Recently I embarked on a journey to outline the advantages and disadvantages of many different types of exercise programs. Each week I’m discussing whether these programs are safe, effective and recommended for firefighters. So far I’ve covered yoga/pilates and P90X (we’ve had some great discussion and insight from other firefighters about both so go check out the comments sections!)
Today I’m going over a general type of workout rather than a specific exercise regime: circuit workouts. In a circuit workout you do an exercise for a specified time interval and keep moving from one “station” to the next. The circuits include both resistance training exercises, such as bicep curls, and cardio intervals, such as jumping jacks. Some of the stations challenge the muscular and aerobic systems simultaneously, such as walking lunges or burpees. The idea is to keep your heart rate up throughout the whole circuit which results in a comprehensive workout for the whole body.
Circuit workouts are a good choice for firefighters who want to improve their overall fitness level and burn lots of calories. The biggest benefit is that they’re time efficient. You don’t have to lift weights for an hour and then do another half hour of cardio. You can get it all done in 20-40 minutes. You’re also less likely to get bored and want to quit during a circuit workout.
You can check out an example of a circuit workout here: http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/high-intensity-circuit-routine/index.php. It’s pretty easy to create your own circuit. Just pick enough resistance training exercises so each muscle group gets challenged and throw in a few of your favorite cardio intervals. The example I used suggests completing each station for 1 minute, rest for 15 seconds in-between stations, and once you’ve completed the entire circuit, rest for 2 minutes and go through it again. But you should play with the time frames to find out what’s most comfortable for you.
There aren’t any disadvantages to circuit workouts except that they are not the best type of workout for someone who is looking to become very strong. These workouts are best for losing fat and enhancing aerobic and muscular endurance (the only case in which a circuit workout produces large gains in strength is if the person started out with very little.) For firefighters who are already moderately strong and want to progress to really strong (which is a good idea given the physical demands of firefighting), very heavy weight lifting would be a more effective training method to achieve that goal.
Have you tried circuit workouts? What are your thoughts or questions about them? Tell me in the comments below.
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