A Circuit Training Routine That Actually Makes Sense!

January 25, 2008

I used to really dislike circuit training routines!

All of the circuit training I have seen in the past involved jumping between 5-10 different machines, which really didn’t seem practical to me in a busy gym.

In the 80’s and early 90’s this was pushed extremely hard in a lot of the mainstream gyms. The selling point was that it took just 3 thirty minute sessions per week to get in amazing shape.

They even sold memberships where you were only allowed access to the gyms on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Because of this, I guess circuit training left a bad taste in my mouth.

picture of red barbells and dumbbells
[Yeah…a break from the sexy looking babes…don’t worry, you will see plenty more in future posts]

Taking a 2nd Look at Circuit Training, I’ve Changed My Mind

I think there are A LOT of readers that would benefit tremendously from a well-planned circuit training routine. There are quite a few people who read this blog and don’t have a gym membership or fancy equipment at home.

Others have weights, but they don’t have a good treadmill or exercise bike. When I was 15 and started working out at home, this would have been the perfect workout for me.

A lot of you younger readers are in this position and have asked me about a good workout. This is a great one!

Burn a Bunch of Fat Without Cardio?

I have a hard time even typing that, because if you have been a regular reader at all you know I’m a huge fan of cardio. I still am, but I want to discuss an entirely different philosophy.

This is a COMPLETELY different approach to anything I’ve ever mentioned on this site when it comes to getting defined. The reason we are going to discuss this approach is because it works.

I will never hold back any information about approaches that work, even they clash with some of my basic philosophies.

Although I will still chose the cardio approach, this may work better for certain people.

A Fat Burning Routine That You Can Do With Weights?

The great thing about circuit training is that it is a way to burn fat while lifting. You aren’t lifting for mass or strength necessarily…you are lifting to create an HGH response, which in turn will burn a substantial amount of body fat.

Think of this as doing High Intensity Interval Training with weights. If done properly, you can easy keep your heartbeat between 140-160 beats per minute.

The great thing is that this type of workout works exceptionally well at burning calories long after the workout is over.

Some Circuit Training Basics

A circuit involves following several planned exercises performed back-to-back with as little rest as possible. It is best to average no longer than 15 seconds in between sets…30 would be the maximum amount of rest, but probably too much for maximum benefit.

Circuit training is not good for building a lot of mass, which is why I like it as a cardio alternative. Make no mistake about it, circuit training will kick your butt.

A Circuit Training Routine That Can Be Done With One Barbell

A reader of this blog named Rob came forwarded a great circuit training that can be performed with one barbell…and using the same weight for each exercise.

This is a simple, yet brilliant way to get the most out of a circuit training routine. If you don’t need to hop between equipment or change the weight, you will be able to perform one exercise after another back-to-back. This will make this brutally effective.

Thanks Rob!

Rob’s Barbell Circuit Training Routine

Grab barbell with a 10 on each side (65 lbs total), perform exercises with no rest in between (women can use lighter weights, dumbbells will work too):

10 Romanian Deadlifts
10 Bent Over Rows
10 Hang Cleans
10 Front Squats
10 Push Presses
10 Lunges, each leg, with barbell on back

Rest 2-3 minutes, repeat 3 times.

Try to work up to doing this 6-8 times in a workout, by the time you can do this 8 times your body will be looking very lean!

Some Great Points Rob Made Regarding Cardio

“I’m sure you know the principle of progressive overload. In order to progress in cardio exercise you must either increase speed or time.

At some point in increasing speed you will be working anaerobically (without oxygen). Now you can just workout longer, but who really wants to be on a treadmill for 2 hours.

The problem with cardio is people will plateau rather quickly and they won’t continue to see changes in their body. Then the usual scenario happens…they stop going to the gym. With resistance training there are numerous ways to progress workouts.”

“Here’s a resistance routine to try, it won’t build huge muscles, doesn’t use heavy weights, but I guarantee it will have you breathing harder than any traditional cardio work. This routine will keep your metabolic rate up for hours and hours.”

Note: If you want to dig deep into circuit training and explore the idea of getting lean without cardio, Craig Ballantyne has a massive program and ebook called Turbulence Training <==Click Here to Read My Interview With Craig.

Final Comment: I still believe that you can get ripped with cardio, but he has some great points as to why this might be a great alternative…or a way to supplement your cardio. You could take a break from cardio for part of the year and do this, substitute one to two cardio workouts with this circuit routine, alternate every other workout with cardio and this circuit, etc. You get the point. This is just another tool in your arsenal to getting ripped!

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Niko - noeXcusefitness January 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm


I have actually given up on steady state cardio and now only use crossfit circuit style workouts as my only form of cardio. By making this change I have managed to get my bodyfat down to 9% while still maintaining muscle. The key is the intensity of the workouts, my average heart rate always sits around 150bpm. I have been posting all my workouts here for anyone that is interested.


Forrest February 6, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Hey Rusty, I don’t know if you still check this but I have a question. In 3 weeks I have to do my APFT for the Army, and I need to pass the 2 mile run. In August I started out running 2 miles with a $30 pair of shoes, which left me with shin splints. I then ran 2 months later for my 1 mile, and injured (mainly the right one) again. Then , once again, two months later (around December 30th 2011) I ran a mile and had the pain for a couple of days. See the pattern? When I ran the mile, I did it in 8:22 and before that I didn’t do any cardio for almost two months. I used an elliptical about 5 times within the last week and a half, stayed on it for 30 minutes straight, but it’s now gone.

So to the question, do you think intense CCT practically everyday for the next 3 weeks will improve my stamina and endurance during the 2 miles? Along with some swimming and eating totally clean. I mean, I can do the Crazy Eight for 20-30 minutes or 15-20 minutes twice a day?

Im stressing a little because I need to pass this 2 mile, and I figure with hard, intense CCT along with other factors it should help my stamina? I may run a little outside, but im trying to stay away from it the next 3 weeks because of the splints. Maybe I can do the CCT with some jogging in my house ? I have shock absorbing insoles with my ASICS which I haven’t even gone over 5 miles in. Anyways, I tried the Crazy 8 today and it kicked my ass harder in 15 minutes than being on the elliptical for 30.

Thanks for the time.

Sheldon March 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Thanks everyone for great advice. I have a question though, do you feel that you need to reach a target heart rate when working out or just have a good exercise routine? I hear conflicting ideas.

Jason April 17, 2013 at 11:45 am

Would it be even better to try to preform this circuit without putting down the bar? Rdls to cleans to front squat to push press and just bring the bar down behind your head to move into lunges?

Zach June 2, 2013 at 10:21 pm

What do you think of programs such as Insanity that uses circuit/interval training?

Home fitness June 21, 2013 at 12:50 am

There’s a lot of people in this world who spend so much time watching their body or health but they are NOT willing to do anything else.
Being a personnel trainer i am happy that you share such wonderful workout to the world .Kudos.. 🙂

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