Circuit training is a non-stop programme that alternates between strength and cardiovascular exercises. The cardiovascular work increases the heart rate, helping to pump the blood round the body, before you do some strengthening work. Circuit training is a great way to build strength and endurance, and increase your cardiovascular activity in a short amount of time. You can do a quick 10-minute blast, or a longer 45-minute session by simply repeating the programme two to four times. Whatever your level you can work at your own pace because circuit programmes generally have a time limit for each exercise rather than a fixed number of repetitions. Circuit training requires minimum space and is therefore great for a workout at home.
Because you will only be working on each exercise for a short time you should aim to do them at maximum effort. When you work over long periods of time the body adjusts its breathing patterns to allow you to keep up a steady performance — this is aerobic training. When activity is performed in short, intense bursts a sudden increase of power is required. The body cannot sustain this level of intensity for very long and this type of exercise is called anaerobic.
Hand weights are used for many of these exercises and you can make them at home by using two water-filled bottles or, to make them heavier, fill an empty bottle with sugar to the required weight.
Warm-up: 5 minutes of mobility exercises followed by 5 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, gradually increasing in intensity.
Here is a series of stretches to finish off with which are designed specifically to stretch the muscles you have been working. Hold the stretches for 10 to 15 seconds.
Upper Back Stretch
Clasp the hands in front of the body. Round the back, don’t lock out the elbows, and gently pull the arms forward and drop the chin to the chest.
Lift one arm and place the other hand on the elbow. Bend the arm so the hand is coming down between the shoulder blades. Gently push the arm back with the other hand until you feel a stretch in the back of the upper arm.
Or, you can take one arm across the body, put one hand just below the elbow and ease the arm further across. Release and change arms.
Open the arms to the sides and point the thumbs down.
Continue to push the thumbs down as you reach the arms back until you feel a stretch on the front of the upper arm.
Or, you can take one arm in front of you with the palm facing upwards. Press downwards with the other hand into the palm of the raised hand, release and change arms.
Place both hands in the small of the back. Keep therelaxed. Pull the elbows backwards until you feel a sufficient stretch across the chest.
Or, turn and face a wall and lift one arm to shoulder height. Place the hand on the wall and slowly turn the body away from the arm.
Here is a series of stretches to finish off with which are designed specifically to stretch the muscles you have been working. Hold the stretches for between 30 and 45 seconds.
Stand on one foot and hold the other foot in your hand — hold on to something if you need to. Keep the knees soft. Draw the knee up and the foot back towards the spine until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. You can do this stretch lying on one side with your knees bent up in line with the hips. Hold the ankle of the top leg and, keeping the leg bent, draw it back so the knee is moving towards the spine. Stop when you get a stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Stand with both hips and feet facing forwards. Step back with one foot, shift your weight forward so the front leg bends slightly and the upper body comes in line with the back leg. Keep the back heel down on the floor. You should feel the stretch in the back leg. Release and change legs.
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg and put one hand behind the knee (do NOT hold onto the kneecap) and the other hand behind your ankle. Straighten the leg until you feel a stretch at the back of the thigh. Try and ease the stretch a little further, release, and change legs.
After stretching to cool down, a relaxation is a very good way of finishing off your workout, or indeed if you feel particularly stressed after a bad day!