Have you ever wondered how to get better results in less time?
When most guys think of exercise, they think of long and boring workouts. They think of spending hours in the gym lifting weights and doing tons of cardio.
The truth – which has been verified by research – is that the shorter and more intense workouts actually can help you get better results.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve refined a workout method that I call BuiltLean® strength circuits.
If you want to get a lean, healthy, and athletic body without the bulk, this method can be a total game changer.
OLD Approach To Get Lean = Bodybuilding + Cardio
When I first started my finance career, I gained 30+ pounds of fat. I went from a lean 170 pound college athlete to a soft 200 pound office creature in only few months.
When I saw 200 pounds on the scale, I knew I had to make a change.
I decided to follow a bodybuilding approach of targeting 1-2 muscle groups each workout 3-4x a week and do long and boring cardio sessions 3x a week.
I was tired and sore all the time, super stiff, my low back hurt, and my workouts took forever. I also had trouble keeping up with my demanding job.
Even worse, I got almost no results! I had to figure out another way.
I applied my research skills I honed as a finance analyst to learn more about how I can get a leaner body in less time.
I discovered that there is a MUCH smarter and more efficient way to get the lean, strong, athletic body I want without spending hours in the gym.
NEW Approach To Get Lean = Strength Circuits
After a lot of experimentation and research, I asked myself an empowering question that changed my life forever.
“How can I create a workout that helps me get much better results in less time?”
Well first, I would combine the best strength training exercises into a circuit.
So instead of doing bench press while resting 2-3 minutes in between each set, I could create a timed circuit of exercises and rest just 30-seconds between each.
I would make sure these exercises trained my entire body – as in all my muscle groups – in every workout instead of just 1-2 muscle groups.
I would burn a lot more calories and fat, right?
I would also improve my strength even faster because I’m hitting all muscle groups 3x a week instead of just once. I wouldn’t be sore all the time and I would feel limber and more athletic.
I would get cardiovascular benefits because I’m going from exercise to exercise quickly.
I did strength circuits just 3x a week for 30-minutes each workout, which combined with smarter eating and lifestyle habits dramatically transform my body.
Fast forward 10 years, and I’ve refined and improved this strength circuits method so I now have it down to a science.
Strength Circuits vs. Bodybuilding vs. Cardio Only
Here’s a quick visual of the difference between the BuiltLean strength circuits method, bodybuilding, and a cardio only approach.
Strength Circuits Workout Structure
The typical BuiltLean strength circuits workout starts with a warm up, then you do a strength circuit of 5 exercises 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 3 rounds resting 1-minute in between each round, then ends you complete an interval style “finisher” where you push yourself as hard as you can for just a few minutes, then a cool down with stretching.
This entire workout takes just 30-minutes. Here’s a quick visual representation of the workout structure:
Strength Circuits Workout Example
You may be wondering, “How do I create a strength circuits workout? Do you have any examples?”
Here’s a quick snapshot of how a strength circuits workout looks like. Keep in mind this workout must be timed, which is a critical reason why it’s so effective:
The key when creating a strength circuit workout is thinking in terms of movement patterns, not muscle groups. Most people in the gym target muscle groups and create strange muscle imbalances. We all have seen the guy with the huge upper body and skinny legs.
A strength circuit should challenge your entire body to maximize your time.
Strength Circuits FAQ
What are strength circuits?
Timed circuits of two or more strength training exercises where the targeted number repetitions are challenging to complete. 1
At BuiltLean, we’ve created a strength circuits workout structure we’ve refined over 10 years. We recommend choosing 5 exercises and completing them as a circuit for 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 3 rounds resting 1-minute in between each round. Simple, effective, and it gets results. We used to use complicated structures, but we round simple is best.
Why are strength circuits so effective?
There are several reasons strength circuits are so effective at helping you burn fat and build muscle including (1) you get strength benefits, (2) you get cardio benefits, (3) it takes much less time than a normal strength workout, (4) you burn more calories for the amount of work you do because it’s higher intensity, and (5) you are not sore all the time, (6) you develop a more balanced, athletic body. 2 3 4 5
What’s the difference between strength circuits and circuit training?
Circuit training is defined in Wikipedia as “a form of body conditioning or resistance training using high-intensity aerobics.”6 The last word “aerobics” is the crux of the difference. Circuit training was first conceived by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson in 1953 at the University of Leeds in England whereby circuits of 8 to 10 exercises typically on machines were completed at 40-60% one rep max (around 15-25 reps).
Circuit training has since morphed into an aerobic workout with little strength training benefit. Picking up 10lb dumbbells and throwing them around for an hour while going from one exercise to the next can be considered circuit training. With strength circuits, we are choosing strength training exercises that are completed near maximal effort (65%-75% of one rep max), as opposed to very sub-maximal effort (30% of one rep max) typical of circuit training classes. Strength circuits can be considered a more focused, strength-based form of circuit training.
- Typically between 65-75% of one rep max, or 10-15 reps. ↩
- Kraviz, Len (1996-00-00). “New Insights into Circuit Training“. University of New Mexico. Retrieved 2006-11-16. ↩
- Kravitz, L. (1996). “The fitness professional’s complete guide to circuits and intervals“. IDEA Today, 14(1), 32–43. ↩
- Heinrich KM, Spencer V, Fehl N, Poston WS. Mission essential fitness: comparison of functional circuit training to traditional Army physical training for active duty military. Mil Med. 2012;177(10):1125-30. ↩
- Giné-garriga M, Guerra M, Pagès E, Manini TM, Jiménez R, Unnithan VB. The effect of functional circuit training on physical frailty in frail older adults: a randomized controlled trial. J Aging Phys Act. 2010;18(4):401-24. ↩
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Circuit training. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circuit_training. Accessed April 15, 2013 ↩