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Name: T

Question: When doing circuit training is it important to maintain the same order of exercises throughout your workout? For example, if I start my first circuit with squats, do I have to start my second, third and so on with squats or could it be done somewhere in the middle of the next circuit. I ask this because often one will find themselves at the gym waiting for equipment so rather than wait maybe moving on to the next exercise would be better. Thanks - T

Hi T,


You can do your squats anywhere in your circuit with the exception of before or after another major leg exercise.*

The order of exercises in a weight room circuit is ultimately not critical. While some may get a little hung up on the order of exercises, so long as the training gets done, you will benefit.

In keeping with the gist of circuit training it is somewhat more effective not to do two or more exercises in row that use the same primary movers, for example squats followed by lunges. This is a minor detail but does have some merit. Circuit training allows you to be more recovered for each station as in theory one would alternate upper and lower body exercises, as well as alternating pushing and pulling upper body exercises.

If you do triceps extensions followed by overhead press, your overhead press performance will not be as good when compared to doing a biceps curl first, or some other exercise that does not tax the triceps.

That being said, there are many who believe it is important to utterly fatigue a muscle group by drilling it with consecutive similar exercises. I haven't found this to be maximally effective, especially for athletes looking for sport performance. I haven't found any scientific reference that supports this either.

Many times I will advise people to be prepared for the "busy gym circuit" where the circuit is dictated mostly by whatever exercise equipment is open when you're ready for your next set or station in a circuit. It is still important to stick to your training plan as well as can be practically expected in a busy gym; for instance you would not train a muscle group that is fatigued or sore, or is not to be trained on the day, just because a piece of equipment opened up; sometimes you still have to wait for equipment to ensure you are doing the exercises that are in your training plan for the day.

Don't be afraid to do push ups or cross over cables instead of bench press if a bench isn't open. Swapping out seated row for bent over row or one arm cable pulls is also acceptable.

Typically the changes made to the order of your circuit in a busy gym are not dramatic with only two or three exercises out of eight to ten being shifted or substituted.

When circuit training in a busy gym it is OK to change the sequence of exercises as well as to use substitute exercises that engage the primary movers in a similar way.

*Some athletic circuits call for squats or lunges immediately followed by jumping or short sprints. The theory is that you may generate more power in your sprints or jumps. There is some evidence to support this so long as the weight lifting set is not fatiguing. If trying this training, don't change the order of exercise.

- Cris LaBossiere

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This page was last updated on October 30, 2007