Fit Set Circuits—Momentum You Can Build

By Diane Vives, M.S., C.S.C.S. – February 1, 2014
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

The first month of 2014 is behind us, and many of you have moved back on track and are recommitted to your fitness goals. Last month’s Muscle Movement of the Month detailed the importance of building a baseline of good movement by focusing on a four-movement circuit that could be adjusted to meet your best progression point for success. That ability to adjust creates a better foundation, which can now be used to increase intensity and challenge your body with higher intensity movements and circuits. This month, we will use the SMARTset strategy of Fit Set circuits to introduce ways to increase the intensity and begin increasing your body’s physical capacity for overall conditioning. The circuit consists of an exercise using each of the human movement categories:

  • Level changes with the lower body
  • Pushing with the upper body
  • Rotational stability for the core
  • Locomotion to really bump up the intensity of the overall circuit

Each of this month’s exercises is adds a combination of movements to the core movement in order to progress.

Level Change: Overhead Lunge with Alternating Press

Purpose: Increase the intensity and movement demand by adding the overhead carry position that requires good shoulder mobility and static core stability. Then, bump up the intensity with holding the isometric position in the bottom of the lunge while performing an alternating press before returning to the standing position.

  • Start with feet hip-width apart and with the dumbbells in the overhead carry position. Arms are fully extended and shoulders “packed” downward.
  • Lunge forward while maintaining core posture and the overhead position of the dumbbells. Arms should be aligned with ears.
  • After setting the bottom position of the lunge, actively pull the dumbbells, one at a time, down to the shoulder and then press immediately back up to the overhead position.
  • When you have completed a press on each side, push back from the heel of the forward foot to return to standing position. Repeat this while alternating the lunging legs.

Regress for Success: Use shoulder carry position with light dumbbells on each side and perform the alternating press at the top of the standing position.

Rotary Stability: Stability Ball Single-Leg Knee Tuck

Purpose: Use a stability ball as rotary base of support to generally increase the stability challenge, adding a three-point stance with a single leg on the ball to add the rotational stability challenge to the movement. This is a lot of work for the entire body and you will really feel it in your core.

  • With your lower legs on the ball, walk your hands out into a push-up position. Make sure to maintain a flat, neutral spine position throughout the movement.
  • Lift one leg off of the ball. Perform a knee tuck with the leg that remains on the ball, pulling the knee in a straight line directly toward the chest and just under the hips.
  • Maintain a level shoulder and hip position that is parallel with the floor.
  • Using slow and controlled movements, return the ball to the start position by extending the hip and knee. Once you reach full extension, replace the leg on the ball, switching the legs for the next knee tuck.

Regress for Success: Use a two-leg knee tuck until you feel confident in your control and ability to perform multiple repetitions.

Push for Upper Body: Loaded Rotational Push-Up

Purpose: This push-up challenges the body by moving through multiple planes of motion from the prone position (sagittal), transition movement (transverse), and finishing in the T-position on the side of the body (frontal). This creates great movement and stability work for each shoulder. Further increase the challenge by using the dumbbell to load the movement with external resistance.

  • Start in the push-up position, gripping a hexagon dumbbell (this allows a flat edge so the dumbbell does not roll or slip during movement) and placing feet shoulder-width apart to allow a full turn onto the sides of the feet.
  • Perform a push-up over the dumbbells; begin your rotational movement as you push up from the floor.
  • Rotate the body onto a single arm, turning the hips and following through to completely finish on the lateral edges of both shoes. While creating this “T” position on your side, pull the dumbbell from the floor. As you do so, maintain a path close the body across your chest to finish directly inline with both shoulders and arm fully extended.
  • Maintaining control, return slowly to the push-up position, again following a pathway that keeps the dumbbell close to the body until it is replaced on the ground just under the shoulder.

Regress for Success: Perform the rotational push-up with body weight. You may just focus on the T-position and rotation without performing the push-up.

Locomotion: Jump Rope with Two-Foot Jump

Purpose: This is a great plyometric exercise that involves total body coordination. This movement increases the intensity of the fourth movement in the circuit as well as the overall intensity of the entire circuit. Focus on low-impact jumps and strive for higher repetitions for conditioning.

  • Start with feet hip-width apart and a rope length that allows you to easily complete full turns while in a standing position. Use a light grip to easily and gently rotate the wrists during rope turns.
  • Start with jumps just above the ground for lower impact and then work you way up to more of a tuck jump, where the feet come higher off the ground. No matter what your effort, your landings should be quiet and controlled.
  • Another way to really challenge your conditioning level is to increase the number of rotations completed in one minute and increase the speed of movement.

Regress for Success: Remove the challenge of the jump rope coordination and perform a low-impact vertical jump just 2-4 inches off the ground. Make sure the landings are quiet with a slight bend in the ankles, knees, and hips.

This conditioning will continue to increase your basic strength level and overall conditioning for the next four-week cycle. Use this strategy or choose alternate movements to add variety to your Fit Set circuits for this next month— it’s a great way to increase your foundation of movement that prepares you for higher intensity strength, power, and speed in the upcoming months. Please keep this in mind: Don’t be afraid of “power” if your goal is losing weight. Power is the equivalent of doing more work in less time, so let’s safely set up your movement capacity for more powerful movement. This will work in your favor and is the secret to many an athlete’s success.



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