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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Short Circuit Heart Disease

By: Chris Volgraf, CSCS

If you are new to exercise, or even a seasoned pro – you may look to a new circuit training regimen as a way to incorporate strength building and cardiovascular exercise AND finish your workout in just 10-30 min.

Circuit training is a form of resistance training with an added heart health benefit. Usually, a routine of 8-10 exercises are used to target all the major muscle groups. A resistance exercise is performed (typically 10-20 reps or 30 seconds performing one exercise) followed quickly by another exercise targeting a different muscle group. Because the exerciser switches between muscle groups, no rest is needed between exercises. This allows the heart rate to stay elevated.

This usually doesn't happen during traditional resistance exercise because of longer rest/recovery periods. Because the heart rate stays elevated for a longer period of time, more calories are burned during the cycle of exercise. Sometimes, to increase the cardiovascular component, 30 seconds of aerobic exercises like jogging, cycling, elliptical training, jumping rope or rowing are mixed between the resistance exercises.


Over the years moderate intensity circuit training has become a “heavily” prescribed tool against the risk factors for heart disease.  The benefits of circuit training include:

  • Increased lean muscle mass and loss of fat
  • Increased insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance
  • Improved lipid and cholesterol levels
  • Small improvements in blood pressure
  • As well as increased endurance (to a somewhat lesser extent than with traditional aerobic exercise), increased bone density and increased metabolic rate

Circuit training is also used as a common weight loss tool. As you lose weight, your risk of heart disease also decreases. Studies show that weight loss of as little as 6.5 percent in individuals with metabolic syndrome results in substantial reductions in blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides and total cholesterol. Here are some tips when starting a circuit training program:

  • Lift weights in a rhythmic manner at moderate to slow controlled speed.
  • Lift through a full range of motion.
  • Do not hold your breath and strain. Instead, exhale during the contraction (exertion) phase of the lift and inhale during the relaxation phase.
  • Alternate between upper-body and lower-body lifts.
  • Start with a single set/circuit, two days a week. Progress to 2-3 sets/circuits
  • Important exercises to include: chest press, shoulder press, triceps extension, biceps curl, pull-down, lower-back extension, abdominal crunch/curl-up, leg press, leg curl, and calf raise.

As always, consult your physician and a fitness professional before starting any exercise program.

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