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Powering Up with Circuit Routines

Choose the right Weight Usually, power circuits are performed between 75°/o and 85% of your one-rep max. A higher intensity than that places a greater demand on the nervous system, requiring more re...

Choose the right Weight

Usually, power circuits are performed between 75°/o and 85% of your one-rep max. A higher intensity than that places a greater demand on the nervous system, requiring more rest between sets and making the workout difficult to perform circuit-style. In comparison, typical endurance-type circuits are done with less than 50% of your one-rep max and would likely rely much more on machines with no free-weight moves built in.

Don't turn up the Volume too Much

Volume is the total amount of work done within an exercise session, calculated by adding the total number of repetitions for each exercise. For instance, six sets of five reps would be a volume of 30. For strength gains, the total volume of training for each exercise is normally 15 to 40 reps. If you did three sets of 10 reps on the leg curl, for instance, you'd have a volume of 30. Increasing the volume in a session does not mean more strength gain. The stimulus to increase strength is like the button on a lift: push it and it will come; pushing the button more doesn't make the lift come any faster. More volume in a training session will only increase the time it takes the muscles to recover.

Explode Up and Go Slow on the return for each Rep

Movement speed is critical to power development, particularly during the centric or positive part of the movement. While slow movements have their place in a training program, the attempt to be as explosive as possible during the concentric phase is key in this routine. This doesn't necessarily mean that the weight, particularly a heavy one, will move fast, but you should try to move it as fast as possible. In fact, researchers have shown that the attempt to move weights explosively, even when the actual movement speed is slow (due to the heavy weight), can improve power significantly. Meanwhile, the eccentric part of every rep should be completed in a slow and controlled fashion to eliminate momentum.

Think Time, Not Reps

For a strength circuit to be effective, you need to control fatigue. Either a depletion of ATP-CP, the immediate source of energy in the muscles, or an accumulation of lactic acid will cause fatigue during power-training circuits. If the fatigue is caused by depleting ATP-CP, that's fine, because this energy system can recover very quickly - 2 to 4 minutes for almost complete recovery, which is why we include a two-minute break between each full circuit. Yet the recovery time from high levels of lactic acid can be as long as two hours. High lactic acid levels make it difficult to work at the appropriate intensity, decreasing the effectiveness of the workout. To keep lactic acid build-up to a minimum, keep your time at each station in the circuit to 15 seconds (or less if you hit 30 reps total for that move).

Alternate the Upper and Lower Body Moves

The order of exercises in the circuit will also affect your fatigue levels. Alternate upper and lower-body exercises, as well as push and pull, to reduce fatigue as much as possible. For instance, if your circuit starts with a pulling exercise like pulldowns, then moves to a lower-body exercise like the leg press, your next upper-body exercise should be a pushing exercise like the bench pressArticle Search, while the next lower-body exercise could be a leg curl.

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