What is it?
A circuit class, like all fitness classes, is designed for one main reason and that is to make exercise more fun and social. Of course if you think this is a chance to sit down and have a chat then you are wrong. However a circuit class can be easily adjusted so it is suitable for beginners through to the super fit and it will be a challenge to all. This type of class is probably one of the most versatile you can have as you can use nearly all forms of exercise that can cover an all over body programme or can be more body part specific. It requires a room of a good size, the great outdoors or it can use a regular gym. Within the circuit there will be several different areas all with a different exercise assigned to them. These are called ‘stations’ in the industry. Normally these stations are laid out opposite each other with a gap down the middle and enough space between them so that people don’t bang into each other. See the diagram below for an example layout as viewed from above.
Circuit Training Design
You can literally have any exercise you want on any station, as many stations as you want and as many people you want on each station. However a well designed circuit class will make sense and follow a structure that works the larger muscle groups more (like the legs, chest and back) and works smaller muscles less (like shoulders, arms and stomach). Also it should not be crowded.
How does it work?
Pretend you are on station 1 which is the squat exercise. The instructor in charge will call out: “Start!” and you will, of course, immediately start your exercise. He will have worked out a set time for each exercise. This is normally 1 or 2 minutes and so after a minute the instructor will call out: “Change” (or something to a similar effect) and obediently you will move onto the next station as quickly as you can and either start straight away or wait for the instructor’s command to start (he should let you know at the start what he wants from you). This goes on until you have completed a circuit (now you can see where the name comes from) and at this point it may finish or you will go round again and keep going until you have completed your allotted time.
As I have already mentioned this is a fun way to exercise. The people around you should be of a similar level and so this is motivating. With a good instructor you should get a really good workout that will actually get you smiling as you do it (no way!). The circuit class is very good for weight loss and toning the muscle. This is because of its cardiovascular properties and its non-stop regime which keeps the muscles working the heart up at a constant rate and therefore using stored fat as part of the body’s energy system. It is also a good way to meet people and pick up ideas for your own workouts.
What should you expect from the instructor?
The instructor should be motivational to the class as a whole. Some people enjoy being bullied into the exercises like a sergeant major, while others prefer to be encouraged through the workout. It is difficult for the instructor to be both and so if you don’t like their style don’t feel bad if you want to try a different class. That said, it is better for the instructor to be one of these characters than come across bored and with the “I don’t get paid enough” attitude. You want them to be loud so you can hear them and confident enough to come up to you and correct your technique if you are doing something wrong. It is always difficult for the instructor to correct everyone in a large class, however that said if he/she has not approached you once through the whole class then it may be that you were perfect but more than likely they are not doing their job properly.
Finally, variety in exercise is one of the most important rules if you want your body to develop quickly. If every time you come to the class and the stations are exactly the same for more than 8 weeks then the instructor is not doing their job properly. In this situation it is best that you hang up your circuit class trainers and try a different class. You can always come back again but I would give it another couple of months trying something new before you do so.
And a Warning…
If you are going to try a class for the first time it is best to check with your doctor first that you are healthy enough to complete it without putting yourself at risk. If you know you suffer from any illness or injury I personally would not even attempt a class as you won’t get the individual attention you may need. If you are going to be stubborn and not listen to my advice then at the very least warn the instructor at the start so they can keep an eye out for you and make sure that you don’t take part in any exercise that could be detrimental to your health.
As always let me know how you get on with it and if you have any questions on this or any other aspect please feel free to ask away, it costs nothing and it will be the absolute truth. Good Luck and stay healthy!