What Is The Best Circuit Training Workout?

What is the best circuit training workout? Find out what other people from the message boards think ...

The Question:

Are you looking to lean out? Get a great body? And do it while saving time? You need a good circuit training workout!

What is the best circuit training workout? Be descriptive (sets, reps, etc).

Bonus Question: Are there any disadvantages to circuit training? What are they?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

  1. N10CT View Profile
  2. RippedJordanian View Profile
  3. Tarkana View Profile

1st place - 50 in store credit.

1st Place - N10CT

Circuit Training: The Overlooked Method Of Training

Circuit training is an often overlooked method for achieving one's fitness and body composition goals. Hardcore bodybuilders would rather die than be forced to endure a circuit type workout and with good reason.

Firstly, circuit training is not the best tool for their goals and or needs. Bodybuilders who are concerned with getting bigger, more symmetrical, defined, etc., train the way they do because simply it works.

The second reason bodybuilders don't use circuit training is because most of them would pass out in a matter of minutes.

Real circuit training is tough work and not for the faint-hearted. It is for this reason that circuit training is almost exclusively while looking to get lean rather than huge.

What Is Circuit Training?

Basically circuit training is done by performing one exercise after another (in a circuit, obviously). For example you might perform a set of squats followed by a set of upright rows followed by curls etc. Often people only consider weightlifting type exercises as part of circuit training, but other anaerobic/aerobic work can be included.

Exercises are often performed with little or no rest between them; however this should vary on the type of circuit you are completing.

Why Circuit Train?

There are many reasons to use circuit training including:

  • Time - circuits shorten gym sessions and are time efficient.
  • Lean up - training with circuits in a particular way has been shown to get folks ripped. Explained further below.
  • Improves conditioning and muscular endurance.
  • Works whole body - contrary to popular belief there is nothing wrong in doing full body sessions 2-4 times per week.
  • Circuit training can be done outside the gym and without equipment.


What Is The Best Circuit Training Workout?

Simply put there is no one "best" circuit workout. Like with all types of training, what is "best" will depend on the individual and their goals. Here are some examples of what may be the best way to train depending on your goals.

Goal 1: Body Composition/Bodybuilding.

Circuit training form the basis of many popular training programs designed to burn fat by lifting weights and without cardio. The high energy expenditure is usually the reason for performing these routines, however it is also been suggested this type of training increases growth hormone production, which leads to greater fat loss.

For this reason this type of circuit training is often referred to 'Lactic Acid Interval Training.' A large number of experts believe cardio is detrimental for achieving the best body possible as it lowers testosterone, increases cortisol and eats muscle. To combat this circuit training is used to get lean without the cardio.

The Most Popular Examples Of This Method Include:

  • The German Body Comp - Program by Charles Poliquin
  • The Meltdown Series by Don Alessi
  • Afterburn by Alwyn Cosgrove

These programs all basically consist of performing exercises in a circuit fashion, usually alternating between upper body and lower body, with higher reps used to increase the lactic acid production.

While the theory behind these methods is often debated, one thing is certain, they do work! Anecdotal feedback is that when combined with a good diet, these routines produced as good results as any other cutting protocols.

An Example Routine:

This is a basic variation on this type of training (similar to Meltdown Training). There are many more advanced methods; however this is a good place to start for those who are just beginning.

Monday & Thursday

  • A1) Squats: 3x10
  • A2) Military Press: 3x10
  • A3) Deadlifts: 3x10
  • A4) Rows: 3x10

*No Rest between exercises and 2 minutes rest between circuits.
**Complete in order and then repeat two times.

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Monday & Thursday Workout.

Tuesday & Saturday

  • A1) Power cleans: 3x10
  • A2) Bench Press: 3x10
  • A3) Lunges: 3x10
  • A4) Chins: 3x10

*No rest between exercises and 2 minutes rest between circuits.
**Complete in order and then repeat two times.

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Tuesday & Saturday Workout.

This is just an example of a beginner's program that can be successful. Training this way is usually a complete system. By that I mean you would use circuit training for your whole week. The other methods I mention you might use for 1 day of a week as an extra workout etc. For more advanced training check out the programs mentioned above.

Goal 2: Athletic Performance.

This type of circuit training is a personal favorite of mine and is aimed at those who need the conditioning element included as well as strength.

Strength and Conditioning expert Jason Weber coined the term 'Fusion Training' for this method as it fuses together strength and conditioning. Essentially, Fusion Training uses interval based fitness work and combines it with strength/hypertrophy work.

Training this way improves fitness levels, reduces body fat and trains the body to compete under varying conditions. For example alternating between running and bench presses changes physiological conditions quickly. For example blood pressure will alternate between high and low.

Here is an example similar to what Weber suggests in his book "Train Tough":

  • A) Rowing ergometer or a piece of equipment: 2x2 mins, 1 min rest in between sets
  • B) Deadlift: 10 reps, no rest, Push press 10 reps, 1 min rest
  • C) Rowing ergometer or a piece of equipment: 2x2 mins, 1 min rest in between sets
  • D) Squat: 10 reps, no rest, bench press 10 reps, 1 min rest
  • E) Rowing ergometer or a piece of equipment: 2x2 mins, 1 min rest in between sets

*Always try to row further on each set than the last. It's hard but that should be the goal.

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Weber Example Workout.

What Is An Ergometer?
An instrument for measuring the amount of work done by a muscle or group of muscles.

This workout is focused more on the conditioning side of thing but can be modified to suit ones needs. As mentioned early these sessions can be added to a current program once or twice a week as a conditioning session. For example if a footballer/rugby player was using a modified Westside split it may look like this:

  • Mon: Lower Body Max Effort
  • Tues: Upper Body Effort
  • Wed: GPP
  • Thurs: Speed
  • Fri: 2nd upper body day
  • Sat: Fusion Training
  • Sun: Rest

Initially some might think the training methods shouldn't be combined and to an extent that is right. But Weber says that he envisaged this training being used by non-pro athletes who have other occurrences in their lives. That being said he still uses variations with professional and international rugby union players.

Goal 3: Increase General Physical Preparedness (GPP).

Most powerlifters and athletes know about GPP, some even work on improving it. However, it is one aspect of training that all western lifters, whether they are powerlifters, bodybuilders or athletes could and should improve. Essentially GPP is used to increase one's work capacity.

Increasing this allows one to work harder and longer in the gym, which is why GPP is popular amongst powerlifters and strength athletes. One of the most efficient ways to improve GPP is through circuit training. There are many different methods for improving GPP, such as sled dragging and these circuits will encompass some of them.

GPP Circuit 1:

Equipment Needed: 1 Sled +weight (w/split rope at end), 1 football field or similar.

For this circuit you simply are going to drag the sled up and down the football field in various ways.

  • 0-20 yard line - Chest Press
  • 20-30 yard line - Lateral raises with left arm
  • 30-40 yard line - Lateral raises with right arm
  • 40-60 yard line - Rows
  • 60-80 yard line - Walk backwards
  • 80-100 yard line - Walk forwards

Rest 2 mins and repeat x3

Click Here For A Printable Log Of GPP Circuit 1.

The Moves:

  • Chest Press Stand with the sled behind you and one end of the split rope in each hand. Press the rope, like a bench press, until arms are extended in front of you. Take the steps required until the rope is back to chest level and repeat.
  • Lateral Raise Stand with both ends of split rope in one hand and perform lateral raise. Walk and repeat.
  • Rows Basically the reverse movement of the chest press while going backward.
  • Walking Backward & Forward Walk the given way while pulling the rope.

Notice there are no eccentrics in sled work. This is what makes it such a great tool for increasing work capacity.

GPP Circuit 2:

This circuit is taken form Christian Thibaudeau's article "Renaissance Body Development" and requires a bit more equipment.

  • A) 200 feet of continuous sled dragging (or mix up with methods above)
  • B) 200 feet of sandbag work: Lift, walk 10 feet, drop, lift, walk 10 feet, drop etc.
  • C) 1 minute of sledgehammer striking

Repeat whole process x4.

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Thibaudeau's Workout.

Both these examples are just that, examples to get your brain flowing. You can modify these programs to suit your own needs etc. For example you may wish to combine Fusion Training with sled dragging such as:

  • A) 50 feet dragging chest press
  • B) Sprints
  • C) 50 feet dragging row
  • D) Sprints

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Fusion Training Modification.

Again all these GPP circuits can be added to you current weekly training without becoming the focus.

Goal 4: Circuit Without Equipment.

While this isn't really a goal, I wanted to give and example of a bodyweight circuit.

  • A) Jumping Jacks: 60s
  • B) Push-ups: x10
  • C) Lunges:> x10 each leg (shown with barbell)
  • D) Burpees: x10
  • E) Doorway chins or bodyweight row: x10

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Bodyweight Circuit.


Are There Any Disadvantages To Circuit Training? What Are They?

Like with anything there are advantages and disadvantages to circuit training. However, it does again depend on your goals. For example there are no real disadvantages to the GPP type circuits. Everyone can benefit with some extra GPP even if you are already quite advanced.

The one disadvantage to them would be the opportunity cost of the session. By doing a GPP circuit, you miss the chance to do a technique session or such with that time.

Another disadvantage with all circuits is you cannot make great strength improvements. Some suggest by doing low reps you can still train heavy. Simply, you will NEVER bench as much immediately after a set of squats than you will after a 5-minute rest, let alone after 3 or 4 exercises. NEVER.

So if strength is a goal, circuit training as your main workout is not for you. Similarly, due to the decrease in weight one must use while training in a circuit fashion, hypertrophy will never be a real benefit of circuit training. This being said Charles Poliquin often reports muscle gain as well as fat loss in his clients who undertake the German Body Comp program.

Other Disadvantages Include:

  • Requiring access to 3-or-4 machines/ stations at once. In busy gyms this is near impossible.
  • You need a pretty good level of conditioning to start with. Most bodybuilders struggle at 10 reps, how on earth are they going to make 40 on various exercises in a row!
  • You need to be healthy. People with high blood pressure and heart problems should stay away from circuit training, especially Fusion type training.
  • Finding something to do with the time you usually spend at the gym checking out other patrons! Well think about it. Suppose you did the first routine I explained here with 90 seconds between sets and 2 mins between exercises in a traditional manner.

    By doing circuit training you save 18 minutes in a session. That's why circuit training is such a time efficient way to train.
  • You'll also have to find something else to do instead of the cardio which you hate so much. That's right, if you are using circuits for body composition purposes you don't need to do cardio.

    So, lets say you used to do 2 hours per week cardio (4x30 mins), by doing circuit training not only do you save that 2 hours but also another 72 mins per week (4 x 18 mins). That's well over an extra 3 hours per week to paint, write, watch TV, re-acquaint yourself with your significant other, whatever you want.


There you have it a brief guide to the world of circuit training. An often underrated and overlooked form of training that anyone can use. Whether you want to use it as the basis of your training or for an extra session, everyone can save time, improve their performance or just look good through the use of circuit training.

2nd Place - RippedJordanian

Circuit Training Workout!

Circuit training is the ideal way to go if you want to loose fat while maintaining or even increasing you muscle size and strength. Circuit training usually involves machines, but can be carried out with dumbbells, barbells, balls or body weight exercises.

Circuit training will promote power, flexibility, aerobic endurance and possibly muscular gains. So on your next cutting phase, why not use a circuit training workout on your off days? You can do it at home or at the gym! But remember, the objective of circuit training is to keep your heart rate up, so don't rep out on each exercise or you will loose your energy too quickly!

Workout Schedule

Aerobic Hypertrophy Workout: (Fitness & Muscle Maintenance)

(45 minutes, 3 times per week)

Day 1:

  • Bicep Machine: 1x12-15
  • Pull-ups: 1x10-12
  • Crunches: 1x10-15
  • Seated Curls: 1x12-15
  • One-Arm Rows: 1x12-15
  • Sit-ups: 1x12-15
  • Concentration Curls: 1x12-15
  • Lat Pull-downs: 1x12-15
  • Crunches: 1x10-15

Repeat again after 4 min rest.

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Aerobic Hypertrophy Workout Day 1.

Day 2:

  • Butterfly: 1x10-12
  • Triceps Machine: 1x12-15
  • Front Raises: 1x12-15
  • Incline Push-ups: 1x12-15
  • Push-downs: 1x10-12
  • Lateral Raises: 1x12-15
  • Bench Press Flyes: 1x12-15
  • Skull Crushers: 1x10-12
  • Shoulder Press: 1x12-15

Repeat again after 4 min rest.

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Aerobic Hypertrophy Workout Day 2.

Day 3

  • Machine Squat: 1x15-20
  • Leg Curl: 1x12-15
  • Calf Raise: 1x12-15
  • Lunges: 1x12-15
  • Leg Press: 1x12-15
  • Standing Calf Raise: 1x12-15
  • Bicycle Crunches: 1x15-20

Repeat again after 4 min rest.

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Aerobic Hypertrophy Workout Day 3.

Neurological Strength Maintenance Workout:

30 minutes, 3 times per week

Day 1:

  • Bicep Machine: 1x4-6
  • Pull-ups: 1x2-4
  • Crunches: 1x2-6
  • Chin-ups palms-out: 1x4-6
  • One-Arm Rows: 1x4-6
  • Sit-ups: 1x4-6
  • Concentration Curls: 1x4-6
  • Lat Pull-downs: 1x4-6
  • Crunches: 1x2-6

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Neurological Strength Maintenance Workout Day 1.

Day 2:

  • Bench Press: 1x2-4
  • Triceps Machine: 1x4-6
  • Front Raises: 1x4-6
  • Incline Bench Press: 1x4-6
  • Push-downs: 1x2-4
  • Shoulder Press: 1x4-6
  • Bench Press Flyes: 1x4-6
  • Skull Crushers: 1x2-4
  • Shoulder Press: 1x4-6

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Neurological Strength Maintenance Workout Day 2.

Day 3:

  • Machine Squat: 1x4-8
  • Leg Curl: 1x4-6
  • Calf Raise: 1x4-6
  • Leg Press: 1x4-6
  • Standing Calf Raise: 1x4-6
  • Bicycle Crunches: 1x4-8
  • Hack Squat: 1x4-6

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Neurological Strength Maintenance Workout Day 3.


  1. Remember, maximum rest between sets only 10 seconds! If you rest too much your heart rate will go down.
  2. Be flexible, if the Smith machine isn't available, do a normal bench press.
  3. In the first week, only repeat the workout once because your body is still getting used to it.
  4. Warm-up with 15 min of moderate intensity cardio before starting.

Week 1:

Number of circuits per workout: 1
Min. of cardio afterwards: 30 min

Week 2:

Number of circuits per workout: 2
Min. of cardio afterwards: 20 min

Week 3:

Number of circuits per workout: 3
Min. of cardio afterwards: 30 min

Week 4:

Number of circuits per workout: 3
Min. of cardio afterwards: 30 min

Week 5:

Number of circuits per workout: 4
Min. of cardio afterwards: none

Week 6:

Number of circuits per workout: 4
Min. of cardio afterwards: 10 min

If you still feel sore after doing 1 week, don't move on to the next until you're not sore anymore. Every week, perform the actual day backwards . After you finish this cycle, which should take about 1 month and 1/2, take a break of 5-12 days and begin a weights workout for your bulking phase.

A Few Tips To Increase Metabolism

  1. Eat healthy fats or supplement with them. Healthy fats are involved in hormonal production and cell repair. These processes require energy, so by eating such healthy fats as fish oil and olive oil, you will be increasing your metabolism.
  2. Increase daily exercise. For example, take the stairs wherever you go. If you can't find a parking space close to where you want, park far away and walk for a while.
  3. Stretch daily to increase metabolism and flexibility and burn more calories.
  4. Get your carbohydrates from a fibrous source. Eat lentils instead of sugar. Eating fibrous foods takes more energy to digest and more time to extract. You will burn more energy digesting and feel full for longer.
  5. Change the amount of calories you eat every day. If you need to eat a specific amount of calories per day, for example 2000. Eat 1800 one day and 2200 the next to keep your body guessing.
  6. Increase the percentage of calories you get from protein and decrease the amount from high GI index. Proteins need more energy to oxidize and be used for energy, so you will be actually decreasing the amount of calories you eat.
  7. Perform high intensity cardio. This needs less time (max 30 min) and keeps your body in a high metabolically active state for a long time.
  8. Eat smaller meals more frequently. This helps by increasing the amount of digestion you need, while keeping your body in a high calorie-burning state.
  9. Eat whole foods, such as whole bread and whole grains. These contain less calories and need more energy to digest by your body.
  10. Drink cold water, this will require your body to raise it to body temperature therefore using calories.

Circuit Training Disadvantages:

Circuit training, even though it is a very effective training technique, it does have its disadvantages:

  1. Circuit training will not increase muscle mass and may even break down muscle proteins if you do train for more than an hour. If you do the cardio after circuit training, you will be burning muscle instead of fat. That's why the week schedule was designed, to allow your body to adapt to burning fat instead of muscle.

    Solution: Circuit training should not be used as an alternative to a good weight training schedule, only as an extra during your cutting phase.

    Keep your weight training schedule the way it was, however, try to cut down on volume and increase intensity to make sure your body doesn't burn the muscle and make some time for circuit training and cardio. Also, don't move on to the next phase or week of the cycle unless you are not sore or not exhausted at the end of the workout.
  2. Circuit training with low reps for powerlifters is not effective because it doesn't burn much fat but will maintain your strength and even increase it.

    Solution: Do extra 20 min of intense cardio to burn fat. Try HIIT Technique.
  3. Circuit training takes a longer time than a regular weight training program because of the amount of repetitions and the cardio before and after.

    Solution: Minimize rest between sets so as to decrease time needed and to increase fat burn and intensity.
  4. Circuit training may be difficult to do in a crowded gym because you will need the machines to be all available so that you can use them quickly without resting or waiting.

    Solution: Be flexible, and use a different machine or use dumbbells instead of a machine of the particular machine you need is not available.
  5. Circuit training is time consuming because it's an extra workout schedule with added cardio.

    Solution: Use less cardio minutes and higher intensity. Do 1 min of moderate intensity, 20 sec as fast as you can, 1 min moderate intensity, and then 1 min high intensity. Repeat for about 20 min or until exhausted. This will burn fat much quicker.

Here Are Some Extra Links That Will Help You Learn More About Circuit Training:

Basil Beirouti

PS. If you have any questions, contact me at Dark_Knight_Basil@hotmail.com or PM me on the message boards at rippedjordanian.

3rd Place - Tarkana

Circuit Training

A rather different approach to weightlifting, circuit training came around for the purpose of endurance and aerobic fitness. The concept is to go through a list of different exercises with as little rest as possible between sets, then repeat this list several times, thus making aerobic work out of endurance type weight lifting.

More purposes have come out of circuit training such as high frequency, full-body training, like for athletics and saving time by overlapping rest time for one body part with exercises for another. So circuit training can be used in different ways with a bit of ingenuity.

Forming A Circuit Workout

The main type of circuit is an aerobic one, based on compound and Olympic lifts in the upper-medium rep range to promote muscular endurance and improve lung capacity based on muscular stress. This is often done for middle-aged adults for improving fitness or, with more intensity and/or repetitions of the circuit, for athletes who need a good deal of muscular endurance.

A circuit can also be made in the lower rep range and formulated to work for strength gains. Another more abstract way would be to split up the muscles into 2 circuits (i.e. upper/lower body) and do each twice a week for a more bodybuilding type workout.

Because this is more cardio-intense than most lifting, a cardio warm-up might be desired along with proper stretching and the standard lifting warm-up.

Aerobic/Athletic Circuit:

This should be done three times a week with as little rest between sets as possible and 2 minutes after the circuit. The cardio is optional depending on goals. There are also 2 options for some exercises depending on goals. Perform the circuit 3-5 times.

  • Clean: 1 x 10
  • Bench Press or Dips: 1 x 10
  • Squat or Lunge: 1 x 10
  • Push Press: 1 x 10
  • SLDL: 1 x 10
  • Calf Raises: 1 x 10
  • Rows or Bent-over Rows or Weighted Pull-ups: 1 x 10
  • Weighted Sit-ups: 1 x 10
  • (Optional) Run: 200-400m

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Aerobic/Athletic Circuit.

Strength Circuit:

Again, this is three times per week. Sets should be done in quick succession, and this can all be done in the same power cage. Perform the circuit 5 times, resting 4 minutes between circuits.

  • Squat: 1 x 5
  • Bench Press: 1 x 5
  • Bent-over Row: 1 x 5
  • SLDL: 1 x 5
  • Calf Raises: 1 x 5
  • Military Press: 1 x 5
  • Weighted Sit-ups: 1 x 8

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Strength Circuit.

By doing this 5 times, you've gotten pretty much a 5x5 routine for the short on time.

A Bodybuilding Split Circuit:

This circuit is split into upper and lower body, each being performed twice a week. Go through the circuit 2-3 times. Note that this isn't necessarily the most effective form of bodybuilding, but if time is scare, it is useful.

Upper Body - Monday/Thursday

  • Incline Bench Press: 1 x 6
  • Chin-ups: 1 x 10
  • Military Press: 1 x 6
  • Weighted Sit-ups: 1 x 12
  • Weighted Dips: 1 x 10
  • Bent-over Rows: 1 x 6
  • Lateral Raises: 1 x 10
  • Leg Raises: 1 x 8

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Bodybuilding Split Circuit: Mon/Thurs.

Lower Body - Tuesday/Friday

  • Squats: 1 x 6
  • Hyperextensions: 1 x 10
  • Calf Raises: 1 x 6
  • Leg Press: 1 x 10
  • SLDL: 1 x 6
  • Calf Press: 1 x 10

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Bodybuilding Split Circuit: Tues/Fri.

If you really wanted, you could get more detailed circuit routines, possibly performing a different circuit each day, but usually the idea of the circuit is to be simple. If for some reason you needed focus on a specific body part, one that might be lagging, you need only throw another exercise for that body part into the circuit.

Disadvantages To Circuit Training

The purpose of circuit training was primarily to save time and for fitness use. When being used for losing fat or obtaining a high level of cardiovascular fitness, circuit training will likely not be enough and more cardio will be desired.

For use in strength training or bodybuilding, circuit training is less effective since you don't get as much rest for strength gains and not as much hypertrophy-type training for bodybuilding. Also all body parts get about the same volume, which may not be optimal.

Circuit training for these purposes should be for saving time when time is scarce. The other potential problem is the workstation for your next exercise being crowded, which is taken care of in the strength circuit, but otherwise may require flexibility in your workout.

Don't worry about changing an exercise once in a while. Beyond that, you should see success with your circuit training routine.

Review Of Other Articles

Or "Why Wasn't Mine Picked?"



  • Very short. This article wasn't fully developed. It did not provide exercises to create a workout. Bonus question was also not answered.


  • More time should be spent fully developing this article. It needs to be more in-depth and hit upon all questions with complete answers.



  • Poor referencing. When test for plagiarism, it turned up that 192 words were copied from netfit.co.uk.


  • Plagiarism is serious, and it is important that you are able to identify and correct it. The words used should have been quoted, and sited. There was not even a reference to the website.



  • Little detail. Most of the detail in this article came from other sources, rather than the writer.


  • This article could be more in-depth by the writer.