How to Structure an Effective Circuit Training Exercise

Warehouse Gym

If you're working out at home or don't have access to your usual gym equipment, circuit training routines can be incredibly effective with just bodyweight exercises or minimal equipment. Moreover, circuit training is suitable for individuals of any fitness level since it can be customised to fit their needs.

Despite the numerous benefits of this training style, designing an effective circuit workout can seem daunting at first. Circuit training has been widely acknowledged in the fitness industry as a fantastic approach to enhance your workout effectiveness. However, there are countless exercises that could be included in a circuit and several different ways to program those exercises. So how do you determine the best circuit for your client's specific requirements?

This blog will work you through the guidelines on how to structure your circuit training exercises for minimal setbacks and revitalised routines. 

How to Structure an Effective Circuit Training Exercise

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is a complex array of exercise routines that exert your body to the maximum capacity in cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength endurance. The beauty of circuit training is that you don’t get withdrawn and fatigued after doing about 8-20 repetitions (reps) for each of the 8-10 exercises because the routines are designed specifically to render a ‘resting’ stage where your muscles can restore. But don’t feel fooled - circuit training is legitimate and does push your limits.

Depending on your selective exercises which can change over time to your fitness level, you can complete a single circuit session between 30-45 minutes. However, as with most physical training, you can grasp the essence of body-shaping and fitness to have familiar reps for specific exercises.

These include classic exercises like push-ups, which engage the upper body, and dumbbell squats that target the lower body. To work your back muscles, bent over dumbbell rows are a popular choice. For an added challenge, alternating lateral lunges provide an opportunity to work the legs and hips.

When it comes to combining cardio with strength training, there are various options to choose from. One such blend is the chest press, which not only strengthens the chest muscles but also increases heart rate. Jump squats, on the other hand, provide a high-intensity plyometric movement that elevates the heart rate while targeting the lower body. Standing cable rows offer an effective cardio workout for the back muscles, and step up with biceps curl combines lower body strength with a bicep exercise.

Benefits of Circuit Training

1. Improves strength

Circuit training workouts give the opportunity to synchronise upper and lower body movements which enhances your overall strength capabilities. There is no better workout that utilises every bit of your muscular frame.

2. Helps with weight loss & fat burn

Believe it or not, weight loss criteria are somehow incorporated into circuit training where stationary exercises, along with more physical training like rowing and running, give you more capacity for fitness in general.

3. Improves cardio health

To keep up with bursts of activity, your body will be subject to increased blood circulation as it attempts to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout your system. This gives your inner cardio the resilience and endurance to pump harder and faster which improves cardio health.

Things to Consider Before Designing Your Circuit Training Exercises:

  • Identify your strengths, areas for improvement, and activities you enjoy, especially cardio and strength exercises: Before designing your circuit training exercises, it's important to assess your current fitness level and determine what you excel at and what areas you need to work on. Consider the types of exercises you enjoy and find motivating, as this will help you stay committed to your training program.

  • Incorporate a variety of exercises at different levels to prepare your muscles for the intensity of circuit training: Circuit training involves performing a series of exercises in a sequence with minimal rest in between. To ensure that your muscles are adequately prepared for this high-intensity workout, include a diverse range of exercises that target different muscle groups and challenge you at various levels of difficulty. This will help you build overall strength, endurance, and flexibility.

  • Be honest with yourself about your capabilities and commit to your fitness training journey: It's crucial to have a realistic assessment of your current fitness level and set achievable goals. Pushing yourself too hard or attempting exercises that are beyond your capabilities can lead to injury. Stay committed to your fitness training journey by setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals and tracking your progress.

  • Understand that not all individuals with well-built physiques are solely capable of lifting heavy weights: It's a common misconception that muscular individuals excel only at traditional weightlifting exercises. However, there are numerous ways to build strength and improve fitness that do not involve heavy weights. Explore different workout routines and activities such as bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, kettlebell training, yoga, or Pilates to add variety to your circuit training program.

  • Explore unconventional workout regimes that can be beneficial for building strength, endurance, and overall fitness: Circuit training doesn't have to be limited to traditional exercises. Think outside the box and consider incorporating unconventional workout regimes like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), agility drills, plyometrics, or functional training exercises. These types of exercises can challenge your body in new ways and enhance your overall fitness level.

  • Consider physical activities that do not involve weightlifting but can still contribute to your fitness goals: Circuit training is not solely about weightlifting. Look for activities such as swimming, cycling, hiking, or group fitness classes that can provide cardiovascular benefits and improve your overall fitness. Adding these activities to your circuit training program can help create a well-rounded and balanced routine.

  • Look for fitness equipment that suits your needs and can be incorporated into your circuit training, such as benches and dumbbells: Fitness equipment comes in various shapes and sizes. Depending on your preferences and training environment, consider including equipment like benches, dumbbells, resistance bands, stability balls, or kettlebells in your circuit training exercises. These tools can add resistance, challenge your muscles, and provide a greater variety of exercises to target different muscle groups.

Warmup and cool-down roles in circuit training

Incorporating warm-up exercises into your circuit workout is crucial to prevent muscle injuries and improve performance. Skipping warm-up routines can increase the risk of injury and negatively impact cardiovascular health. Similarly, cooling down after a workout helps regulate your heart rate and improve blood flow, leading to faster recovery. Regularly practicing cool-down routines can benefit your body's ability to recover from intense workouts.

Designing an Effective Circuit Training Exercise

At first, creating an effective circuit training workout by yourself can seem overwhelming but fitness training advice is part of the regular arsenal now. Hence, the following steps can help you create your perfect circuit routine:

Step 1: Determine a Time Limit

Circuit training routines consist of a set of "stations" that you repeat until your designated time is over. Being aware of your available time can assist you in determining the number of circuits to complete and the level of intensity to maintain.

For instance, you may execute a 30-minute workout by performing five stations, each lasting one minute, and repeating this cycle six times.

Step 2: Select an Upper-Body Exercise

To succeed in circuit training, it's important to make the most of the resources available to you. While the gym offers a wide array of options, you can still have a great workout with just your body weight. You can switch up your upper-body exercises for each circuit, or if you prefer to keep it simple, you can do the same exercise every time. Choose from the list of exercises below, and either cycle through them all or pick your favourites.

Exercises for Upper-Body Circuit Training:

  • Circuit 1: Shoulder press

  • Circuit 2: Bent-over row

  • Circuit 3: Standing dumbbell curl

  • Circuit 4: Triceps dip

  • Circuit 5: Push-up

  • Circuit 6: Russian twist

Step 3: Select a Lower-Body Exercise

Just like you did with the upper body, choose exercises that will target each part of your lower body. You have the option to switch up the exercises each round or maintain consistency.

Exercises for Lower-Body Circuit Training:

  • Circuit 1: Forward lunge or walking lunge

  • Circuit 2: Sumo squat

  • Circuit 3: Calf raise

  • Circuit 4: Hamstring curl on a Swiss ball

  • Circuit 5: Deadlift

  • Circuit 6: Superman

Step 4: Pick a Compound Exercise

While weight training is great, you can elevate your heart rate even further by incorporating compound movements into your circuit training routine that work multiple parts of your body at once. You can either choose one of the following or rotate through all six movements:

Total-Body Circuit Training Exercises:

  • Circuit 1: Jump squat

  • Circuit 2: Plank jacks

  • Circuit 3: Burpee

  • Circuit 4: Renegade row

  • Circuit 5: Box jump

  • Circuit 6: Medicine ball slam

Step 5: Incorporate One Minute of Max-Effort Cardio

Studies have demonstrated that integrating consistent cardio workouts into your regimen can effectively boost your cardiorespiratory fitness. Select your preferred cardio exercise and aim to execute it at maximum intensity for one minute.

Cardiovascular Circuit Training Exercises:

  • Circuit 1: Running

  • Circuit 2: Jumping rope

  • Circuit 3: Rowing

  • Circuit 4: Cycling

  • Circuit 5: Uphill jogging

  • Circuit 6: Stair climbing

Step 6: Take a One-Minute Break

After completing your circuit training workout, take a well-deserved one-minute break to let your heart rate return to normal. Then, you can repeat the circuit as many times as you wish to complete your workout.


In conclusion, circuit training is an efficient and effective way to improve overall fitness. By incorporating upper-body, lower-body, compound, and cardio exercises, a well-structured circuit can target every major muscle group while providing a cardiovascular challenge. Remember to choose exercises that match your fitness level and goals and to gradually increase intensity over time. With a well-planned circuit, you can achieve your fitness goals and enjoy the benefits of a full-body workout. Check out our circuit training classes at Warehouse Gym today!

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