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I’m always multi-tasking with shoe testing, coding, market research, running errands, running on trails, walking my dogs, spending time with family, etc. so a recent article, ‘HIGH-INTENSITY CIRCUIT TRAINING USING BODY WEIGHT: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment’, that appeared in the May-June issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal certainly caught my eye.

In 12 simple exercises deploying only your body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommendation of aerobic training and resistance training exercise into about eight minutes of intense exercises – all based on scientific research by the team at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, FL. Recovery is provided in part by a 10-second rest between exercises and with an exercise order that emphasizes the large muscles in the upper body with those in the lower body. During the rest period, the unexercised muscles will have a moment to ’catch their breath’.

Traditionally, resistance training often is performed separately from aerobic training typically on two or three nonconsecutive days each week. The ACSM recommends 8 to 12 repetitions of a resistance training exercise for each major muscle group at an intensity of 40% to 80% of a one-repetition max (RM) depending on the training level of the participant. Two to three minutes of rest is recommended between exercise sets to allow for proper recovery. Two to four sets are recommended for each muscle group.

Standard guidelines for aerobic training recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise (46% to 63% of maximal oxygen uptake, VO2max) for 30 to 60 minutes per session and/or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity exercise (64% to 90% VO2max) for 20 to 60 minutes per session.

This certainly is not realistic for time-conscious adults because of the total amount of time needed to perform them. The Human Performance Institute team uses the high-intensity circuit training (HICT) strategy that combines aerobic and resistance training into a single exercise bout lasting approximately 8 minutes using the body weight as resistance. You can repeat the 8-minute bout 2 to 3 times, depending on the amount of time they have. As your own body weight provides the only form of resistance, the program can be done anywhere and anytime that is convenient to your schedule!

HICT is not a new concept, but it is growing in popularity because of its efficiency and practicality for a time-constrained society. The combination of aerobic and resistance training in a high-intensity, limited-rest design can deliver numerous health benefits in much less time than traditional programs. When body weight is used as resistance, it eliminates the limiting factors of access to equipment and facilities. No more excuses about not having a gym membership!

HICT Program Approach

Types of exercises

  • Promoting strength development for all major muscle groups of the body
  • Using large muscle groups to create the appropriate resistance and aerobic intensity
  • Creating a balance of strength throughout the body
  • Immediately modifiable or adapted as necessary to increase or decrease exercise intensity
  • Safe and appropriate for the participant’s level
  • Interacting with stairs, benches, or walls
  • Accommodating minimized rest time

Exercise Order

Exercises in an HICT circuit should be placed in an order that allows for opposing muscle groups to alternate between resting and working in subsequent exercise stations. The objective is to allow for a series of exercises to be performed in quick succession, using proper form and technique, and at high intensity with minimal rest between exercises.

Number of Exercises

No ideal number but anything from 9 to 12 exercises. All muscles are used at an appropriate intensity during a training session.

Exercise Time

To maximize the metabolic impact of the exercise, time should be sufficient enough to allow for the proper execution of 15 to 20 repetitions of an exercise. A 30-second exercise bout is adequate to allow for this because most participants are able to acquire and maintain appropriate intensity for 30 seconds.

Resting Time

When rest intervals are too long during HICT, it undermines the purpose of the high-intensity protocol, which is to create maximal exercise intensity in minimal time. For maximum time efficiency, less than 15 seconds rest time between body weight exercises in an HICT protocol to maintain appropriate exercise intensity.

Total Exercise Time

Research has demonstrated that improvements can be made in 100%+ of VO2max and insulin sensitivity in as little as 4 minutes of total exercise time in an HICT session. Because most individuals may not be able to execute the program at an intensity level significantly greater than 100% of their VO2max, ACSM guidelines for high intensity exercise of at least 20 minutes is recommended. This will require multiple repetitions (or circuits) of a multi-station exercise circuit.

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Recommended HICT Program

Exercises are performed for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of transition time between bouts. Total time for the entire circuit workout is approximately 8 minutes. The circuit can be repeated 2 to 3 times.

  1. Jumping Jacks – Total Body
  2. Wall Sit – Lower Body
  3. Push-Up – Upper Body
  4. Abdominal Crunch – Core
  5. Step-Up onto Chair – Total Body
  6. Squat – Lower Body
  7. Triceps Dip on Chair – Upper Body
  8. Plank – Core
  9. High Knees/Running in Place – Total Body
  10. Lunge – Lower Body
  11. Push-Up and Rotation – Upper Body
  12. Side Plank – Core

Personally, I already perform most of these exercises I learned from boot camp five years ago – with one minor change. I don’t do the Abdominal Crunch because it is not good for the lower back according to my boot camp and martial arts instructor. You can substitute any of the core exercise like a Side Plank or regular Plank in its place or replace it with something else. I supplement these exercises with lots of single leg squats and single leg jumps (ten each leg and alternative non-stop for 100 yards) to build my jumping muscles.

So for maximum results with minimal time investment, try out the Scientific 8-Minute Power Workout!