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How Circuit Training Works


Circuit Training Workouts

The beauty of circuit training workouts is that they're all about you -- meaning you can customize them to your specific sport, event or skill level. You also have the freedom to use free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, body-weight exercises or a combination. This may be one reason why circuit training is popular with athletes as well as ordinary people looking to keep up their general fitness. In this section, we'll explore workouts your coach or personal trainer may design for runners to use at a gym or fitness center -- you'll use weight machines and benches for some of the exercises and a treadmill for the running drills. Later, we'll see how to improvise them to work out at home or anywhere you may not have access to fancy equipment.

If you're a short-distance runner you'll want to focus on your speed. Your circuit training workout will be a vigorous collection of laps combined with muscle strength exercises.

Here's an example of a workout to build speed for a 5K race:

  1. Run 400 meters at 5K pace.
  2. Do 20 bench step-ups on each leg.
  3. Run 800 meters at 5K max pace.
  4. Do 20 one-leg squats on each leg. (Step backward with one leg and bend the front leg).
  5. Run 1400 meters at 5K pace, and then speed up to sprint pace for 300 meters.
  6. Do 20 stride step-ups on each leg (Take one backward step down from bench, then push back up with elevated leg).
  7. Run 800 meters at 5K pace.
  8. Perform 25 meters of double-leg forward hops.
  9. Run 400 meters at 5K pace.
  10. Perform 25 meters of single-leg forward hops.
  11. Run 600 meters at 5K pace and then speed up to sprint pace for 300 meters.

[source: Morris]

Alternatively, you can create a full-body workout by doing the following exercises on machines between layers of cardio: deadlift (picking a weight up off the floor), bench press, abdominals, squats, bent-over row (picking a weight up off the floor while bending over), leg press, dumbbell running arms (while holding weights, move arms like you're running), cable bicep press and calf raises. Use no heavier than 35 percent of the maximum that you can lift [source: O'Kelley].

You probably know that decreasing your body weight can increase your race speed. Here's one of many combinations of circuit training workouts geared toward shedding pounds:

  1. Run 800 meters at 5K pace.
  2. Do 20 push-ups.
  3. Run 400 meters at mile pace.
  4. Do 20 one-leg squats on each leg.
  5. Run 1600 meters at 10K pace.
  6. Do 20 stride step-ups on each leg.
  7. Run 8 x 100 meter acceleration strides. Recover for 15 seconds between each repeat.
  8. Perform 25 meters of double-leg forward hops.
  9. Run for 1600 meters, alternating between sprinting the corners and running easy on the straights.
  10. Perform a walking lunge for 25 meters.
  11. Run 1 mile or 1600 meters at an easy pace.
  12. Perform 25 meters of single-leg forward hops.
  13. Run 4 x 200 meter repeats at 800-meter pace. Recover for 30 seconds between each repeat.
  14. Perform 20 decline push-ups by placing your feet on the first row of bleachers or on a 12- to 18-inch step.
  15. Run 3200 meters at tempo pace (comfortable but still hard).
  16. Perform one basic core strength routine.
  17. Run 400 meters at an easy pace to cool down.

[source: Morris]

On the next page, we'll look at examples of circuit training workouts you can do at home.


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