Sunday, January 30, 2011

Improvised Circuit Training: Diversifying Your Workout

So I decided it was time for us to switch up our workout programs again just to keep it fresh. I mean, the benefit of interviewing all those fine blokes and lasses is that they do give you some advice. One suggestion I definitely think we should take? Do circuit training.

What is circuit training? It is basically a mix of aerobic and strength training. Not in the regular way we usually do our cardio first and then do our strength training, but in a “mix-it-all-up” sort of way. Do a bit of cardio, a bit of weights, then some more cardio, then more weights, all in a circuit sort of way. For circuit training to be great, it must work on several parts of your body at once. Circuit training really works on muscle definition though rather than muscle bulk, so if you are also trying to get big, make sure you include some days of intense weight training where you lift really heavy weights. We’ll talk about that another day.

In the spirit of making you work extra hard, I created a little improvised lower body circuit training program, which kept me sore all of last week. But my body is all the better for it, so I have my devoted readers to thank. It’s not your usual circuit training program, but it does help you burn more calories and tones up your hind parts and legs. This training program consists of a total of one hour broken down into ten minute segments. But don’t forget to insert a couple of minutes of stretching here and there. Here goes!

Segment 1: This segment is cardio-focused. We’ll be warming up a little since it’s really the beginning of our workout for the day. As usual, I like to always start workouts on the treadmill so we can get some serious sweat in before we move on to anything else. And yes, I do believe running makes you sweat more than most cardio workouts. It may not always burn the most calories, but because it engages your entire body and makes you sweat, so it’s my favorite.

Warm up for 2 minutes on the treadmill walking at a very comfortable pace. I usually do this at about 3-4 miles per hour.

After you’re done warming up, run for about 8 minutes doing intervals for a minute each. That is, run at a comfortable speed for a minute (about 6 miles per hour) and then speed up for another minute (at about 8 miles per hour). Switch between the slow and fast run till you’re done with your 8-minute run.

Segment 2: This segment is weights-focused. We’ll be alternating between cardio and weights for consecutive segments.

You’ll need a 5 pound dumbbell. Alternatively, you can clench your fists, tense your arm muscles, and use your own body weight.

Do 1 minute of lunges with your arms by your side with dumbbells or clenched fists. Move from a lunge on your right foot to a lunge on your left foot continuously. To intensify the exercise, jump when switching from a lunge on your right foot to a lunge on your left foot. See the image below for how to do a proper lunge.

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Do 1 minute of squats with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your arms in front of you. See the image below for how a perfect butt-blasting squat should look like. If it burns, don’t worry, just go to your happy place in your mind.

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Alternate between squats and lunges for one minute each until you’ve reached 10 minutes.

Segment 3: Time to get back to cardio, but this time, we’re going for the elliptical (or cross trainer) rather than the treadmill. And there’s no need to warm up this time. This segment, we’ll do a hill challenge. If your elliptical machine has a ‘Random’ program, just use that. If not, try to manually set it on your own using the following:

Minute 1 – Speed of 600mph. Intensity of 1.
Minute 2 – Speed of about 900mph. Intensity of 5.

Alternate between these intervals for 10 minutes.

Segment 4: Back to the weights. This segment focuses on strength training for the legs. Start in a downward facing dog pose. Lift one of your legs up in a straight line, envisioning that the lift is coming from your inner thigh. So the goal here is not to try to get your leg as high as possible, but to get your inner thigh as high as possible. Feel the pain in your thighs yet? That’s what we’re going for. Now bring the knee of the lifted leg forward to your chest and then lift the thigh high again. See the images below for proper form.

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Do 1 minute on your left leg and then one minute on your right leg.

Next, bend your knees slightly. Hold on to something in front of you (like the back of a chair). Lift your left leg to the left side until you feel it in your outer thigh. Make sure your torso remains straight, both knees remain slightly bent, and your right foot remains grounded. Move your left leg to meet your right, but don’t put the left foot on the floor. Repeat the lift for one minute and then switch sides. See the image below for a perfect leg lift.

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Do 1 minute of the lunge that we did in segment 2.

Repeat the 2 minutes of the downward facing dog leg lift, and 2 minutes of the standing leg lift above, and then do 1 minute of the squats.

That’s a total of ten minutes in this segment. Your butt and thighs must be burning now so let’s go back to a cardio segment.

Segment 5: Almost done! Out comes the skipping rope! Skip for 10 minutes alternating between different skipping styles. If you skip without breaks, you could actually burn more calories than the other cardio exercises.

Segment 6: Final segment! Since we’ve worked on our butts and legs, we’ll do a little abs workout, and then stretch.

Do 2 minutes of the bicycle. See below for the image. Alternate between your left and right legs, but make sure you’re not compressing your neck. The mistake a lot of people make with abs workouts is to put their elbows forward and put strain on their necks. Keep your elbows back, and move your shoulders instead of your elbows.

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Do the plank for 1 minute. Keep your elbows on the floor, look down and try to keep your body in a straight line.

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Move to the side plank. Do this for 1 minute on either side. Contrary to what you might think, this works out your abs better than most exercises because you need core strength to stay in this position.

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Repeat the bicycle and the plank.

Stretch out your thighs, butt, and abs for 2 minutes.

And that’s the improvised circuit workout. I say “improvised” because most circuit workouts require machines and little bursts of intensity. Please try it out and let me know how you feel!

Also, spread the word. If you think we’re doing a good job, tell your friends about us. We’d love some more readers :)

Cheers Eights & Weights!


  1. Thanks for this. I love circuit training. Whenever I feel my body is sluggish or have gained some unwanted pounds, circuit shakes / wakes my body up. Apart from that, it keeps workouts interesting and a break from the 'regular'

    Make a great week ahead

  2. Wow! That looks like a pretty intense workout, just what the doctor ordered. I'll try it tomorrow and let you know if I'm still standing :)


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