What are the Different Types of Circuit Training Exercises?

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  • Written By: D. Messmer
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 23 January 2020
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There are thousands of circuit training exercises available to an athlete who wants to put together a circuit training routine. Before selecting the exercises, the athlete first must determine the primary purpose of the workout. For instance, an athlete who is using a circuit training program to prepare for a specific sport will want to choose exercises that make demands on the body that are similar to those of the sport in which he or she participates. Someone who is performing circuit training exercises as a means of maintaining general health usually will want a balanced workout that works a variety of muscle groups.

Regardless of the purpose of the circuit training routine, the exercises that an athlete selects usually will fall into one of four categories: upper-body exercises, lower-body exercises, full-body exercises and core exercises. A circuit training program requires an athlete to string together sets of different exercises, so almost any circuit training workout also will provide an effective cardiovascular workout.


Lower-body workouts primarily require the athlete to perform leg exercises. These exercises can include several very common leg exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, lunges and calf raises. An athlete can choose to perform these with weights if he or she wishes to emphasize the strength-building benefit of the exercise. If he or she wants to emphasize the cardiovascular benefit, he or she might perform the leg exercises without weights in order to increase the number of repetitions. If an athlete has access to a step-up box or any other flat, stable surface, he or she also might choose to perform any number of box exercises.

Upper-body circuit training exercises will include various arm exercises as well as those that engage the upper and lower back muscles and the chest muscles. For many of these exercises, the athlete will need a set of dumbbells. Performing arm curls, lateral raises, triceps extensions and alternating presses, for instance, all require the use of dumbbells. If an athlete does not want to use dumbbells, he or she can perform any of the various variations of push-ups and can do bench dips. All of these circuit training exercises will provide an effective upper-body workout.

Full-body exercises often require slightly more elaborate motions, because they must engage several muscles groups throughout the body to achieve the desired effect. Full-body exercises include some simple motions, such as jumping jacks, skipping and high knee steps. Full-body circuit training exercises also can call for more elaborate motions, such as those involved in performing burpees, tuck jumps and treadmills.

Core exercises will engage the body's abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. Various types of sit-ups and crunches can be effective for this purpose. Hip thrusts, supermans and bicycle kicks also can provide effective core workouts.


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