Moves for a Fit Set Circuit

By Diane Vives, M.S., C.S.C.S. – June 1, 2013
Photo by Brian Fitzsimmons

Whether training for a particular sport or for a fitness goal, athletes can benefit from a circuit that is purpose-driven toward total body strength and creates a metabolic challenge for conditioning. Here is a Fit Set Circuit strategy that incorporates a total body emphasis with multi-joint movements using core control and stability as well as upper/lower body and locomotive movements. The first priority with this circuit is quality of movement—focusing on performing each repetition with good technique. The next step is workload—increasing the number of repetitions and sets—creating a great conditioning circuit and providing a good strategy for similar circuits based on movements, not isolated muscle groups. I’ve found in my 15 years of experience as a trainer and strength coach that focusing on movement leads to choosing more total body involvement because doing so works more muscle groups and, therefore, increases workload and energy expenditure. In this circuit, alternating- and single-leg/arm components lead to core strength being a big player in the success of the movement. Many fitness athletes forget that focusing on movement efficiency and quality sets their body up to work consistently without breaking down or becoming injured. Results are the goal, and paying attention to putting together smart, purpose-driven circuits creates the most direct path to success.

The Fit Set-type circuit can be designed for either beginning or more advanced fitness athletes by changing the progression of exercise to match their appropriate level of challenge. This can involve changing an exercise for another with the same movement emphasis or simply changing the originally chosen exercise’s load. Be sure to check out the suggested progressions at the bottom of each exercise; they will help you make the best choices for putting your circuit together and creating a healthy challenge.

One-Arm Snatch

Purpose: Emphasizes the lower body’s ability to load and quickly extend, generating power from the ground up.

• Start with a shoulder-width stance and one arm in the front of the body, holding a dumbbell such that the arm is extended downward.
• Load the lower body by bending at the hips (hip-hinge) with slight knee and ankle flexion (bending), which is a common “power position” or movement used just before a jump.
• While maintaining the arm in its extended position, guide the dumbbell down between the legs to at or just below knee level.
• Quickly extend the lower body, generating movement of the dumbbell upward as it closely passes in front of the body.
• Pull yourself under the dumbbell, catching the dumbbell with arm extended overhead.
Tweak Down: Replace the hip-hinge stance with a squat, holding dumbbells at the shoulders, and press with light dumbbells as you move upward, using momentum to assist the press.
Tweak Up: Perform as fast as you can control, with explosive movement from the bottom up.

Alternating Curl and Press

Purpose: Combines a push and pull movement for the upper body; the alternating upper and lower positions also create a diagonal load across the body that challenges core strength and stability.

• Start with a dumbbell in each hand, right arm extended upward over the shoulder in a press position and left arm extended downward by the hip. Palms face forward at the beginning of the movement.
• Perform a curl with the left arm while lowering the right dumbbell from the press position.
• Both dumbbells should reach shoulders at same time; hands should move into a neutral hammer grip.
• Continue with a press with the left arm while performing the lowering portion of the curl movement with the right. Palms return to face forward at the end of the movement.
• Continue to alternate sides.
Tweak Down: Simultaneously—and on each side—perform a curl followed by a press, using light dumbbells.
Tweak Up: Increase core demands through asymmetrically loading the body by performing the exercise using one dumbbell on one side at a time.

One-Leg Knee Tuck with Grid

Purpose: Stabilizes the upper body and core while the lower body performs the movement; the one-leg knee tuck creates the need to resist unwanted rotation and increases core strength demands in order to control body position.

• Start in a plank position on your hands and with one leg on the grid at just below the knee. The opposite leg is held in air, with ankle, knee, and hip aligned with shoulders.
• Without moving the upper body or torso, pull the knee just under the same side hip by rolling the grid toward the hands.
• Reverse the movement by extending the leg that is on the grid while maintaining stability in upper body and torso.
Tweak Down: Start with both legs on the grid to perform a two-leg knee tuck.
Tweak Up: Alternate with knee tuck on the free leg and with an increase in speed (as long as movements remain smooth and controlled).

Jump with One-Leg Landing

Purpose: Enhances eccentric strength in single stopping movements and reduces risk of injury during higher intensity movements such as changes of direction or stopping quickly.

• Start in hip-width stance with tall posture.
• Quickly perform a counter movement by bending at the ankles, knees, and hips.
• Jump forward, landing softly and with quiet feet to absorb the landing, on a single leg in the half squat or power position.
• Pause for control and stability, making sure the knee of the landing leg does not collapse inward. Ankle, knee, and hip should be in a vertical line.
• Walk back to start and repeat.
Tweak Down: Perform a two-leg landing or replace with single-leg balance.
Tweak Up: Perform a counter movement on single leg and landing on opposite leg, moving forward for a series of bounds. Emphasize controlled landings.

Using this circuit strategy based on choosing movements will transfer to total body fitness and prepare you for higher intensity circuits to come. Building the foundation of movement creates the most direct path to success and will prepare you to reach many new fitness goals in the future.

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