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Circuits Are Your Best Friend

Why Circuits Are Your Best Friend.

For some reason when people think of cardio (or conditioning) they always think of running, treadmill, bike or some other sort of cyclical pattern either performed at a steady state or for repeated efforts. Don’t get me wrong, these methods are tried and true, they are effective. However, for a lot of people these repetitive modes are un-inspiring, boring or just downright painful.

Not everyone is built to run, spin classes are fucking monotonous, the elliptical (cross trainer) is straight up boring, I could go on. Now, if you enjoy these things, go nuts, be my guest. For us normal people who enjoy a bit of variation, a bit more fun within our workouts, circuits are our best friend.

Circuits are normally more time efficient and much more engaging, which, from a general health/exercise standpoint will keep more people motivated and exercising rather than getting bored and pulling the pin altogether.

Circuits can help improve overall fitness, work capacity, time til exhaustion, strength endurance and strength. It all depends on how we structure them and what the focus is.

Circuits will also allow us to train more than one movement pattern and muscle group, giving us a more effective, full body workout which can easily include a fair amount of strength and strength endurance work as opposed to more cyclical modes of exercise. If you’ve ever done a shit load of pull ups in a workout you definitely know what I mean, sometimes the pump is better than a bodybuilding session.

We can easily manipulate things like weight, reps, time, rest etc to make things as brutal or as cruisy as we like whilst accommodating people of all fitness levels. Your coach should also be able to scale most exercises to make the workout suitable and safe for all.

Personally, I like to structure circuits in pairs or groups of three exercises (triplets). The table below shows a whole bunch of exercises split in categories that are easy to use within circuits, the less technical the better as you can work hard without worrying too much about getting sloppy. I normally choose 2 or 3 exercises from different categories, you’re only limited by your imagination, just try to stay away from pairing up similar exercises like say burpees and push ups, lunges and squats, wall balls and thrusters, otherwise you will know about it very quickly.

One thing that I really like about Crossfit is the innovative nature of the workout structures. Typically, circuits were largely time based; same work period, same rest period, then rotate sort of thing. Crossfit has really popularised the use of other fun, effective and sometimes punishing structures. Here’s an explanation of a few.

AMRAP – As many rounds (or reps) as possible

Perform as many rounds or reps of the prescribed work as you can within a certain time period. This is a pretty typical circuit style (with a fancy name). I use this style the most throughout my circuits.

EMOM – Every minute on the minute

Plain and simple you start on the minute finish the prescribed reps, rest for the rest of the minute and start again on the next minute. As you get fatigued and slow down, your rest gets shorter. This is typically done with only one or two exercises for a small number of reps.

For Time – As quick as you can

A “For time” workout means you finish the work as quick as you can, once you finish your done. For example we could do 50 burpees for time. Knock out 50 and voila!

Rep Ladders – Ascending, descending or even varying rep schemes

This isn’t so much a time construct more a repetition method. Within your workout each set may have a descending or ascending amount of reps, sometimes even both. For example I use a 21, 15, 9 structure for an Air Bike, Wall Ball, Burpee workout (the numbers are arbitrary really). 21 reps of all three exercises, then 15, then 9. I’ve also used an ascending ladder of Wall Balls paired with a 400m run. So you’d do 10 Wall Balls, Run 400m, 20 Wall Balls, Run 400m, 30 Wall Balls and so on.

Before I finish this blog I thought I’d hit you with a couple of my favourites. And by favourites, I mean the ones that kick your ass the most. Give them ago and let me know how they treat ya #SmithsFitness.

15 Min AMRAP

400m Run

Wall Ball x 10, 20, 30 etc

21-15-9 FOR TIME

Air Bike

Wall Ball


12 Min AMRAP

Row x 20 calories

Sit Up x 15

Push Up x 10

I guess the point of this blog post was to point you in the right direction. If you don’t enjoy running, cycling etc you don’t have to. There are so many fun and effective ways to get conditioning work done. So don’t skip it because it’s boring, use your imagination, have fun and rip in.


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