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How To Build The Perfect Circuit Workout

Imagine a turbo-charged workout routine that mixes cardio and strength training and has you in and out of the gym in 30 minutes. Plus, it's infinitely and easily customized to help you reach your goals faster. Sound too good to be true? It's not! It's called circuit training.

While this style of training has a lot to recommend it, figuring out how to set up an effective circuit workout can be intimidating at first. That's why we pulled together six easy steps to help you build your perfect circuit.

Step 1: Select Your Time Limit

Circuit training is simply a workout based around a set number of "stations" that you repeat until your time runs out. So knowing how much time you have can help you determine how many circuits you'll need to complete and how hard you'll need to work. (The shorter the workout, the harder you should be pushing!) Anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes is ideal.

Example: Five stations of one minute each repeated for six circuits adds up to a 30-minute workout.

Step 2: Pick an Upper-Body Exercise

The trick with circuit training is to use whatever you have handy. If you're at the gym, you have a wide range of options, but all you really need is your body. You can choose a different upper-body move each time through the circuit or simply repeat the same exercise every time if you want to keep things simple.

Circuit 1: Shoulder presses
Circuit 2: Bent-over rows
Circuit 3: Standing dumbbell curls
Circuit 4: Triceps dips
Circuit 5: Pushups
Circuit 6: Russian ab twists

Step 3: Pick a Lower-Body Exercise

Just like you did with the upper body, choose exercises that will work each part of your lower body. You can change up the moves each time through the circuit or keep them the same.

Circuit 1: Walking lunges
Circuit 2: Sumo squats
Circuit 3: Calf raises
Circuit 4: Hamstring curls on a Swiss ball
Circuit 5: Deadlifts
Circuit 6: Supermans

Step 4: Pick a Compound Exercise

Weight training is an excellent workout, but you'll really get your heart rate up by adding in some total-body movements.

Circuit 1: Jumping lunges
Circuit 2: Mountain climbers
Circuit 3: Thrusters (squat to shoulder press)
Circuit 4: Cleans
Circuit 5: Bench hop-overs
Circuit 6: Single-arm swing

Step 5:

Choose a Sprint for 1 Minute

Research shows that short, fast sprints are the most effective way to torch fat -- especially around your midsection. Pick any type of cardio you like and go all out for one minute.

Circuit 1: Running
Circuit 2: Jumping rope
Circuit 3: Rowing
Circuit 4: Cycling
Circuit 5: Up-hill jogging
Circuit 6: Stair climbing

Step 6: Rest for 1 Minute

You've earned it! Let your heart rate come down and then go back through the circuit as many times as you'd like!

Example: Get a drink and make sure your music is all set for the next round.

Flickr photo by sportsandsocial

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