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Full Body Circuit For Complete Fitness

A man completing a full body circuit.
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This full body circuit is like a week’s worth of workouts rolled into one. It’s perfect for those days when you’re short on time and you just need a fuss-free session that ticks all the important fitness boxes.

And because the circuit is super-adaptable, you can tailor it to fit almost any training facility. For example, resistance exercises can be converted to bodyweight movements, making the circuit suitable for the home, office or (for those that are uber-committed) vacations.

Another string to the box of this full body circuit is that it can be modified to develop a specific component of fitness. This is a characteristic of circuit training that Watson brings our attention to when he said that 'it is possible to construct circuits which emphasise different aspects of fitness such as strength, muscle endurance, speed, flexibility or even skill,' (Physical Fitness & athletic Performance).

What this means in the context of this circuit is that, if you want to focus more on strength, as opposed to the default setting of muscle endurance, you simply have to amend the protocol to focus on that training outcome. I explain in more detail how to do this in the hints and tips section below. But first . . .

Full body circuit health and fitness benefits

The first benefit of this full body circuit is that it enables you to target all the major muscle groups and cardiovascular system in a single session. To achieve this by applying conventional exercise methods, where specific muscles are trained on specific days, would take a week. And, depending on your feeling towards cardio, a week still might not be enough. Many exercisers prioritise resistance over aerobic training and consequence miss out on the important health benefits associated with CV.

Following on from above, a full body circuit that features multiple components of fitness forces you to engage in forms of exercise that you otherwise wouldn’t. As well as supporting you develop the full range of your physicality, this opens a whole host of other health and fitness benefits.

For example, people that dodge cardio are actively undermining their health. As well as being the best form of exercise to burn body fat, cardio strengthens the heart, improves the efficiency of the circulatory system, and decreases your risk of many diseases (Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest & Health).

Full body fitness

A similar story can be told of those that avoid resistance exercise. Though the health-promoting effects of resistance aren’t as impressive as cardio, weightlifting develops the body in ways cardio can’t.

Resistance training, for instance, has been shown to slow senescence – the natural ageing process. Furthermore, lifting weights increases the strength of muscles and connective tissues which in turn can reduce injury risk (The Complete Guide To Strength Training).

Furthermore, the forces generated when performing compound movements such as squats and deadlifts can increase bone density. A number of studies have shown that increasing your bone density will decrease your risk of fractures, breaks and osteoporosis.

Instead of prattling on all day about the benefits of this circuit, I’ve summarised the main one in a list. So, if you can squeeze the following full body circuit into your weekly routine, here are some health and fitness outcomes you can expect:

Improved muscle endurance
Increased functional strength
Reduce body fat
Improved body composition
Sharper muscle tonality

Related: Discover more Benefits of Circuit Training

How to do this full body circuit

First, spend 5 to 10 minutes warming up. As the authors of The Complete Guide To Circuit Training put it, ‘We need to warm up prior to activity in order to prepare the body’s systems for the activities that will follow.’ Your warm-up should include cardio and resistance exercises that feature in the circuit.

The exercises that comprise the circuit have been organised into a loop or circle. Though the circular circuit is the simplest design, it’s both easy to navigate and a doodle to customise. For example, any exercise can be replaced without impacting the mechanics. More on this below.

Adopting a ground-up approach, the lower body muscles are engaged first, followed by the core, back, and finally the arms. The circuit consists of eight stations each one scheduled for 60 seconds. Your objective is to maintain a moderate to high output for the stipulated duration. After completing a loop you can take a recovery break before jumping back into the circuit.

Workout key points

  • Warm-up well before starting the circuit. Not got a warm-up? Here’s one you can use: 2 min mobility movements → 5 min cardio (run, row, skip) → 1 up to 5 reps air squats into press-ups → 3 min cardio → 1 up to 5 reps burpees into press-ups → 2 min cardio → 1 up to 5 reps kettlebell swings into bent over row. (Need more warm-up exercise ideas?)

  • To improve training efficiency, spend a couple of minutes setting out the circuit in accordance with the plan.

  • Using a repeat 60-second countdown timer, progress around the eight stations.

  • Aim to maintain a moderate to high intensity and, if possible, avoid resting until you have completed one full lap of the circuit.

  • Once you’ve visited the eight exercises, complete the 2000-metre row before taking a recovery break.

  • Repeat for the desired number of times.

Full body circuit session plan.

Full-body circuit hints and tips

I briefly mentioned above about training efficiency. Mel Siff, author of the hugely informative book Supertraining, calls this the ‘Minmax’ principle. At its essence, the Minimax principle is about maximising output with minimal input. Put another way, it’s a method of getting more for less.

One way to Minimax a circuit is to ensure that all the equipment needed is located in one area. Also, the exercises would be organised in the order as per the plan. Spending a couple of minutes organising your circuit (input) can significantly reduce the time wasted when transitioning between exercises. This enables us to get more exercise done in less time (output).

Concerning the customisation of the circuit, any exercise can be replaced with a preferred alternative. For example, if you plan to complete the circuit at home (or local park), you could convert most of the exercises to bodyweight movements. And instead of concluding each lap with a 2000 metre row, you could run or skip instead.

Related: Try this kit-free Bodyweight Circuit

To repeat an earlier point, if you want to tailor the workout to suit a specific component of fitness – such as strength – simply increase the loads and reduce the intensity. In fact, when training with heavier loads, it would probably be safer to do away with timed stations and instead implement reps.


Enjoyed this circuit?

Get your hands on 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 3.

Full body circuit concludes with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Workouts.


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