How to structure and approach circuit training for weight/fat loss

A circuit training is a great approach to weight loss, it simply means that you need to do a greater amount of work within a short time frame. Some researches claim that this training approach can increase our excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC. We have touched upon EPOC in one of our previous blog posts. EPOC is a state where while doing RT training programme, oxygen uptake remains elevated after the training session in order to restore metabolic processes to the pre-exercise state.

Let’s first review some basics of circuit training.

Circuit training is a training exercise program that was developed by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson in 1953 at the University of Leeds in England. The term circuit refers to a number of carefully selected exercises arranged consecutively. In the original structure, 9 to 12 stations comprised the circuit. This number may vary according to the design of the circuit. So, you need to move from one station to the next with little, usually 15-20 seconds rest, or no rest, performing a 15-45 seconds work. You need to do at least 8 repetitions at each station.

What about the intensity? Since in this blog post we are talking about a weight loss goal, then resistance from 20- 60 % of 1RM will do the trick. However, this needs to be fully personalised further based on the person’s fitness level and other unique variables.

For a circuit you can use free weights, resistance machines, resistance bands etc.

The trick of the circuit workout is to exercise your whole body as you move through stations. If you are a beginner, take 15 seconds rest between stations but for experienced people no rest between stations is highly recommended. Make sure to target every part of your body when doing the circuit. This is called a whole body circuit and in its essence produce the best results.

Duration of the whole body circuit workout and details

The whole body circuit workout ideally should last between 5- 30 minutes, depends on how many circuits and stations you are doing. The number of circuits and stations will depend on your fitness level and the current state of your cardio. Beginners should start with one circuit with 5-8 stations (15 sec rest between stations) with 30 seconds work within each station. They should progress gradually as their cardiovascular system improves.

Performance and technique in the whole body circuit workout

The truth is that you should complete as many repetitions as you can in each station for a 30 seconds of work, if you are a beginner. However, the form of executing each exercise/station should never be sacrificed. You should never sacrifice form over speed. There are too many people neglecting the form when exercising. Especially in a circuit workout. Concentrate on proper execution and do as much repetitions as you can in 30 seconds (beginner). Then, take a full deep breath in your 15 seconds rest (beginner) and move on to the next station/exercise.

A sample circuit training for weight/fat loss using free weights for beginners

I will give you now a sample circuit training for weight/fat loss using just free weights for beginners. However, this is just a sample. Your fitness expert needs to design your own personalised circuit training for weight/fat loss. Please see the table below.

Station # and order of executionExercise nameBody part targetWork duration
1.Dumbbells chest press on the floorChest30 seconds
15 seconds rest
2.Dumbbells bent-over row  Back  30 seconds
15 seconds rest
3.Seated dumbbells shoulder pressShoulders30 seconds
15 seconds rest
4.Seated concentration curlsBiceps30 seconds
15 seconds rest
5.Bent-over dumbbells triceps kickbackTriceps30 seconds
15 seconds rest
6.Bodyweight squatLegs p130 seconds
15 seconds rest
7.Calf raises with dumbbells in each handLegs p230 seconds
1 circuit total duration: 5 min
Rest between circuits: 2-4 min

Choose the load that is from 20-60 % of your 1RM.

What I would recommend if you are a beginner, first to start with multi sets approach to learn how to perform each exercise with proper form and then jump on a circuit training approach described here.

My final thoughts on circuit training for weight/fat loss

A circuit training approach is very convenient especially in those cases where time is the biggest obstacle to exercise. For people whose goal is weight/fat loss, this approach is an excellent way to increase their energy expenditure. However, it needs to be coupled with healthy lifestyle habit changes in every day life. Moreover, a circuit training approach for weight/fat loss will not work if proper nutritional plan is not incorporated.

In this brief blog post, I’ve given you some guidlines but as always further personalisation from your fitness expert is needed.

Until next writing,

Damir Pervan, TrainChampion, Founder and CEO

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