A circuit is a group of stations or areas where specific tasks or exercises are performed. The task or exercise selected for each station and the arrangement of the stations is determined by the objective of the circuit.
Circuits are designed to provide exercise to groups of soldiers at intensities which suit each person’s fitness level. Circuits can promote fitness in a broad range of physical and motor fitness areas. These include CR endurance, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, and speed. Circuits can also be designed to concentrate on sports skills, soldiers’ common tasks, or any combination of these. In addition, circuits can be organized to exercise all the fitness components in a short period of time. A little imagination can make circuit training an excellent addition to a unit’s total physical fitness program. At the same time, it can provide both fun and a challenge to soldiers’ physical and mental abilities. Almost any area can be used, and any number of soldiers can exercise for various lengths of time.
TYPES OF CIRCUITS
The two basic types of circuits are the free circuit and the fixed circuit. Each has distinct advantages.
In a free circuit, there is no set time for staying at each station, and no signal is given to move from one station to the next. Soldiers work at their own pace, doing a fixed number of repetitions at each station. Progress is measured by the time needed to complete a circuit. Because soldiers may do incomplete or fewer repetitions than called for to reduce this time, the quality and number of the repetitions done should be monitored. Aside from this, the free circuit requires little supervision.
In a fixed circuit, a specific length of time is set for each station. The time is monitored with a stopwatch, and soldiers rotate through the stations on command.
There are three basic ways to increase the intensity or difficulty of a fixed circuit:
- Keep the time for completion the same, but increase the number of repetitions.
- Increase the time per station along with the number of repetitions.
- Increase the number of times soldiers go through the circuit.
VARIABLES IN CIRCUIT TRAINING
Several variables in circuit training must be considered. These include the time, number of stations, number of time, number of stations, number of soldiers, number of times the circuit is completed, and sequence of stations. These are discussed below.
One of the first things to consider is how long it should take to complete the circuit. When a fixed circuit is run, the time at each station should always be the same to avoid confusion and help maintain control. Consider also the time it takes to move from one station to the next. Further, allow from five to seven minutes both before and after running a circuit for warming up and cooling down, respectively.
Number of Stations
The objective of the circuit and time and equipment available strongly influence the number of stations. A circuit geared for a limited objective (for example, developing lower-body strength) needs as few as six to eight stations. On the other hand, circuits to develop both strength and CR fitness may are as many as 20 stations.
Number of Soldiers
If there are 10 stations and 40 soldiers to be trained, the soldiers should be divided into 10 groups of four each. Each station must then be equipped to handle four soldiers. For example, in this instance a rope jumping station must have at least four jump ropes. It is vital in a free circuit that no soldier stand around waiting for equipment. Having enough equipment reduces bottlenecks, slowdowns, and poor results.
Number of Times a Circuit is Completed
To achieve the desired training effect, soldiers may have to repeat the same circuit several times. For example, a circuit may have ten stations. Soldiers may run through the circuit three times, exercising for 30 seconds at each station, and taking 15 seconds to move between stations. The exercise time at each station may be reduced to 20 seconds the second and third time through. The whole workout takes less than 45 minutes including warm-up and cool-down. As soldiers become better conditioned, exercise periods may be increased to 30 seconds or longer for all three rotations. Another option is to have four rotations of the circuit.
Sequence of Stations
Stations should be arranged in a sequence that allows soldiers some recovery time after exercising at strenuous stations. Difficult exercises can be alternated with less difficult ones. After the warm-up, soldiers can start a circuit at any station and still achieve the objective by completing the full circuit.
DESIGNING A CIRCUIT
The designer of a circuit must consider many factors. The six steps below cover the most important aspects of circuit development.
The designer must consider the specific parts of the body and the components of fitness on which soldiers need to concentrate. For example, increasing muscular strength may be the primary objective, while muscular endurance work may be secondary. On the other hand, improving cardiorespiratory endurance may be the top priority. The designer must first identify the training objective in order to choose the appropriate exercises.
Select the Activities
The circuit designer should list all the exercises or activities that can help meet the objectives. Then he should look at each item on the list and ask the following questions:
- Will equipment be needed? Is it available?
- Will supervision be needed? Is it available?
- Are there safety factors to consider?
Answering these questions helps the designer decide which exercises to use. He can choose from the exercises, calisthenics, conditioning drills, grass drills, and guerrilla drills described in this chapter. However, he should not limit the circuit to only these activities. Imagination and field expediency are important elements in developing circuits that hold the interest of soldiers. (See Figures 7-1 through 7-3.)
Arrange the Stations
A circuit usually has 8 to 12 stations, but it may have as many as 20. After deciding how many stations to include, the designer must decide how to arrange them. For example, in a circuit for strength training, the same muscle group should not be exercised at consecutive stations.
One approach is to alternate “pushing” exercises with “pulling” exercises which involve movement at the same joint(s). For example, in a strength training circuit, exercisers may follow the pushing motion of a bench press with the pulling motion of the seated row. This could be followed by the pushing motion of the overhead press which could be followed by the pulling motion of the lat pull-down. Another approach might be to alternate between upper and lower body exercises.
By not exercising the same muscle group twice in a row, each muscle has a chance to recover before it is used in another exercise. If some exercises are harder than others, soldiers can alternate hard exercises with easier ones. The choice of exercises depends on the objectives of the circuit.
Select the Training Sites
Circuits may be conducted outdoors or indoors. If the designer wants to include running or jogging a certain distance between stations, he may do this in several ways. In the gymnasium, soldiers may run five laps or for 20 to 40 seconds between stations. Outdoors, they may run laps or run between spread-out stations if space is available. However, spreading the stations too far apart may cause problems with control and supervision.
Prepare a Sketch
The designer should draw a simple sketch that shows the location of each station in the training area. The sketch should include the activity and length of time at each station, the number of stations, and all other useful information.
Lay Out the Stations
The final step is to lay out the stations which should be numbered and clearly marked by signs or cards. In some cases, instructions for the stations are written on the signs. The necessary equipment is placed at each station.
Sample Conditioning Circuits
Figures 7-1, 7-2, and 7-3 show different types of conditioning circuits. Soldiers should work at each station 45 seconds and have 15 seconds to rotate to the next station.