Circuit Training Routines

Can Burn the Fat and Add Lean Muscle

Circuit training routines combine strength training and cardio/aerobics together in the same physical fitness workout. Circuit type workouts are extremely fitting when you want to exercise the total body and your time available is a factor. 

Since circuit training combines aerobic and resistance exercises you will get a full body workout that promotes fat loss, added muscle tone, and better cardio fitness. 

What is Circuit Training?

Basically, circuit training consists of completing a series of exercises with little or no rest in between each exercise. Machines, dumbbells, barbells, jump ropes, balls, resistance bands, or your own body weight may be combined to make a personalized workout designed for your specific needs and goals.

The quick movement between exercises creates an aerobic workout that isn't usually achieved with regular weightlifting programs; however, many people also add cardio exercises into their circuits to target heart health and weight loss as well as muscle building. 

Types of Circuits

  • Cardio-Focused: This type of circuit includes more aerobic exercises and is best for those who want to lose weight, improve fitness level, or increase endurance. More reps with lighter weights will raise the cardiovascular intensity to burn more calories during the workout.

  • Strength-Focused: This type of circuit includes heavier weights with lower reps and a focus on cardio exercises that help build lean muscle such as burpees, mountain climbers, or medicine ball tosses.

  • Split Circuits: As the name implies, this type of circuit combines cardio and strength exercises in the perfect balance so you get the best of both worlds – weight loss and muscle gain.

bodyweight circuit training routines
dumbbell row exercise

At Home Workout Plans for Men

Circuit Training Routines

The sample circuit training routines listed below offer a variety of exercises that are both strength and cardio oriented to give you many options.

 As you become more proficient with the workouts you can keep changing your circuit training routines and increase your exercise options which can prevent boredom and keep things interesting.

Getting Started

  • Warm up with 5-10 minutes of light cardio (treadmill, exercise bike, etc.)
  • Do each exercise in one of the plans shown below with little or no rest in between.
  • Try and do 2-3 circuits with one minute of rest in between each circuit (depending on your fitness level.)

Circuit 1 - Strength Training Circuit

These types of circuit training routines are best for those trying to add lean muscle definition. Feel free to adjust the number of reps if you decide to use heavy weights. The circuits should still be done at a fast pace.


Overhead Press

Dumbbell Squats

Treadmill Running

Kettlebell Swing

Lat Pulldowns

Wall Squats

Tricep Extensions

Number of Reps or Time



1 Minute



30-60 Seconds


Circuit 2 - Split Circuit

This is the most popular of the different circuit training routines. As the name implies, this is a split circuit workout based on both cardio and strength training. You can finely adjust the circuit workout for your own perfect balance of exercises to meet your physical fitness and weight loss goals..


Treadmill Running - Fast Paced

Bent Over Rows


Treadmill Running - Fast Paced

Bicep Curls

Seated Rows

Treadmill Running - Fast Paced

Overhead Press

Treadmill Running - Fast Paced

Number of Reps or Time

2 Minutes



2 Minutes

10-12 Reps


2 Minutes


4 Minutes

You can use an elliptical machine or exercise bike in place of the treadmill running for the split circuit training workout above.

Benefits of Circuit Training Routines

1. Time. Since each exercise focuses on a different body part, you will be able to rest one muscle group while simultaneously working another. Moving through the exercises quickly with little rest in between will shorten workout times.

2. Full Body Workout. If designed correctly, a circuit should include exercises that work every body part in a single workout. This will also save you even more time, since you will only have to exercise 2-3 times a week, rather than the 5-6 usually required with strength training programs that target a different muscle group in each workout.

3. Combination of Both Cardio and Strength Training. In many ways, circuit training is much like Cross Training or Interval Training. Alternating between endurance/cardio and strength-focused exercises will allow you to tone and build muscle while also improving your conditioning and fitness level.

4. Calorie Burn and Weight Loss. Switching exercises quickly and regularly will cause the heart rate to fluctuate, which puts more demand on the body and leads to greater calorie burn. Some experts say that a typical circuit can burn 500-600 calories per hour.

However, this number can be significantly higher depending on the number of aerobic exercises that are included. Basically, circuit training routines can give better weight loss results than steady-state cardio programs or regular weightlifting sessions because of the varying intensity levels and the combination of multiple exercises that focus on a whole body workout.

5. Improved Strength and Increase in Lean Muscle Mass. Perhaps one of the disadvantages of circuit training (depending on your goals) is that you will not likely be able to achieve huge increases in muscle size. In other words, if you want to be a bodybuilder, then you will still have to add some major weightlifting sessions into your workout program.

Even lighter weights with higher reps will still put tension on the muscles. You might not get the big bulky bulges, but you will increase lean body mass and notice a significant improvement in overall strength. And, any type of muscle – even lean muscle – will burn more calories at rest, which will improve metabolism and help with weight loss.

6. Improved Cardio. Studies have shown that circuit training routines can improve endurance, raise stamina and energy levels, and increase your VO2 max – the volume of oxygen you consume during high-intensity exercise or the measure of how well your body uses oxygen to produce energy.

7. Convenient. Circuit training routines can be done at home or at the gym, with or without equipment. You can choose the exercises that best help you accomplish your goals, and you can make the series as long or as short as you want so that you can easily fit a workout into any schedule.

circuit training routines using free weights

Tips for Circuit Training Routines

  • No Down Time. The key to successful circuit training routines is to take little or no rest  between the exercises. If you need to catch your breath, then walk around until you feel you can continue with the circuit, but do not stop. 
  • Pace Yourself. Since the goal is to keep your heart rate up for the duration of the workout, don't “rep out” on your first circuit or you will not have enough energy to complete the program. In other words, if 10 burpees have you panting on the floor in exhaustion, then cut the reps down so you have enough stamina to get through the workout.

  • Mix it up. Start with lighter weights and increase with each circuit, or begin with the heaviest and decrease with each circuit. You can also do decreasing/increasing number of reps, with the first circuit  having 10 reps, the second circuit having 8, etc. This will keep your body guessing and help break plateaus.

  • Choose the right exercises. Circuit training routines can be an effective way to lose weight and build lean muscle mass, but exercises must be combined correctly to help you achieve your particular fitness goals. 

Circuit Training Routines

For decades, sports teams, Olympic athletes, and all branches of the armed forces have realized the benefits of circuit training routines. Whether you want to improve endurance and conditioning, increase flexibility, lose weight or build strength, participating in regular exercise plans like circuit training can provide you with the perfect combination of fitness activities to achieve all your goals.

I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.

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