Upper Body Circuit Workouts

Upper Body Circuit Workouts

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Use circuit training to boost the intensity of upper-body workouts.

Strength training helps develop lean muscle mass, but depending on the style of training, it doesn't necessarily do much to improve stamina and endurance. Compounding this problem is when lifters take too much time between sets and exercises, “resting up” before they really need to. Boosting the intensity of the workout through circuit training can improve this circumstance, and it's especially effective when using split-body training routines. Grouping your upper-body exercises into a fast-paced circuit can boost your gains and improve muscular endurance.

Circuit Training with Weights

The key to an effective upper-body circuit workout is planning. Schedule out each exercise before you step foot on the gym floor, and try to pair exercises with pieces of equipment that are close to each other. For weight-training exercises, select exercises that use the same basic equipment in roughly the same weight increments. This will allow you to reduce the time between exercises to under 30 seconds. However, when trying switch exercises and increase or decrease weight with the urgency of a circuit pattern, be careful. Be quick but don't rush.

Upper-Body Exercises

The main muscle groups you need to target in your upper-body circuit include the pecs, the deltoids, the biceps and triceps, the lats, the traps and the core. A traditional workout would have you perform multiple sets of a few exercises. A proper circuit requires one, sometimes two, sets of an exercise before you immediately switch to the next. What you sacrifice in sets/reps, you can make up for in variety. Chest presses, military presses, bent-over rows, pullups, pushups, curls and extensions will provide enough variety to target the breadth of your upper-body muscles. Exercises like curls, extensions and chest presses have several versions. Do one set of each version in your set.

Maintaining Intensity

Many lifters don't have a problem keeping up with the first few exercises of an upper-body circuit workout. At the tail end of the workout, though, even experienced lifters may find it difficult to maintain intensity. The slower you go, the less benefit you'll get from your circuit training. One way to keep up the pace is to set a time limit for one circuit. Estimate how long one set of each exercise takes, factor in 30 to 60 seconds between, and use that as a hard cap for the workout. Keep careful track of your progress and how much time you have left. Once you can comfortably beat your allotted circuit time, decrease the time or add more exercises to the circuit.

Rest After, Not During

Ideally, you should rest no more than 30 to 60 seconds between exercises, and the quicker you can go from one to the other and immediately begin your reps, the more effective your circuit will be. Your rest should come following the completion of the workout. Especially for intense circuits, plan at least one full day of rest between workout days. Doing circuit training with weights too frequently risks injury and may reduce your overall performance.