What is Circuit Training and Why is it Ideal for Bootcamp-Style Outdoor Group Training?

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Circuit Training was developed in England during the 1950’s as a way of allowing groups of people of differing fitness levels to train together.

It typically consists of approximately 10 stations, where a different exercise is designated at each station. In a circuit training workout, participants move between the stations at prescribed time intervals which are typically between 30s and 2mins. The exercises are carefully combined to work every energy system and muscle group. So a typical circuit would contain a mix of aerobic exercises, anaerobic exercises, high-repetition low-resistance exercises and low-repetition high-resistance exercises.

Other ways of organising circuit training workouts would be to design stations that catered for different movement patterns such as pushing, pulling, throwing, running and jumping.

The end result is a total-body, total energy-system workout that fits perfectly into any program of general physical preparedness.

Working out together as a group or team builds morale and friendship, so it is especially useful for military recruits in fitness bootcamps and for emergency services personnel who rely on teamwork. Both groups have to be physically prepared for anything so the diversity of training methods mean circuit training is highly effective for these occupations.

Boxers and martial artists also use circuit training extensively in their training because it can be designed to closely resemble the physical demands of a fight. Bruce Lee in particular loved the multiple benefits that are brought about by this type of training.

A Common Mistake Made by Rookie Personal Trainers

One of the most common mistakes made by newbie bootcamp instructors is simply throwing a bunch of random exercises together into a circuit and changing the exercises around each time to add ‘variety’.

While you may get away with this once or twice, relying on this week in week out will very quickly become boring and tedious for those participating. The secret to creating fun, enjoyable and effective circuit training workouts is to use different styles and methods for navigating the circuit of exercises.

Circuit Training Ideas

Try some of these techniques to spice up your circuits and surprise your clients:

  1. Spread the stations in a circle around a central cone or witches hat and have participants run in and touch the cone before moving to their next station.
  2. Rather than time intervals, use one station as a control. For example station #1 might be 50 pushups. All other stations keep working until the participants at station #1 are done, at which point everyone transitions to the next station.
  3. Space out the stations 10m to 20m apart and use ‘travelling’ exercises such as side-steps, bear crawls or walking lunges to move from station to station.
  4. Designate one or more stations as boxing combos
  5. String out stations in a line so that when you reach the end of the line, there is a long run back to the start – this is great if you run bootcamps on a long, sandy beach. Running even a few hundred metres on soft sand is a great heart-raiser.
  6. Assign 2 different exercises to each station and give participants a prescribed number of reps on each one. Or ‘superset’ the exercises as many times as possible over a longer time period.
  7. Play a version of musical chairs where there is one less station than the number of participants. Players run or jog around until you blow a whistle at which point they must go to the nearest station. The penalty for not getting to a station might be an agility drill or a harder-than-usual exercise. You can remove stations as the workout goes on.

There are many, many more ways that you can make your circuits interesting. I hope these suggestions get you thinking creatively. For more circuit training ideas and workouts go to the Kaizen Outdoor Fitness Shop and download a bootcamp training e-manual.


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