Circuit Circus

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Circuits? The gurus first considered them to be outdated and now they have their own soundtrack! Our own maverick contributor Davan was using BBGS circuit style work for an array of reasons with great success, and when he shared this in another forum it was considered old dogma.The gurus believed they (Davan’s circuits) were encouraging bad technique, poor loading benefits, administrative pitfalls, yet now they are the next big thing? Circuits were used in training way before R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson in the 50s, and over the years they have evolved. Interesting enough circuits have been a bit part of our training in ether stage form or even organizational testing or guided rehab.

Circuits are time effective but they are not good choices for those looking for strength and power unless they are done very carefully. One stage training concept I suggested to one coach of a D1 program was to do drill, medball, sprint, hurdle mobility on the practice field. Why? The head coach had his new million dollar office above the training field and would watch the team train. Just sprint and rest looked lazy so we needed something to mask good training. Politics were something I didn’t like dealing with but when your friends are under contract and have mouths to feed you have to be creative.

Quad sets? Circuit training. Intervals? Circuit training. The most common misconception is that circuits are just universal machine exercises done with 15 second rest interval. True, in a way by definition it’s hard to say what is a circuit but many times circuits are not as efficient as one realizes. A flexibility circuit or mobility circuit is just a rubber bullet if the training program is of poor design. Often the sequence and exercise selection will interact with ones joint program. Loading and conditioning parameters will interact and either enhance or mute such adaptations. For example we do core circuits after conditioning as it’s a good theme to stay in, then get into upper body strength during the GPP since max upper body strength is influenced from the speed and olympic lifts during the previous day when we do speed and power. The SPP the athletes adapt to this and continue ’till we are in competition and then we combine upper and lower body lifts and truncate the assistance work or place it into a circuit with core and restoration work. But not all training should use station based circuits.

One example of the need to stick to one exercise during a training sub-unit is that I strongly believe in olympic lifts for 6-8 sets done in straight sets. Training economy is great but the real underlying factor is not how much you do per minute but how you use your minutes intelligently. When the Thinker suggested how great he could coach athletes to do alternate methods of developing power besides olympic lifts, but he needed a utility belt of exercises to add up to all of the benefits to one exercise. Ironically enough he was critical of me of not being effective with my use of time but had to devise an entire routine of exercises to add up to one lift. Straight sets for olympic lifts are vital during heavy loading as the motor units need to be trained to handle rapid uptake of substrate, not converting fibers to become endurance like. Placing intense olympic lifts in a circuit is just foolish.

We do core circuits as often many exercises are total body exercises that engage the spinal strength qualities. This allows us to triple the volumes of the core to handle the fatigue as well as deal with all of the requirements of a good core. Placing them in a circuit during strength lifts is foolish if you trying to build power.

In summary circuits are nothing new and it’s best to visit coaches that have used circuits for years, and are not just showing off their new toys. Those that tend to get excited about their new sports car are those you see on the highway in an accident. Seek the truth!
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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