Circuit Training: HIIT Cardio & Resistance

In this final segment on circuit training I chose to focus on higher intensity cardio intervals. By combining cardio with resistance training, you will increase fat burning capacity during the workout and your metabolic rate after the exercise session. In other words, you will effectively burn more calories during the workout and will continue burning calories after the training has been completed.

In this type of circuit you will replace traditional rest periods with cardio exercises performed for 30 to 60 seconds.  The exercises can be as simple as running in place.  The idea is that you do not rest between sets of strength training but continue to move. The goal is to gradually increase the amount of time and the intensity of the cardio intervals. The increased blood flow between lifts will deliver a bigger muscle pump and potentially boost strength and endurance.

Although the cardio portion of the workout is key, strength training plays an equally important role. Resistance training will allow you to build strength, lean muscle, and burn body fat. You can use either time and resistance (example, chest press for 45 seconds) or a specific number of reps to achieve your goal.

Below is a Cardio-Resistance Circuit you can try. Perform the lifting for 45 seconds and the cardio for 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat each set for a total of 3 times. There is no rest between the sets, so adjust the time and exercises to suit your fitness level.

Set 1: Dumbbell Squats for 45 seconds followed by jogging in place for 45 seconds. Repeat this set a total of 3 times

Set 2: Incline Dumbbell Chest Press & Bench step ups. 45 seconds each for 3 sets


Set 3: Upright Rows & Bench Toe Taps. 45 seconds each. 3 sets

Set 4: Overhead Dumbbell Shoulder Press & Alternating Battling Ropes. 45 seconds each. 3 sets.

Set 5: Barbell Bicep Curls & Double Wave Battling Ropes. 45 seconds each. 3 sets.

Set 6: Tricep Dips & Ball Slams. 45 seconds each. 3 sets. The dips can also be done on a bench with the heels on the floor (see for instructions and video)



Circuit Training: Push & Pull

In the first blog on circuit training, we explored various ways of structuring a circuit. You can focus on body weight exercises, a specific muscle group, elevating the heart rate through cardio, or a blend of all three methods. You may also consider combining push and pull exercises when designing your circuit. If you do a chest press and then immediately follow with a dumbbell shoulder press, you may lack the energy to properly engage the muscles for the shoulder exercise. Alternating push and pull exercises in your circuit allows one muscle group to rest while the other is working.

The tissue of push muscle groups contract when the weight is pushed away from the body. Chest, shoulders, triceps, quadriceps, glutes, and calves are considered push muscles. Pull muscles contract when the weight is pulled toward the body.  These include the back, biceps, hamstrings.

Here are two examples of push and pull circuits you can try. The first focuses on the upper body. The second is a lower body circuit. Perform each exercise in sequence without stopping. Repeat the circuit two more times for a total of 3 rounds.

Workout #1: Upper Body Push & Pull Circuit

Incline dumbbell chest press: 15 reps

Smith Machine Back Row: 15 reps


Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 15 reps


Barbell 21 Bicep Curl: 7 full range curls, 7 top half reps, and 7 bottom half reps


Tricep Dumbbell Skull Crusher: 15 reps


Workout #2: Lower Body Push & Pull Circuit

3/4 Hack Squat: 20 reps


Unilateral Hamstring Curls: 20 reps each leg


Plate Loaded Glute Kickback (standing donkey kicks): 20 double pump reps (top half pump followed by a full range repetition)


Seated Hamstring Curls: 20 reps


Seated Calf Raise: 20 reps followed by a slow count 10 second top half isometric hold









Circuit Training: Break through the Boredom

Have you grown tired of your current workout routine? Circuit training is an excellent way to combat boredom. A circuit is a series of strength or cardio exercises repeated in sequence with little to no rest between the sets.  This type of training has several benefits. It can be specifically designed to meet your goals. For example, if you want to burn fat and increase lean muscle, you would do a circuit comprised of both strength and cardio moves. Circuits can be tailored to fit any fitness level simply by adjusting both the intensity and time. In addition, they can burn 30% more calories than conventional weight workouts. Circuits are also time efficient. You can choose five different exercises and perform each for one minute. Repeat the circuit 6 times for a total of a 30 minute workout.

Give this upper body weight circuit a try. The battling ropes will elevate the heart rate, providing a cardio benefit, as well as targeting the shoulders and core. The remaining exercises will hit chest, back, shoulders, and triceps.

Push ups: 1 minute (as many as you are able to do)


Battling Ropes-Alternating waves: 1 minute


Pull ups (can be assisted or on on Smith machine): As many as you can do in 1 minute


Tricep Dips:  1 minute (as many as you can do) 

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Battling Ropes-Double waves: 1 minute

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Comana, Fabio, M.A, M.S. Circuit Training. ACE Fitness.

American College of Sports Medicine, Physical Activity Guidelines, 2007,

Black, Stephen A. (2006). Kick up your cardio with circuits. Fitness Management, June: 34-37.