Sample Class With Circuit Progressions

To achieve results, your participants need to be challenged in new ways. If your strength training classes are circuit-style and you want to up the ante, try adding strategic progressions. This workout, a traditional circuit format, cycles through several exercises with minimal rest. The key is to challenge participants by adjusting a variable during each cycle. With this approach, they enjoy the familiarity of the sequences, as well as fun surprises.

Circuit Progressions Details

Goal/Emphasis: muscular strength and endurance, emphasizing compound movements for a more functional approach

Time: 60 minutes

Equipment: steps, dumbbells

Music: 125–130 beats per minute

Additional notes:

  • In each circuit, perform the four exercises for 1 minute each, allowing 15 seconds to transition between moves.
  • Rest for 1 minute after each circuit.
  • After the first circuit, adjust the following variables:
    – Circuit Two: Add a balance challenge.
    – Circuit Three: Increase range of motion or add power.
    – Circuit Four: Add movement in an additional plane of motion.
  • Preview exercises before class. There is little rest between moves and, therefore, limited time for demonstration during class.

Warm-Up (7 minutes)

Do 8 reps of the following exercises, 3x:

  • step-touch side to side
  • alternating knee lift
  • alternating traveling squat
  • alternating rear lunge
  • modified burpee (step back to plank)
  • push-up on knees

Work Phase (48 minutes)

General tips for alignment and safety:

  • Cue abdominal bracing to stabilize spine during squats, lunges and plank exercises.
  • Encourage participants to take advantage of modifications as needed.
  • Encourage students to maintain neutral neck position during planks and push-ups.

Circuit One: Simple Option

  • Squat, holding dumbbells. Prog-ression: Use heavier resistance. Regression: Use no weights.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step. Progression: Use lower step for more challenge. Regression: Do push-up from knees.
  • Quadruped row, alternating sides. Progression: Bring knees closer together for narrower base of support. Regression: Use wider knee position.
  • Alternating front lunge, holding dumbbells. Progression: Increase range of motion. Regression: Decrease range of motion.

Circuit Two: 
Balance Challenge

  • Squat, holding dumbbells. Rise to toes while standing. Progression: Squat while holding weights overhead. Regression: Use no weights.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step, with alternating hip extension (lift one leg with each repetition). Progression: Use lower step for more challenge. Regression: Do push-up without hip extension or with knees on floor.
  • Plank row, hands on weights (alternating row from plank position). Progression: Bring feet closer together for narrower base of support. Regression: Use wider foot position or move to quadruped.
  • Alternating front lunge with knee balance, holding dumbbells. Do two lunges right, lifting R knee to single-leg stance in between; repeat left. Progression: Add resistance. Regression: Tap foot on floor instead of balancing between reps.

Circuit Three: Increase Range of Motion/Add Power

  • Squat, holding one weight. Swing weight overhead on standing. Progression: Add toe raise. Regression: Use no weights.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step, with plyometric push at top. Progression: Increase tempo. Regression: Eliminate power or reduce tempo.
  • Plank row, hands on dumbbells, alternating sides, with frog hop in between (hop feet forward to end in deep squat, feet outside hands, and hop back to plank). Progression: Add two frog hops between rows. Regression: Eliminate frog hop.
  • Alternating front lunge, with plyometric lunge switch in between (step R foot forward to lunge, then hop to switch feet twice, step back to start position, then repeat L). Progression: Increase tempo. Regression: Eliminate plyometric lunge switch.

Circuit Four: 
Add Movement and Planes

  • Squat, holding one dumbbell. Circle weight overhead in frontal plane, alternating direction with each rep. Progression: Increase tempo. Regression: Use no weight.
  • Incline push-up, hands on step, with side plank after each push-up, alternating sides. Progression: use narrower foot position. Regression: use wider foot position.
  • Plank row, hands on dumbbells, with rotation, alternating sides. Progression: Bring feet closer together for narrower base of support. Regression: Use wider foot position.
  • Alternating front lunge, holding one dumbbell, with chop. Progression: Increase range of motion. Regression: Decrease range of motion.

Repeat the entire 24-minute sequence.

Cool-Down (5 minutes)

Hold each of the following stretches for 30 seconds each:

  • standing quadruped (switch sides)
  • standing pigeon, crossing R ankle over L thigh in semi-squat (repeat L)
  • standing forward fold (hamstrings)
  • chest expansion
  • side bend with arms overhead (alternate)
  • overhead triceps stretch (alternate).