Strength Circuits: 5 Keys To The Best Training Tool To Build Muscle And Shed Fat This Summer
I’ve always loved summer. It’s like this magical alternate reality that rolls around every year, and with it comes an open end excuse to get drunk in the middle of the day, throw steak on the grill every single day, and wear as little clothing as possible.
That’s a season that speaks to all of the things that I love most.
And with summer rapidly approaching, many people are starting fat loss programs. Some people want to get shredded for summer, some just want to drop a few pounds to fit into their chubbies, and others want to melt fat so they look good for all the orgies they hope to have.
Because shredding season is upon us, most people are starting to get their diet in order. And for good reason; the cornerstone to any fat loss program worth it’s salt is going to start with a controlled diet. Without controlling your calories, attempting to drop fat is merely an exercise in futility. That much we know.
But what about after you’ve gotten calories under control?
There are certain aspects of training that typically work best during a fat loss phase. For example: It’s probably not the best idea to try and go through an intense strength focused program that’s supposed to deliver a new deadlift PR while you’re in a calorie deficit.
That doesn’t mean you can’t train hard and heavy, you just need to be smart about it. Which is exactly why you should be doing strength circuits.
Strength circuits are one of my favorite ways to train for fat loss. They’re the perfect hybrid lab creation between heavy strength training and metabolic fat loss training. When done correctly they can take any fat loss program to the next level.
But you can’t just go throwing everything against the wall and hope something sticks when it comes to strength circuits.
You’ve got to adhere to some basic principles that allow you to build a circuit that is not only safe, but also effective at building muscle and shedding fat. And because I’m all about teaching a man how to fish so he can feed himself for years to come, I’m going to teach you how to build your own strength circuits.
Here are 5 principles to building your own strength circuits.
Choose the right exercises.
When you’re designing strength circuits it’s important to pay attention to proper exercise selection. You don’t want to build a circuit around bicep curls and leg extensions, because those moves, while awesome, aren’t exactly demanding from a metabolic perspective.
It pays to build your circuits with compound multi joint movements that are the most metabolically demanding, while also eliciting the release of anabolic hormones.
It’s also important to remember that you want to choose exercises that aren’t constantly competing with one another. Antagonistic exercises that work opposite body parts can be your best friend when building out a strength circuit.
How many exercises per workout?
It can become really easy to try and throw the kitchen sink into a strength circuit. This is one of those inherent challenges with trying to build a program. You start thinking about what you want to do, the exercises you like, and before you know it you’re balls deep in a circuit that’s got 12 exercises going on at once.
This is where you’ve got to be willing to leave certain exercises on the cutting room floor.
For example: I love heavy deadlifts. They’re one of the few pleasures that this life offers. But if I’m going to do a difficult metabolic circuit that’s got my heart rate through the roof and I’m using heavy weights, the deadlift probably isn’t a great exercise choice. It’s too demanding from a neuromuscular perspective, and the recovery time takes far too long.
I might be able to choose a deadlift variation like the trap bar deadlift, which I can perform a bit more safely. But even then it’s important to fight the urge to do heavy singles. Managing fatigue and preventing injury is paramount to building a proper strength circuit.
Sets and reps.
One of the reasons strength circuits work so well is that a couple of times a week you’re ramping training density way up on huge compound movements that involve a ton of muscles. Essentially, you’re performing more work than your body is used to, in a very short period of time.
Which means we’re not designing circuits that have extended sets of 15-20 reps like you might find in a lighter load bodyweight circuit or something similar. That defeats the purpose. In order to make the magic happen you need to use weights that are going to be a challenge.
It’s best to choose weights that are relatively heavy, but not so heavy that you’re near maximal effort. Typically this means lifting around 70% of your one rep max in the 6-10 rep range. The weight should be hard, but you shouldn’t hit technical failure.
For example: I front squat right around 335lbs, so choosing doing about 225 – 235lbs for 6 – 8 reps would be ideal.
As far as sets are concerned, we want to keep things relatively moderate. Typically it’s not going to be a great idea to try and knock out something 10 sets of the same circuit, because with the compound movements the fatigue will become so much to handle that injury is imminent.
However keeping things between 3-6 sets or so typically allows you to get in enough volume to help build muscle, while also being metabolically demanding enough to help melt away body fat.
Obviously the goal with strength circuits is to try and build muscle and strip away fat at the exact same time. You don’t make that happen by resting for a few minutes between each set.
They’re supposed to leave you sweating like a whore in church. That’s the point.
Which makes resting between 20-45 seconds rest between exercises, and 1-2 minutes between each set ideal. A good rule of thumb is the shorter you rest between exercises, the longer you should be resting between sets, and vice versa.
Strength circuits are an excellent way to ramp up your training intensity, build muscle, and burn body fat. But they’re highly demanding, and if you try and do them too much then you’re going to pay the price.
Typically most people work well by incorporating these types of training sessions about 2 times a week, and then sticking to more traditional lifting for the rest of their sessions.
View them more as a supplement to regular training and dieting vs. a complete training style that you’d adopt full time.
Just give me the damn fish.
Teaching a man to fish is fun and all, and you’ve been armed with an outstanding rod and reel to start developing your own rod and reel. But learning how to fish takes time, and I get that some of you have commitment issues. Because of that, I’m also giving you the fish. Here’s a strength circuit guaranteed to get you shredded.
Dumbbell incline press x8 reps
Single arm dumbbell row x10 reps per arm
Trap bar deadlift x5 reps
Front squat x8 reps
Thruster x8 reps
*Rest 20 seconds between each exercise, and 90 seconds between each round, performing 5 rounds total.
You never know what kind of wild orgies, summer grilling sessions, or boat parties you’re going to find yourself apart of when summer rolls around. And that kids, is the real reason you need to be doing strength circuits. They keep you looking your best for when it matters most.