Circuit Training for Weight Loss – What You Need to Know

Circuit training is a very beneficial type of training that combines cardio and strength training to help you burn calories while you pack on the muscles.  Kind of amazing…..right?

Sound too good to be true?  Well, it is not the easiest of exercise programs, but it definitely will give you a great workout and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

So what is it?

Circuit training is strength and cardio training wrapped up into one set of exercises that you do in a set time.

You will use high-intensity cardio exercises combined with strength/weight exercises.  Circuit training targets strength building and muscular endurance.

A “circuit” is one completion of all your chosen exercises in the program within a specific time period. When one circuit is complete, you go back to the first exercise and start another circuit.



To keep things interesting, you can switch up the sequence, swap out different stations, do it at the gym with equipment, do it at home with dumbbells and resistance bands, or do it on a fitness trail by alternating push-ups and squats with brisk walking or biking.  There is a multitude of options for you to use.


Let’s start with a few tips about how to organize your circuit and things to consider in designing your circuit program.



Choose a Time and stick to it.  Don’t get too ambitious in the beginning.  Don’t say you’re going to do a 45-minute circuit workout doing 7 circuits comprised of 6 exercises in each circuit.  You’re probably not ready for that kind of intensity….not yet.

Mix it Up –  Circuit training can be fun. The goal is a great workout so do one circuit of all upper body exercises.  The next day, do a circuit with all lower body workouts.  Take a day of rest and then do a circuit with 3 upper body exercises and 2 lower body workouts.


Don’t Overdo It In The Beginning – Circuit training tends to be intense, but it’s completely adaptable to the individual. Beginners should use less weight and perform simpler moves than more-experienced exercisers.  No matter, everyone will get a good workout.

Infinite Choices –  You can design a circuit program to address a lot of different fitness goals and different capabilities.

Let’s describe a couple of different programs that you can use to base your routine on:


WEIGHT LOSS – this is the primary focus of most cardio exercise programs.  Circuit training provides the added benefit of gaining some muscle at the same time… long as you mix up the exercises.

Here is a good starter circuit program.  Pick five (5) from the following exercises.  Do each for 45 seconds.  This is one circuit.  Do each circuit six (6) times.  That will mean your workout will last about 30 or so minutes.  This is a good workout.  You’ll be sweating at the end.




  • Jogging in Place
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Burpees
  • Skipping rope
  • Sprints
  • Stair Climbing
  • Stationary Rowing
  • Stationary Cycling
  • Jumping Squat Thrusts

There are a lot more, so just start with a few of those and we’ll expand the list in a subsequent article.


MUSCLE  BUILDING – this is the additional benefit of circuit training. You can get a good muscle workout while you get a good cardio workout, all at the same time.  You’ll lose weight while you’re adding muscle.

Pick from the following strength training exercises to use in your circuit program:


  • Shoulder press
  • Shoulder press machine
  • Standing dumbbell curls
  • Tricep bench dips
  • Triceps dip machine
  • Bentover rows – dumbbells or barbell
  • Row machine
  • Pushups
  • Chest machine
  • Pullups or pull-down machine


  • Leg Press machine
  • Dumbbell Squats
  • Squat machine
  • Sumo Squat
  • Leg Curl Machine
  • Leg Extension Machine
  • Lunges with or without dumbbells or kettlebells
  • Calf Raises on a step or the calf raise machine


  • Moutain Climbers – if you don’t know what they are, you’re in luck, same goes for
  • Burpees
  • Bench hop-overs
  • Squat Thrusts
  • Jumping Squat Thrusts
  • Skipping
  • Hopping shuttles



You can do a circuit program any way you like.  You can use machines at the gym and designate each weight machine as a station.  With this program, you’ll move from one machine to the next.  It’s an efficient way to do a circuit program.

In composing a good circuit training routine, it seems that weight machines work better for a circuit routine. You can move more easily and quickly from one machine to another.  With free weights, getting into position and getting the weights into position at every station may delay some of the benefits that we’re looking for in a circuit program.  It can work, you just have to move quickly from station to station for the cardio aspect of a circuit program to be effective.


You can use free weights exclusively or mix in some body weight exercises……or mix in some aerobic exercises like jump-rope.  This will help you create a smoother transition in the routine than if you had to go from one free weight exercise to another. That could slow you down.



By engaging in a circuit training, you can lose weight in a most effective way. The added benefit is that you’ll gain muscle too.

The exercises options are endless. Switch up the exercises frequently to avoid the exercise doldrums and keep improving your body.

Work at your own pace. Start with a trainer one-on-one or in a small group setting to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly and working within your limits.

A circuit training routine is the answer if you want a quick intensive workout that will help you lose weight while packing on some muscle.

Leave comments below if you have experience with circuit training or you’re inspired to try it.

See you at the gym.