Here's How to Create a Circuit Training Routine

Reservist goes through circuit training.
Pfc. Elizabeth Scherer, a medical logistics specialist with the 393rd Medical Logistics Company, completes a set of pull-ups during a circuit-style physical training session in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, Aug. 6, 2020. (Staff Sgt. Brigitte Morgan/U.S. Army Reserve photo)

An email prompted me to write about the various workouts that you can create using a circuit program.

People often like to use the circuit workout as a form to get through a workout routine quickly, yet still work out effectively. Here are some examples of a few varieties of the routines you can develop:

The body-weight, full-body routine

I like to alternate an upper- and lower-body exercise into a challenging nonstop routine, then follow it with a moderate form of cardio exercise.


Pull-ups: max reps

Squats: 20-30 reps

Push-ups: max reps 1 minute

Lunges: 10/leg

Sit-ups: max reps 1 minute

Lower-back extensions: 1 minute

Repeat above 3-4 times

This workout will require no weights and will work the push and pull muscles of the upper body, the front and back of the torso, as well as the legs.

The weights/machine full-body workout

Similarly to the above workout, you can use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and weight machines to complete this routine:


Pull-ups or pulldowns: 10-15 reps

Bench press: 10-15 reps

Leg press: 10-15 reps

Rest with crunches: 30-50 reps

Dumbbell mix: In one movement -- squats, biceps curls, military press, triceps extensions: 10-15 reps

Woodchopper squats: 10-15

Bent-over rows: 10-15/arm

One-arm snatch lifts: 10-15/arm

Push press: 10-15 reps

This workout requires a gym or a variety of weight systems to use to complete, but it will work the push/pull muscles of the upper body, legs and the kinetic links of full-body movements.

The classic push/pull workout

This workout is for the quick upper-body routine if you like to split your routines into upper- and lower-body workouts on alternating days:


Pull-ups: 50% max reps

Bench press: 50% body weight max reps

Biceps curls: 10-20 reps

Push-ups: 50% max reps

Abs of choice: 50 reps

Bent-over rows: 10-20 reps

Dips: 10-20 reps

Pulldowns: 10, 10, 10 (wide, regular, reverse grip)

Reverse flies: 10-20

Push-ups: max reps

Abs of choice: 50 reps

Repeat as many times as needed

These are just a few of the many ways you can mix in a variety of exercises to produce an effective routine that will help you reach the results you are seeking quickly. Once again, the circuit is designed so you do not have to rest during the workout, but you actually rest muscle groups while working opposing muscle groups.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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