretch those exhausted muscles.
Sample Kettlebell Circuit
- Begin with a 5 to 10-minute warm-up
- Kettlebell swing for one minute
- Halo for one minute, switch directions with each rep
- Kettlebell press for one minute, switch sides at 30 seconds
- Kettlebell deadlift for one minute
- Single arm overhead squat, 30 seconds each side
- Suitcase carry, 30 seconds each arm
- Complete the circuit one to four times and end with a 5 to 10-minute cool-down, making sure to stretch the major muscle groups and the little ones too.
Check out any Jillian Michael’s DVD and you’ll see exactly what circuit training is all about — and get your butt worked into shape!
Clothes and Proper Attire
The clothes you don for your circuit training workouts can vary just as much as the workouts themselves. If you’re crackin’ out a circuit on your living room floor, you can wear whatever you want (or whatever you don’t want). Obviously, you’re probably going to, at the very least, need a sports bra, but from there, get crazy. In a gym or any other public space, opt for workout clothes, cotton or technical fabric; it really doesn’t matter as long as you can move freely.
If your circuit is made up of high-impact cardio movements, you may want to protect your tootsies with cross-trainers. If you’re sticking strictly with the weights or bodyweight movements, I’d recommend going barefoot when at all possible. When shoeless is not an option, go for the minimalist look or shoes with non-compressible soles to keep your base as stable and mobile as possible.
Results and Success Stories
So, do the benefits of circuit training really help women get in shape, lose weight and sculpt a toned bod? We think so!
Success stories, especially before and afters, are always fun to look at, not to mention give you big time motivation. Turns out circuit training success stories are hard to find, but here are a few ladies who are kicking some serious ass and getting amazing results with their circuits. Continue reading to see their stories!
Kelsey’s circuit training involved Les Mills BodyPump. “The magic happens between the music and the “Rep Effect” – light to moderate weights + high reps = results! That is what the program promises and I am here to tell you that they don’t lie. I have lost a large breed dog or 112 lbs thanks to Les Mills classes – particularly BodyPump!
I will never forget my first BodyPump class…it was at a GoodLife Fitness. I was a new mom carrying a whole lot of extra weight and suffering with depression. Let’s just say I was ready to quit before I started, but something about that class made me feel like I could conquer the world!
Les Mills got me hooked on fitness. BodyPump saved my life and inspired me so much so that I became a Group Fitness Instructor and now teach multiple Les Mills formats including BodyPump. I’ve now been a certified instructor since 2012 and this past August was 2016 Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence Award recipient for GoodLife Fitness Canada.
BodyPump is for anyone and everyone. Where you start doesn’t matter. It’s never about the number on the bar but rather the range and technique, so pick up a bar and move some weight – literally.”
This journey has not been easy, but then again what is easy in life 🙂 You see we don’t wake up one day after years of bad habits wanting to have a healthy lifestyle….it takes time and once we realize that this is actually not a task then we will be just fine…. I was a binge eater for ever and still have my days… I am also that person that gets sick, issues at work, disagreements with people and runs for food!!!!! I realize that I associate everything with food.
It was not until I had my son and daughter that I really thought wow is this how I am going to live? I am at a park with my kids and run out of breath the first five minutes. I am wearing clothes that don’t represent me and my style, I avoid certain functions because you have to get dressed up.. is this really ME?!!! I then decided I had to take control and stop with all the excuses…. And my excuses were I am a mom (took time away from them), work, house, and anything I could to make pretend I had no time!!!
I joined a gym and it took a while to figure out what to do there, but then I realized it’s not just about showing up and doing cardio I have to change the way I eat… I am Latina and we celebrate life with food!!! Amazing food, but I knew if I wanted to really get skinny (that was my mentality) I had to change it up… I started getting rid of certain processed foods and then started to add more veggies and just healthier options…
As time went on I did research on what workouts to do, what foods to eat, and I had an amazing support via Instagram as that is where I shared my journey!!! Let’s call it my diary…I never thought that in my thirties I could meet some amazing people that would turn into my friends!!!! You see for me social media was a waste of time, or that’s what I thought!!!! Well now I post everything fitness, health, and me on Instagram and snap chat! I love meeting amazing people on similar journeys we support each other and that’s important….
Well you remember I said I wanted to be skinny right? Well that was my mentality back then, today I just want to be strong because for me I realize Fit comes in all sizes and being strong mentally and physically is more important then just being skinny!!! This journey is a mental transformation and once I realized I can do this I can control my happiness it fell into place…
I started as a cardio bunny, because it’s easy: just press Start. I then added weights, and then joined online challenge groups for workout ideas… as I got more confident I joined fitness classes and feel in love with Bootcamp… the instructor was amazing and it peeked my interest… so today I workout 6 days a week. I enjoy the fitness classes because you don’t have to think, you show up and follow the instructor, I do these classes 3 days a week the other 3 days I do my own thing, cardio and weight lifting. I have leg days, back and shoulders, and triceps and biceps!!! I love walking into the weight room and working out with the guys, makes me feel like a bad ass… I have also incorporated heavy lifting and love to do deadlifts…I have come along way from the clueless chubby girl (I hate saying FAT) who just wanting to be skinny!!!! I want to be strong and help people realize that they too can control their happiness…
I have gone from being over 200lbs depressed, a size 16 and double x-large to now 179 a size 8, OK a tight 8 lol, and a medium large… my biggest transformation is mental. I have the mental ability to do what I love and I am realizing I can do this I CAN Love my life!!!! Meal prepping and gym time for me now is not a task, it’s a way of life. I enjoy it and, honestly, it’s my therapy, my stress reliever…
What I am doing now!!! I am currently working with a trainer who has me on a meal plan as I want to drop 40lbs by December. No, I am not obsessed with the scale. I feel the scale is horrible and does not reflect your hard work!!! But because I want to loose these 40lbs I need to step on… I still workout 6 days a week, do 3 Bootcamps, 1 kickboxing class, and the rest is a combination of cardio and lifting… I also do my own challenge groups and offer help to those that need it, let me add that I do this all while having two children, one who is two and one who just turned 5. I have a home, two dogs, a cat, hermit crabs, and fish!!!! Let me add I work 40 plus hours a week, work an extra 15 to 20 developing my own brand, details below. My husband is self employed so I help him run his business, and I have a small social life with people that matter in my life!! JUST SAYING!!!!
So what else is in my future????? My new life has helped me to develop a new goal and dream… I am working on my certification to become a group fitness instructor and because I have a passion for looking amazing as we workout, this comes from always wearing what I had to versus what I wanted to… I will have some amazing workout gear that everyone from a size x-small to a triple x-large can wear!!! And fall in love with loving their lifestyle and loving their bodies at every stage! My brand is called Love Your Lifestyle because it’s all about controlling your happiness… if you are not happy let’s do something about it… fitness and health can improve a lot in everyone’s life, and remember we are here to get strong, not skinny!!!! So join us and realize that fitness and health does not have to be a task, but a way of life is what this brand is all about…. 🙂
By now, you should be totally sold on circuit training. If not, let’s recap: it’s an effective way to burn fat, lose weight, build muscle and tone all of those places that really need it. And don’t forget about the fact that circuit training takes minimal time so it doesn’t matter if you’re a busy professional, busy mom or just really despise working out — you can get a killer workout in minimal time and move on with your life. Sign us up!