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Circuit Training Exercises

This page provides guidance on a selection of circuit training exercises for the upper body, core and trunk, lower body and total body.

Upper Body Exercises

Press-up

Begin in the standard press-up position on the floor. Your upper body should be supported with your hands on the floor - shoulder- width apart. Your arms are fully extended, and your legs and feet are supported by your toes, which are hip-width apart. Lower the body until the elbows reach 90° and then extends the arms to return to the start position.

Press Up Press Up

Alternate dumbbell punching

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, arms bent and dumbbells held near your chin. Punch out one hand at a time and return to starting position.

Alternate dumbbell Punch Alternate dumbbell Punch

Prone Trunk Extensions

Begin by lying face down on the floor with your legs straight and your arms forward (they would be "overhead" if you were standing up). Slowly raise your chest, shoulders, and arms up toward the ceiling as high as you can, keeping your toes in contact with the floor at all times. Then, slowly lower your chest, shoulders, and arms down to the floor, but do not rest on the floor - maintain some muscle tension throughout your back for the entire exercise.

Prone Trunk Extension

Bench press

Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand held on your chest. Press each dumbbell upwards and return to chest.

Bench Press Bench Press

Bent over rowing

Stand with legs apart and slightly flexed, body bent at waist. Hold a dumbbell in each hand hanging down towards ground. Lift dumbbells up towards your shoulders and allow to return to arms extended.

Bent Over Row Bent Over Row

Biceps curls

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and arms extended. With palms uppermost, curl the dumbbells to the shoulder.

Bicep curls Bicep Curls

Dumbbell bent arm pullovers

Lie on your back on a bench. Dumbbell held with two hands with arms extended. Lower dumbbell to behind your head and then extend the arms.

Pull Overs Pull Overs

Dumbbell lateral raise

Stand or sit with a dumbbell in each hand hanging at the side of your body. Lift arms out to the side until hands are at shoulder height.

Side Lats Side Lats

Seated dips

Sit with hands on edge of bench and legs extended in front of you. Allow your body to descend to floor and then press up.

Seated Dips Seated dips

Shoulder press

Stand or sit with a dumbbell in each hand held at shoulder height. Press dumbbell up vertically to full extension and then lower to starting position.

Shoulder Press Shoulder Press

Dumbbell triceps press

Stand or sit with a dumbbell in one hand and held above shoulder with arm flexed. Slowly straighten arm to vertical (use other arm to stop lateral movements).

Triceps Press Triceps Press

Straight arm pullovers

Lie on a bench with a dumbbells in each hand and arms fully extended behind head. Slowly bring arms to vertical and then lower onto thighs. Keep arms locked straight throughout movement.

Straight Arm Pullovers Straight Arm Pullovers Straight Arm Pullovers

Fly’s

Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended vertically. Gently lower arms to outstretched (crucifix) position and return to start.

Flys Flys

Upright rowing

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and arms extended on the thighs. Slowly raise dumbbells to the chest, keeping elbows high.

Upright Row Upright Row

Core or Trunk Exercises

Low-back stabilisers

For this exercise, you will need a bench, padded table, or 'Roman-Chair' bench. Lie face down with your body extended and your hips at the edge of the supporting surface of the bench. Your arms should be extended straight down toward the floor in front of you. For added stability, it helps if your feet are wedged between the end of the bench and a wall. Smoothly raise both arms over your head simultaneously while maintaining your trunk in full extension (your body should be horizontal to the floor and held straight as an arrow), and then return both arms to the starting position. Repeat this action repeatedly for the prescribed time.

Low Back Stabilisers Low Back Stabilisers

Abdominal sit-backs

For this exercise, use a step, bench, or chair that does not have a vertical, support for your back. Sit with your legs bent and your arms extended in front of you, and then recline your trunk backward at the hips by about 45 degrees. To do the sit-backs, raise both arms simultaneously overhead while maintaining tight abdominal muscles and a straight chest. Then simply return your arms to the extended position in front of you, without moving your trunk or legs. Repeat this back-and-forth arm action in a smooth, continuous fashion without pausing at any point during the movement.

Abdominal Sit Backs

Back hyper extensions

Lie on your front with hands by your shoulders. Raise your trunk off the ground, hold position then lower your trunk.

Back Hyper Extension

Reverse abdominal curl

Lie on your back with legs held up pointing to the ceiling. Push legs higher and then lower. Hips will come off the floor.

Reverse Abdominal Curl Reverse Abdominal Curl

Sit-ups

Lie on the floor with knees bent. Perform sit-ups with hands on the sides of the head or folded across chest.

Sit Ups Sit Ups

V sit ups

Lie on the floor with arms extended out in front of you on the floor. Lift trunk and legs simultaneously to form V shape with the body. Return to lying position.

V Sit Up V Sit Up

Abdominal crunch

Lie on your back, hands on your thighs, knees bent with feet flat on the ground. Slide your hands up to the knee caps to lift your shoulders off floor and then lower them back to the floor.

Sit up Sit Up

Alternate leg V sit ups

Lie on your back with legs out straight and arms across your chest. Lift legs alternately, whilst at the same time raising trunk off the ground.

V sit up V sit up

Plank

Lie on your front and support your body weight on your forearms and toes.

Plank

Lower Body Exercises

High Bench Step Up with Jumps

Begin from a standing position on top of a bench that is approximately knee high, with your body weight on your left foot and your weight shifted toward the left heel. The right foot should be free and held slightly behind the body. Lower your body in a controlled manner until the heel of the right foot touches the ground, but support all of your weight on your left foot. Return to (and through) the starting position by driving down with the left heel and straightening your left leg as quickly as possible, so that you actually jump vertically and leave the surface of the bench. Upon landing from the jump, lower your body again in a controlled manner until your right foot touches the ground.

Step up Step Up

High knee sprints

Running on the spot with high knee lift. Speed of movements and/or height of knees dictates degree of effort used.

High Knee Sprint High Knee Sprint

Jumping jacks

Stand upright with your arms at your side. Spring to legs astride position whilst at same time flinging arms out to abducted position. Jump back to starting position.

Jumping Jacks Jumping Jacks Jumping Jacks

Jump over

Use several benches locked into position of as box to provide some height. Stand to one side of benches with hands on bench. Use a two footed jump to clear benches and land on other side.

   

Kick backs

Kneel down on your hands and knees. Lift one leg off the ground and extend then hyper extend, and return to start.

Kick Back Kick Back

Leg lift

Use alternate legs in a high forward kicking action.

Try to keep leg straight when kicking.

Leg Swing

Compass Jumps

Imagine you are standing in the centre of a compass - North is to your front. You hop with both legs forward to the North position and then hop back to the centre, hop to the right and then back to the centre, hop backwards and back to the centre and finally hop to the left and back to the centre. Repeat this action rhythmically and continuously without stopping for the allotted time.

   

Astride jumps

Stand with legs astride a bench. Jump up onto the bench and immediately jump back to astride position.

   

Doggy kicks

Start on your hands and knees on a mat. Abduct and return alternate legs, keeping knee bent.

   

6-Way Lunges

Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Your arms should be bent at the elbows with your hands in front of your shoulders. Step forward with your right foot into a long-lunge position and lean your upper body forward approximately 45 degrees at the waist. Drop your hands on either side of your right knee as your right foot makes contact with the ground. Quickly extend your right knee and return your body to the original, full-standing position. Repeat with your left leg.

From the full standing position, step directly to your right with your right foot into a lateral-lunge position. Your upper body should face to the right and lean forward over your right leg at approximately a 45-degree angle. Again, drop your hands on either side of your right knee as your right foot makes contact with the ground. Your left foot should remain pointing straight ahead. Quickly extend your right knee and return your body to the original, full-standing position. Repeat with your left leg moving to the left.

Then, from the original standing position, step diagonally and to the rear with your right leg into a backward-lateral lunge position. Your upper body should face to the right rear (about "4-o'clock") position, and it should lean forward over your right leg at about 45 degrees. Again, drop your hands on either side of your right knee as your right foot makes contact with the ground. Your left foot should remain pointing straight ahead. Quickly extend your right knee and return your body to the original position. Repeat with your left leg, moving it to the left-rear ("8-o'clock") position.

Repeat the entire series of movements (forward right leg, forward left leg, right-side right leg, left-side left leg, back-and-right right leg, back-and-left left leg) the prescribed number of times. The 6-way lunge stretches and strengthens the hamstring muscles in all three key planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, and transverse). Strong and flexible hamstrings stabilize the knee during running and help provide the propulsive force required for powerful strides.

6 way lung
Starting position
6 way lung
Lung forward & backward
6 Way Lung
Lung to the right
6 way lung
Lung to the left

One Leg Squats with hops

Stand with your left foot forward and your right foot back, with your feet about one shin-length apart (your feet should be hip-width apart from side to side). Place the toes of your right foot on a step or block which is about six to eight inches high. Most of your body weight should be directed through the heel of your left, forward foot. Bend your left leg and lower your body until the left knee reaches an angle of about 90 degrees between the thigh and lower part of the leg. Hop upward with your left foot while maintaining contact with the step or block with your right foot. Upon landing, immediately descend into another squat and again hop upward while maintaining contact with the step or block with your right foot. Be sure to maintain upright posture with your upper body and hold your hands at your sides throughout the squatting and hopping movement.

   

Scissor step-ups

Use a step or bench that is approximately mid-shin to knee height. Put your left foot on the step, with your right foot on the floor and your arms at your sides. Then push down with your left leg and drive your body upward rapidly, switching support (hopping) from left foot to right foot as your body reaches its maximal vertical height. With your right foot supporting your body, lower the left foot to the floor rapidly but under control. Repeat this action continuously, back and forth from foot to foot, without pausing at the top or bottom positions.

   

Squats to presses

Use two dumbbells, each weighing approximately 10% of your body weight (e.g., if you weigh 150 pounds, each dumbbell should be 15 pounds). Individuals with less strength training experience may start with dumbbells that weigh 5% of body weight, while stronger athletes can use dumbbells checking in at 20% of body weight. You may need to experiment a bit, using a weight that makes the exercise challenging but achievable. If dumbbells are unavailable, a barbell of comparable total weight can be utilised. To do the exercise, stand upright with your feet spaced about hip to shoulder width apart and your hands supporting the dumbbells in front of your shoulders. Squat down until your thighs form an angle of 90 degrees with your shins (a half-squat), while maintaining a reasonably upright posture with your torso and while keeping your hands in front of your shoulders. Then rise quickly from the squat position while pressing (pushing) the dumbbells overhead simultaneously. Both arms and legs should reach full extension at the same time (You will end up standing tall with legs straight and arms straight overhead). Then lower the dumbbells in a controlled fashion to the starting position. Repeat this three count movement smoothly and continuously.

Squat to Press Squat to Press Squat to Press Squat to Press

One-leg squats

You will need a bench or step six to eight inches in height. Stand with your left foot flat on the floor and your right foot behind you and elevated on the step. The distance between your feet should be approximately the length of your shin, and most of your weight should rest on the heel of your left foot. To do the exercise, bend your left knee and lower your body until the left knee makes an angle of 90 degrees between the thigh and lower leg. Return to the starting position by straightening your left leg, while maintaining an upright posture with your trunk. Repeat this action with the left leg for the specified amount of time, and then switch to the right leg.

One leg squat One leg squat

Squat thrusts

Stand with your arms held at your sides, and then squat down, placing both hands in front of you on the floor. Extend both legs backward (hop backward), ending in a press up position and then return legs forward (hop forward), ending in a low-squat position with hands on the floor. Repeat this action rhythmically and continuously without stopping for the allotted time.

Squat Thrusts Squat Thrusts

Bum jumps

Stand with feet astride a bench, squat until your backside touches the bench, and then jump up onto the bench.

   

Lunges

From a standing position take a long pace forward and allow trunk to descend by bending both knees. The knee of the forward leg should be vertically above the ankle. Keep back straight at all times. Return to starting position and repeat with other leg leading.

Lung Lung

Lying abductors

Lie on your side on the floor. Bend lower leg at the knee. Alternatively raise and lower top leg for half the duration of the set, then change sides

Abductors

Lying adductors

Lie on your side on the floor. Keep upper leg bent at knee and place the foot of this leg on the floor in front of lower leg. Alternatively raise and lower bottom leg for half the duration of the set, then change sides.

Adductors

Obliques

Lie on your back. Sit up and twist your trunk to bring the right elbow to the left knee, return to start position, sit up and twist your trunk to bring the left elbow to the right knee - repeat for duration of set.

Obliques Obliques

Shuttle runs

Run between two markers approx. 20m apart.


Single leg squats

Stand on one leg. Hold other leg out in front of the body and gently lower body down as standing leg flexes.

Single Leg Squat

Calf raises

Standing raise your body up onto your toes and then lower.

Calf raises

Spotty dog

Stand with one leg forward and other back. Hold opposite arms forwards and back. Jump to change leg/arm positions.

Spotty Dog Spotty Dog

Squat jumps

From a standing position, rapidly bend the knees to 45 degrees and then spring into the air. Land and immediately repeat.

Squat Jumps

Squats

From a standing position, perform repeated squats by bending the knees to 45 degrees and then straightening the legs.

Squats Squats

Toe taps

Stand with one leg on floor and the other on the edge of a bench. Jump and exchange leg positions.

   

Star jumps

From a standing start, jump into the air and abduct and adduct both legs and arms before landing back in a standing position.

Star Jumps Star Jumps

Static squats

Hold a semi squat position (knees at approx. 45 degrees).

Squats

Step up with leg raise

Alternate leg step up onto and off a bench or box, but with the addition of a full flexion of the knee of the trailing leg following the step up.

   

Step ups

Step up and off a bench or a box..

   

Straddle jumps

Step up onto and off a bench or box, from the side using alternative legs.

   

Total Body Exercises

Burpees

Stand with your arms held at your sides, and then squat down, placing both hands in front of you on the floor. Extend both legs backward (hop backward), ending in a press up position and then return legs forward (hop forward), ending in a low-squat position with hands on the floor. Finally, jump into the air and return to a standing position. Repeat this action rhythmically and continuously without stopping for the allotted time.

Burpee Burpee Burpee

Treadmills

Assume the press up position with the arms extended and bring one leg towards the chest placing the ball of the foot on the ground. From this start position, the exercise commences by swapping positions of the feet. Repeat this action rhythmically and continuously without stopping for the allotted time.

   

Cossacks

Support your body weight on your hands and feet with back towards ground. Kick out using alternate legs.

   

Crossovers

Standing, keeping the back straight, lift one leg up and bring down the opposite elbow to touch the knee.

Crossover Crossover

Lizards

Lie on you front on the floor with arms extended out in front of you on the ground. Raise one leg and opposite arm off the floor and return.

Lizard Lizard

Iron Cross

Lie on your back with your arms extended out to the side and your legs out straight. Bring the left foot across the right leg to the right hand keeping the left leg straight. Repeat with the right leg to the left hand.

Iron Cross Iron Cross

Scorpion

Lie on your front with your arms extended out to the side and your legs out straight. Bring the right foot across the back of the left leg to the left hand keeping the right leg straight. Repeat with the left leg to the right hand.

Scorpion Scorpion

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Circuit Training Exercises [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/exercise.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page: