Circuit Training Exercises

Circuit training exercises can be made up of both bodyweight exercises and exercises with resistance. Due to this, the number and types of exercises can be vast. In fact outside of the normal restriction that comes with working with some resistance apparatus such as machine weights, the type of exercises you can design for your circuit training session is limited only by your imagination.

Exercise Design

As you begin the process of designing the exercises for your circuit training program, you should view your body as having three quadrants, an upper, lower and mid-section.  Circuits can be designed as full body circuits or as exercises which targets a specific area of the body.  Sectioning your body with the appropriate exercises will make it easy to alternate your exercises as you move from one station to another or to focus on a specific area of your body.

The exercises you employ in your circuit should work groups of muscles (normally referred to as compound exercises). What's that I hear you say? Well, compound or gross exercises are exercises that work several muscle groups at the same time and are usually multi-joint movements. Incorporating several muscle groups into one exercise makes your circuit training routines not only time efficient (more bang for your buck) but also effective. The exercises in each quadrant should target a slightly different group of muscles, for example, “push-ups and “triceps press” – both are arm exercises, but with a subtle difference.

Circuit Training Exercises

Below you will find examples of different types of exercises to use in your circuit routines. These are not the only exercises you can do, but they will at least give you a starting point to develop your own circuit training program.

Bodyweight Exercises

Body Category Exercise Selection
Upper Body Push Ups

Triceps Press


Front Pull Ups

Back Pull-ups

Core Superman

Plank Jacks

Bridge Side Raise


Oblique Twists

Lower Body Squats with calf Raise

Forward Lunges

Sumo Squats

Side Lunges


There is a group of body weight circuit training exercises that fall into all quadrants. I refer to these as global exercises. They are:

  • Burpees
  • Squat Thrust
  • Alternating Leg Squat Thrusts

These exercises are more fatiguing but can be strategically placed within your circuit training workout to increase the stress on either the aerobic or strength endurance systems.

Machine Weight Exercises

Body Category Exercise Selection
Upper Body Bench Press

Shoulder Press

Rear Lats Pulls

Front Lats Pulls


Core Kneeling Crunch (cable)

Twist Down (cable)

Twist Up (cable)

Side Bends (cable)

Lower Body Leg Press

Hamstring Curls

Knee Extension

Seated Calf Raise

Free Weight Exercises

Body Category Exercise Selection
Upper Body Bench Press

Triceps Kick Backs

Shoulder Press

Bent Over Rows

Core Dumbbell Side Bends

Crunch with Disc

Good Morning

Back Raise with Disc

Lower Body Back Squats

Hamstring Curls

Step Ups

Standing Calf Raise

In conclusion, the design of your circuit training exercises should ensure all body parts receive a good workout. You can achieve this by segregating your body into quadrants. Your exercise selection should work multiple muscle groups as this will ensure the exercise load provides an optimal stimulus to all body parts.

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