Thursday, March 31, 2011

Strength Training vs Circuit Training vs Strength Circuits vs Barbell Complex vs Tabata vs. Death Circuits

Phew. Thats a helluva title, huh?

So, my post from the other day "Are you getting stronger?" got me thinking about the way people work out. Clearly, there is a large gap in information between the well-educated strength coaches and advanced lifters and the average "trainer" and Joe Gym-Goer. A lot of what people do in the gym is based off of what they think they know; which bugs me more than legit ignorance. Man up, just come ask me a question if you don't know something.

Anyway, one thing many people "know" is circuit training. Circuit training is a great form of exercise that I use quite often with clients for whom I am looking to achieve a metabolic effect. It can also be a great way to gain strength in a compressed period of time; if you only have 30 minutes to train, then a strength circuit might be the way to go for you. No, it may not help improve your maximal strength, but you won't get weaker doing it.

NOTE: the above picture is NOT what I mean when I refer to circuit training. Had I wanted to refer to the pictured type of training, I would have punched myself directly in the junk. 

Lets break down the different types of "circuit" training and how they work.

Strength Training: Heavy weights. Low reps. High chance of the blonde on the treadmill jumping off to make out with you.
Example: A) Deadlift 5x5
                B1) Reverse Lunge 3x8/leg
                B2) T-spine extensions
                C1) Single Leg Slideboard Hamstring Curls 3x8/leg
                C2) Bodysaw 4x10
                D) Yell "LIGHTWEIGHT BABYYYYY" like Ronnie Coleman

Circuit Training: The umbrella term to cover all the bases. This simply means that you are performing several different exercises in a row with minimal/no rest between exercises and a longer rest between sets. In general, the focus of this type of exercise is more metabolic than strength-oriented. Nick Tumminello has developed some really good circuits, especially for his fitness competitor girlfriend.
Example: Burpees x8
                Mountain Climbers x 20
                Walking Lunges x 10/leg
                Alligator Walk x 15 yards
                Jumping Jacks x 20
                Sprint x 20 yards
                **performed 5 times with 2 minute rests in between

Example 2: DB Reverse Lunge x 8/leg
                   DB Push Press x8
                   DB Bent Over Row x 10
                   DB Cross Waiters Walk x 15 yards
                   Pushups x 10
                  **Performed 5 times with 2 minutes rests in between. 

Strength Circuits: A little bit of this, a little bit of that. A good way to get in a high volume of strength work, while achieving a good metabolic effect. If you think weight training isn't "cardio" then try out one of these circuits.
Example: Deadlift x 6
                Chinups x 8
                Pushups x 10
                Facepull x 10
                **Use a challenging weight, but only about 80% of the weight you would normally use.
                ***Try to not vomit in your mouth.

Barbell Complex: Popularized in multiple T-Nation articles, the barbell complex has become a highly utilized style of metabolic training. One of the reasons they have become so popular, is because it allows you to get some movement training in for your compound exercises. They are done by choosing several barbell exercises and performing them in succession for Xreps without ever putting the barbell down. You rest, try not to die, and then repeat. They are performed with an extremely light weight (an empty bar will crush you) and at the highest velocity possible. The amount of weight can be adjust by using a bodybar, or even dumbbells depending on the level of your client. 
Example: Cleans x 8
                Front Squat x 8
                Push Press x 8
                Back Squat x 8
                Bent Over Row x 8
                Deadlift x 8
                Good Morning x 8
                *Performed 6 times. 3 minute rest between each set.
                **Don't be a hero. Use an empty barbell. Work on velocity.
                ***Write out your workout and tape it to the mirror in front of you, no excuses.
                ****Don't use bicep curls and calf raises for your exercises.

Tabata: Masochism to the max. Developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata, these are one of the worst things I have ever done. To do these, you're gonna need to choose a big exercise that you can do fast. Real fast. Lunges will not work, because they take too long to do. Pushups will not work because you fatigue too quickly. Unfortunately, the best exercise for a Tabata is the squat; if there is gonna be external resistance, a front squat or goblet squat. It is 4 minutes of work; not too bad, right? You will perform a 2:1 work rest ratio (20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest), for a total of 8 circuits. Give it a shot at the end of your workout some day. Shit, just use bodyweight squats, see what happens. (p.s. I have had success doing these with KB swings with clients). 

Death Circuits: Not so much a style of training, as a form of torture. They can be used to help build team camaraderie,  challenge athletes to get competitive and beat each others times, or haze your new interns (I'm looking at you, Cressey Performance). Most people wouldn't do these on a consistent basis, but maybe in a team training setting; a way to finish off the week if you will. There isn't much rhyme or reason to the exercises chosen, as long as they all make the athlete hate life. 
Example: Trap Bar Deadlift x 8
                Prowler Push x 20 yards
                Farmers Walk x 20 yards
                Overhead Keg Lunges x 20 yards
                Sledgehammer Tire Hits x 10/side
                Reverse Prowler Drag x 20 yards
                Vomit on your Free's x 30 seconds

Jamie Eason thanks you for making it through that whole post!

Go give one of these circuits a shot...and make it heavy!

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