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Arthritis Today

Circuit Training Workouts

Circuit training offers big benefits in little time. Here's what you need to know, plus two routines to try.

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You don’t have a ton of time to exercise. You get bored easily. You’re tired of seeing minimal results from your workouts. If these excuses sound familiar, it’s time to try circuit training. A series of exercises done one after another, circuit training builds muscle while providing cardiovascular benefits, too. Even better? A typical circuit training workout takes just half an hour or less. And it’s safe for individuals with arthritis, says Julia Valentour, a kinesiologist, fitness trainer and program coordinator for the American Council on Exercise. “The great thing about circuit training is that you can tailor the exercises and exertion to your ability level,” she notes.

Here’s what you need to know about circuit training safely, plus two workouts to try.

Circuit Training 101

• Do 10 to 15 “stations," or exercises, which can be all strength moves or a combination of strength moves and cardio. Depending on your fitness level, do 8 to 10 reps at one station (it should take you about 60 to 90 seconds per exercise), then move on to the next. Do the entire circuit one time. “Ideally, you’ll start with exercises that train the larger muscle groups, like the chest and back, and end with exercises that target smaller muscles, such as the biceps and triceps,” says Wayne Wescott, PhD, fitness research director at Quincy College in Quincy, Mass.

• Use slightly lighter weights than you normally would – for example, 7-pound dumbbells instead of 10 for chest presses – so you’re able to complete the whole circuit.

• Rest 15 to 60 seconds between exercises, depending on how you feel. If you’re just starting out, it’s OK to take longer breaks, says Westcott: “You don’t have to train to the point of exhaustion to see benefits.”

• Wait at least one day before doing another circuit routine. Don’t do circuit training more than two to three times a week.

• Remember it’s OK to skip a move if it hurts your joints. “You won’t ruin the workout by omitting one exercise,” says Westcott. “Talk to a trainer, physical therapist and/or doctor and to see if there’s another non-painful move that will target the same muscle group.” And always get your doctor’s OK before starting a new workout program. 

Circuit Training Workout #1

Do 8 to 10 reps of each exercise. Do the exercises in the order they are listed – each of these circuit workouts are set to work different body parts successively as not to overly fatigue one body part at a time. Do one to two rounds of the circuit. The resistance of each move should be challenging, but not enough to increase joint pain. This routine is best for someone with aggressive arthritis or for the person who may have difficulty getting up and down off the floor. Click on the exercises below to see instructional videos.

Up and Down Arm Pulls

Leg Press With Exercise Band

Horizontal Arm Pulls

Standing Hip Extension

Seated Row

Standing Heel Raise

Biceps Curls

Boxing With Exercise Band

The Clamshell

Bridge With Leg Extension

Straight Leg Raise

Modified Plank

Oblique Crossover Crunch

Superman Prone Trunk Raise

Circuit Training Workout #2

Follow the same instructions as listed for workout #1, including number of reps and rounds. This routine includes cardiovascular exercise as well as seated, standing and floor exercises, and is more suited for someone with less aggressive arthritis. Click on the exercises below to see instructional videos.

Leg Press With Exercise Band

Seated Row

Up and Down Arm Pulls

Cardio: bike, walk briskly or march in place for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Standing Hip Extension

Horizontal Arm Pulls

Boxing With Exercise Band

Cardio: bike, walk briskly or march in place for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Side Leg Raise

Bridge With Leg Extension

Biceps Curl

Cardio: bike, walk briskly or march in place for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Standing Heel Raise

The Clamshell

Straight Leg Raise

Cardio: bike, walk briskly or march in place for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Superman Prone Trunk Raise

Oblique Crossover Crunch

Modified Plank

Source: Lisa A. Martin, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, athletic trainer and performance specialist, St. Vincent Sports Performance, Indianapolis, Ind.

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