What is Circuit training?

Circuit training improves muscle strength, strength and endurance, as well as the functionality of the cardio-respiratory system. There are many variations of the method, depending on the skills that, among these, you want to benefit, and is therefore considered effective for physical preparation for different sports, as well as for fitness and for weight loss. It was designed in 1956 by Morgan and Adamson, two professors from the Department of Physical Education at the University of Leeds, England. In the following years this method was established everywhere, from school to military, sports and rehabilitation. In circuit training, you quickly switch from one “station” to the other of the program, each of which consists in the execution of a certain exercise for a preset time or number of repetitions. The circuit ends when all the exercises have been performed in the established order, from the first to the last station of the route, and can be repeated several times. Usually in the circuit training we choose exercises with weights or with counterweights machines, but we can also include different gymnastic exercises such as jumps, hops, traction, push-ups, bends, running exercises such as running on the spot with high knees ( skip), or the use of cardiovascular training machines (exercise bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, steppers, etc.). Considering that the circuit training allows you to train with low loads and a greater number of repetitions, it is suitable for beginners, young people, obese, elderly, and in all those conditions where subjective limitations, safety problems or physical rehabilitation needs exclude intense exercises with the use of high loads.

Program a circuit training

Each circuit should consist of 6-12 exercises (stations) and be completed in a time of between 5 and 20 minutes, based on the objectives set and the level of training. According to some, the number of stations could be even higher, up to 15 or even 24. The whole exercise circuit is repeated 3 to 6 times in the same training session. At each station, a medium-high repetition number (from 12 to 20) is performed, or the maximum number of repetitions that can be performed within the preset time (for example, in 30 seconds). In any case, in the exercises with the use of weights or balances, the load should be such that the repetitions can be concluded by experiencing fatigue in the muscles involved. The weight should be increased after a few sessions, so that the stimulus is always effective. According to the original method, however, the number of repetitions should be calculated on the basis of the maximum number that the athlete can perform in a previous test, within a time limit. In the circuit training session only half of the repetitions performed in the test should be performed, and the goal is to run the circuit in an ever shorter time. Morgan and Adamson proposed circuit training without recovery between stations and between circuits. However, the important thing is that the recovery between the stations is short, 15-20 seconds at most, if you want to get a training stimulus for cardiorespiratory resistance. Even between the circuits you could insert a longer pause (1-3 minutes), such as to allow complete recovery but without cooling down. The best results are obtained with three training sessions in the week, every other day, for at least six consecutive weeks. The sequence of exercises that make up the circuit must be programmed in order to avoid the involvement of the same muscle group in two consecutive stations. The exercises must be easy to learn and simple to perform. To have a greater availability of equipment in the gym, it is preferable that this type of training is carried out during the hours of less overcrowding. However, you can also train with small tools and free-body exercises, equipping a small space, even outdoors. More people can train together in the same circuit, changing station at the same time.

Circuit Training in physical preparation for sports

When circuit training is used as a physical preparation method for a sport, you will have to choose exercises that develop the specific skills needed in the sport practiced, depending on whether the power, muscular or cardiorespiratory resistance prevails, reproducing movements that are the as similar as possible to the athletic gesture or at least aimed at stimulating the same muscles used in the sporting activity for which we perform the preparation. However, it is important to consider that although circuit training is effective for improving cardiorespiratory resistance, it has been observed that these increases are minimal compared to those that can be achieved through specific running, cycling or swimming training, despite the heart rate during the circuit. keep at high levels. On the contrary, circuit training significantly improves strength, power and muscular resistance, depending on the amount of load, the number of repetitions and the speed of execution. But if the main goal is to increase muscle strength, it must be borne in mind that a simultaneous training of strength and resistance can counteract and prevent the development of strength. Ultimately, circuit training is a convenient solution when you want to increase cardiorespiratory strength and resistance without demanding great results, while you can achieve noticeable improvements in potency and especially in muscle strength if the program is set up correctly and specifically. .

Strength training in endurance sports

Endurance athletes often do not know that performance can be improved by increasing strength. Until the seventies and the beginning of the eighties, the improvement of resistance was considered in relation only with the increase of the maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max). This concept was supported by renowned scholars such as Zaciorsky, Platonov, Mateev and others. Then, between the end of the eighties and the beginning of the Nineties, new methodologies were introduced that valorised the improvement of local muscular resistance obtained through force training. Verchoshanskij, Reib and Tschiene were the authors of this revolution of the principles of training in endurance sports. In particular, it was observed that strength training leads to a lower activation of glycolysis, that is a greater oxidative power of the muscles and a lower production of lactic acid. Furthermore, importance was given to increasing the speed and frequency of movements. For this purpose it is useful to know also the other methodologies used for muscle preparation in the endurance sports disciplines, in order to program circuit training with the integration of different methods. The “repetition method” is among the most widespread and consists in the use of a pre-established overload compared to the ceiling (for the resistance, from 30 to 50-60%), for a number of repetitions that usually varies from 10 to 20 , for 4-6 series with recovery from 1 to 1.5 minutes. For muscular strength Verchoshanskij proposes an “interval method” consisting of 8-10 seconds of work (repetitions) at maximum intensity, with a 40% overload of the ceiling, and recovery that can be gradually reduced up to 10 seconds. To complete a series, you must repeat this work for at least 5 or 6 times, up to a maximum of 12, of the same exercise. A few series (2 or 3) with an interval of 8-12 minutes are sufficient, so the method is compatible with the insertion of the exercises in a circuit. Or, another method at intervals, for muscular resistance, consists of 20-30 seconds of work (repetitions) at moderate intensity, with recovery of 60-30 seconds, for 6-10 times. Thus ends the first series and after 8-12 minutes of recovery, the work is repeated for a total of 2-3 series at most. The first working regime (8-10 seconds) develops the alactacid anaerobic power and capabilities; the second (20-30 seconds) affects the glycolytic and oxidative capacities of the muscles. In 1991 the Italian researcher Carmelo Bosco introduced a new method that uses counterweight isotonic machines equipped with a computerized dynamometer for the control of mechanical power. This system is able to measure, after each repetition, the physiological conditions of the muscle groups involved in the exercise, thus providing immediate feedback. This allows you to perform workouts for different types of muscle strength with perfectly dosed and controlled stimuli. For the training of muscular resistance, Bosco advised workloads between 20 and 50%, with a power between 60 and 80% of the maximum power achieved with the load chosen for training. While, to improve resistance to fast force, high intensity work is performed until the power drops below 80% of the ceiling, however without exceeding 90% to avoid the onset of fatigue. Working with this intensity, with a load of 50% of the ceiling, even 50 repetitions can be made to the leg press, engaging the knee extensors.