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Mini-circuits break larger circuits up into small, fast-paced exercise rounds.
It's a common dilemma: you want to work out to lose weight and tone up, but you don't have a lot of spare time. Circuit training is one solution for the time-challenged to get an aerobic workout while performing resistance training. Typically, you'd perform between eight and 12 exercises during one circuit, but take those same exercises and break them down into mini-circuits for a more challenging and effective workout.
How to do a Mini
When you do a mini-circuit workout, you'll have three circuits made up of three exercises each. Do three rounds of each circuit before moving onto the next circuit. Perform each of the exercises in the first circuit for 20 to 30 seconds with one minute of rest between them and two minutes of rest before you move to the second circuit. Perform the second circuit in the same way as the first, and take another two-minute rest before finishing up with the third circuit. Depending on your fitness level and how long you devote to each exercise, you'll get an effective resistance workout along with cardio in 18 to 25 minutes.
Mini-Circuits for Different Fitness Levels
Beginners should start out doing each exercise within the circuits for 20 seconds each. When you're ready to move up to an intermediate workout increase the time to 30 seconds. Advanced training involves adding an exercise to each circuit, so you'll still be doing the exercises for 30 seconds at a time, but you'll be performing four exercises in each circuit instead of three. All three fitness levels take the same amount of rest time: one minute between exercises and two minutes between circuits.
Effective Resistance Exercises
You can build your mini-circuits around free weights and machines, or you can mix them up with some plyometric moves. An example of a set of mini-circuits could be dumbbell calf raises, bench press and incline crunches in the first circuit; leg curls, cable rows and lat pull-downs in the second circuit; and incline crunches, shoulder press and deadlifts for your third circuit. Substitute or add in pushups, squat jumps or lunges for an advanced circuit.
How Minis Burn Fat
Circuit training is recommended by personal trainers as an effective way to increase your metabolism. Matt Siaperas, a personal trainer at Hardbodies Gym in Idaho, tells clients that it allows them to burn the most calories possible in a short amount of time. By splitting a larger circuit up into mini-circuits, you increase the effectiveness of the workout because you'll be moving at a faster pace through the same number of exercises, and reducing the amount of rest time overall.
Intensify the Burn
Once you get the hang of a mini-circuit, you might start thinking about kicking up the intensity even further. Michael Mejia, author of the 2006 book "Men's Health Better Body Blueprint," advises adding one to two minutes of intense cardio at the end of each round before taking your one-minute rest. Doing so will increase your caloric expenditure and energy demands even further, along with increasing calories burned after the workout is finished, too. Mejia recommends varying the cardio exercises; for instance, doing 60 to 90 seconds on a rowing machine after your first round of a mini-circuit, and then another 60 to 90 seconds on a stationary bike after your second round and so on.