Circuit Training for Combat Athletes

Circuit training is a popular way to build workouts these days.

Circuits are one way to challenge an athlete’s conditioning and just like any other workout, we need to adjust our exercise variables to get the desired result. Unfortunately, it is often used incorrectly and there are no guidelines for building these types of workouts.

Exercise selection, intensity, rest and other factors need to be considered. If the wrong exercise variables are applied, it is very easy for the athlete to get injured.

For example, doing high rep snatches, sprints and handstand push ups combined in a circuit is a recipe for shoulder problems.

6 Rules for Building Circuit Style Workouts

Rule #1 – Exercise Selection

Choose exercises that can be done correctly.  This may seem like an obvious one, but many people perform exercises wrong, when fatigued.  Keep the exercises simple and do them well.  If you are performing more complex drills or exercises, put them at the beginning of the circuit, so they are done correctly.

You should also make sure all of the basic movement patterns are covered:  Squating, lunging, pushing, pulling, hinging, carrying and locomotion.

Rule #2 – Exercise Duration

Each exercise should performed for about 20-60 seconds.  Depending on the exercise and goal of the session, the time under tension needs to be adjusted.

Rule #3 – Rest Intervals

Depending on the goal of the session, varying amounts of rest can be placed between drills and circuits. 1-3 minutes rest between circuits is recommended and typically 5-20sec rest between movements allows time to transition without losing the benefit of the workout.

*If you are performing more than one circuit in a workout, allow 6-10 minutes between each circuit for recovery.

Rule #4 – Exercise Order

Randomly stringing together exercises and running yourself into the ground is crazy.  There are many ways to create good circuits, but here are some basic rules about exercise order:  Start with the most complex exercise (ie. rotational sandbag lunges) and finish with simple exercises, that are easy to perform under fatigue. (ie. crawls) You can also alternate difficult exercises with easy ones, so the physical demand throughout the circuit fluctuates to allow a little recovery.

Rule #5 – Volume

Circuits should last about 60-120 sec each and you should perform 2-4 sets of each circuit, 8-12 total sets per workout.

Rule #6 – Quality of quantity.

I would rather have an athlete go 100% for 2 minutes, than a half ass’d effort for 20.  Keep your circuits short, focused and intense, allow recovery, demand good form and keep your eye on the prize.

Sample Circuits

Bodyweight Series ( 30sec each)

1a. Fwd Crawl

1b. Sit thrus

1c. Bck Crawls

1d. Shadow Boxing

Foundations Circuit (30 sec each)

1a. Kettlebell Goblet Squats

1b. Chin Ups

1c. Lateral Step Lunges

1d. Reverse Crawls

Explosive Circuit (20sec each)

1a. Jump Squats

1b. Battling Rope Slams

1c. Lateral Shuffles

1d. Gorilla Runs

Fight Specific Circuit (20 sec each)

1a. Repeated Takedowns

1b. Mit combinations

1c. Sprawls

1d. Alternating kicks