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The Basic Cardiovascular and Muscular Endurance Circuit Workout

Updated on September 22, 2016
Kevin McClernon profile image

A retired Marine, Kevin incorporates all components of physical fitness to improve the strength and conditioning of men and women alike.

Circuit training workouts are often designed as "do anywhere" strength and conditioning sessions. This form of cross-training is utilized heavily by the armed forces, such as Marines in the photograph.
Circuit training workouts are often designed as "do anywhere" strength and conditioning sessions. This form of cross-training is utilized heavily by the armed forces, such as Marines in the photograph. | Source

Physical Conditioning

Physical conditioning is a process by which individuals are trained in a progressive manner in order to accomplish physical fitness and body composition goals. Challenging workout sessions, using a variety of fitness components and techniques, is the means that will afford you the opportunity the get and stay fit while reducing body and gaining lean muscle mass.

This cardiovascular & muscular endurance circuit  includes a slow jog between exercise stations.
This cardiovascular & muscular endurance circuit includes a slow jog between exercise stations. | Source

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a training routine in which a variety of drills and exercises are utilized. These workouts can be done in an individual or group setting. Circuit training provides variety and challenges, and with progressive programming can allow participants to advance at the own rate.

The goal of circuit training is to develop strength and endurance through a systematic program involving various stations where exercises are performed. These exercises should be performed in a vigorous manner for a short period of time before moving on to the next station and different exercise.

The strenuous activity in short periods assures that the body is constructively stressed, or overloaded. Overload is a key fundamental of physical conditioning. In order to improve, exercises must go beyond an individual's comfort zone or exceed the body's normal workload. The variety of exercises allows the total body to be trained while giving relative rest to one portion of the body while another is being overloaded. The sum of the parts of the circuit workout far exceeds the benefits to any specific muscle group.

The exercises selected for the circuit's stations is determined by the goal of the workout.

Equipment-Free Circuits

Equipment-free circuits can be completed regardless of the location where conducted. These are commonly used by member of the armed forces; Marines and Sailors can conduct these workouts on the deck of a ship. Not having a gym or place to train is no longer a valid excuse!

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Inclement weather may force a circuit training session indoors.
Inclement weather may force a circuit training session indoors. | Source

Fixed Circuits

Fixed circuits require equipment that is normally "fixed" in place; such as a gym of a community fitness trail. If the circuit workout calls for a cardiovascular component, replace jogging with jumping rope or an exercise machine such as the treadmill or stationary bike.

To increase the intensity or difficulty of a fixed circuit:

  • increase the number of repetitions or weight used;
  • increased the time per station;
  • increase the number of times or rounds that the circuit is completed.

Design of a Circuit Training Workout

The goal of the workout will determine the exercises and number of stations included in the circuit. A circuit workout designed specifically for developing lower or upper body strength will need less stations than that designed for total body development. Additionally the number of stations and active recovery distance or time will determine the number of times (rounds) that the circuit must be repeated.

As one's conditioning level increases, consideration must be given to increasing the workout's intensity by adding distance, repetitions or stations.

Stations should be organized in a manner that allows for recovery between difficult exercises and muscles groups worked at the various stations.


The Basic Cardiovascular and Muscular Endurance Circuit

This circuit is designed to improve cardiovascular and muscular endurance by exercising hard at eight stations with a slow one hundred meter (100m) jog used as recovery between stations. Each round is 1/2 mile in length.

This workout is designed to last forty-five to sixty minutes including a warm-up and cool down period. Well-conditioned participants should strive to complete three rounds of this circuit.

STATION
EXERCISE
REPETITIONS
1
Crunch
20
2
Squat Thrust
20
3
Wind Sprint
40m
4
Push-up
20
5
Squat Jump
20
6
Back Extension
20
7
Flutter Kick
20
8
Dip
20
Crunches: Develop core stability while toning one's mid-section.
Crunches: Develop core stability while toning one's mid-section. | Source
Squat Thrust: Also known as "bends and thrust". A classic military total-body conditioner targeting the legs while significantly enhancing muscular endurance.
Squat Thrust: Also known as "bends and thrust". A classic military total-body conditioner targeting the legs while significantly enhancing muscular endurance. | Source
Wind Sprint: Adding variety with a speed drill during an endurance workout.
Wind Sprint: Adding variety with a speed drill during an endurance workout. | Source
Push-up: Perhaps the most-used, do-anywhere exercise practiced worldwide. This exercise works the chest, shoulders and triceps while contributing to core stability.
Push-up: Perhaps the most-used, do-anywhere exercise practiced worldwide. This exercise works the chest, shoulders and triceps while contributing to core stability. | Source
Squat Jumps: An explosive, power movement targeting the glutes and quadriceps.
Squat Jumps: An explosive, power movement targeting the glutes and quadriceps. | Source
Back Extension: Adds balance to the routine by working the glutes and lower back.
Back Extension: Adds balance to the routine by working the glutes and lower back. | Source
Flutter Kick: A traditional calisthenics exercise which focuses on the lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors.
Flutter Kick: A traditional calisthenics exercise which focuses on the lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors. | Source
Dips: A triceps strength and toning exercise, often used to reduce upper arm flab.
Dips: A triceps strength and toning exercise, often used to reduce upper arm flab. | Source

Training Progression

Your fitness level and experience conducting circuit training should determine the repetitions and rounds you attempt while tackling this circuit. Intermediate and advanced level practitioners should aim at completing three rounds of the full circuit.

A recommended training progression is provided in the table, below. Note that there are "A" and "B" workouts for each level. The "A" progression focuses on the cardiovascular portion of the circuit while the "B" progression aims at gradually improving muscular endurance. It is recommended that you work both the "A" and the "B" progressions to fully benefit from this circuit and provide a well-rounded base from which you can gradually improve.

The one hundred meter slow jog recovery remains constant throughout the training progression.

LEVEL
ROUNDS
EXERCISE REPETITIONS
SPRINT DISTANCE
Novice A
2
5
20m
Novice B
1
10
20m
Beginner A
2
10
30m
Beginner B
1
15
30m
Advanced Beginner A
2
15
40m
Advanced Beginner B
1
20
40m
Circuit training's cross-training exercises promotes both endurance and muscle tone in a challenging, progressive fashion.
Circuit training's cross-training exercises promotes both endurance and muscle tone in a challenging, progressive fashion. | Source

Cardiovascular and muscular endurance circuits develop cardiovascular and muscular fitness through the use of calisthenics coupled with jogging. Individuals who train using the aforementioned workout and training principles enjoy three distinct benefits:

  • Progressive training and overload to gradually improve conditioning;
  • Ability to train individually or simultaneously with a group;
  • Improvement of both endurance and muscle tone in a single training session.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment with concerns, feedback, progress or questions.

Until next time...be healthy and get fit.

Semper Fidelis
Semper Fidelis | Source

© 2016 Kevin P McClernon

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