Circuits have always been my go to because there’s a level of satisfaction to completing a circuit. The speed of circuits keeps me engaged, the level of exertion required is addictive, and the versatility keeps me entertained time and time again. What changed everything for me was when I started to incorporate heavier weights into my circuits.
I remember my first day using weights. It was in a circuited class format, at a studio called F45 (where I've recently joined their team of trainers). At first I was intimidated because my preference is for a lean body and not a bulky body. My fear was grounded in my past of being pretty bulky (I wish I had a picture to show, but I didn’t really take that many back then). Having to buy a size up because my arms or thighs couldn’t fit in wasn’t fun, , so my solution was to avoid heavy weights. (Don’t get me wrong, some women prefer a more muscular physique, but as it comes down to preference, my preference is for a leaner body build).
In the beginning, what kept me coming back to F45 was the fact that this was circuited group training, which means I’m able to continue to do circuits but with friends and other people around me. I remember how hesitant I was to grab the heavy weights in the beginning, but what happened a few weeks after is something I continue to testify about today. Weighted circuits is what transformed my physique and I am forever an advocate for using weights. (I am not about piling on heavy weights just to prove the number I can hold, but what I am talking about is a gradual increase in the weights I use in order to constantly challenge myself and increase my athletic performance).
A bit of background on me, I’ve always been an athletic individual. Playing sports and staying active throughout my life has always been part of my lifestyle. Having an athletic physique is not something new. What F45 helped me achieve is a stronger but leaner figure. (Of course diet plays a role, but I’ve always been a relatively healthy eater, so in my case I know diet wasn’t the differentiator).
In all the years I’ve been training, I always had a problem with looking bulky. In part because I am what most will call a petite figure. Any gain in mass or muscle is therefore quite evident on my figure. I was impressed because in the past, the more I trained the bulkier I looked and the bulkier I became the more awkward my clothes fitted (I don’t know how anyone else feels about this, but having to buy a size up just because my arms or thighs couldn’t fit in the clothes was a personal fashion nightmare). Another gain from training at F45 was seeing changes! I had hit a plateau in my training before joining F45, where results in my physique stagnated and improvements slowed. It was to my delight to find something which actually transformed my body in a new way!
What made the difference at F45 was the combination of moderate to high heart rates, the continuity of the work to rest periods, and the consistent use of weights and resistance (of course). Circuits are about sustaining a level of intensity throughout. Resistance and weights is what helps to increase the challenge of the movements, which otherwise would be hard to achieve without.
What I hadn’t thought about before was how weights and resistance used in a circuit format equates to training for muscle endurance versus muscle hypertrophy. Training for muscle hypertrophy (or bulking) is what I had previously done when using weights. It involved low repetitions, longer rest periods, and therefore relatively low heart rates. I finally realize it wasn’t about the weights, rather it was about how I was using the weights which left me bulky before. The combination I am accustomed to now is where the magic happens! Circuited weight and functional training is where it’s at!