Circuit Training is one of the best ways to get all of your students actively engaged at their own pace and ability, which in the world of differentiating, this is a jackpot winner! I teach high school students, and we do several styles of PE fitness circuits throughout the year based on what fitness areas we need to improve and also space and time. The circuits that we use can easily be adapted to any level of students, but please keep one thing in mind, doing circuit training all year or even for extended periods of time will not work for all students! You need to add variety and frequency to your circuits. Imagine if your only form of exercise was intense circuit training, you would lose interest too!
We do three, for lack of a better word, “types” of circuits in program; whole group, small group, and while you wait (this is one of my favorites because it keeps all kids active at all times!). For each “type” of circuit we do, we try to incorporate a lot of variety and also try to hit as many muscle groups as possible. We have extremely wide ranges of ability levels in our classes, so we feel circuit training is a great way to reach all of our students.
Full Class Fitness Circuits
Our whole group circuits take place either in our main gymnasium, or outside if the weather permits, with our entire class. These circuits will also include cardio, which is something that really ramps the circuits up. One of our favorites to do is called the Rep & Run 300. I am going to give a shout out to Maria Corte for introducing this circuit to me at a conference! In this circuit we set up 15 stations, with exercises ranging from push-ups to military presses with weight plates. And if you are lacking the equipment do not panic, use your imagination and student body weight to accomplish very similar results in your circuit. I won’t lie there are times we do no equipment circuits, because setting up 15 stations and taking them down every day or even within the day can be a pain!
The goal of the Rep and Run 300 is for students to start at one of the 15 stations and complete 20 repetitions as quickly as possible utilizing proper form which would give them 300 repetitions in the end. After they finish at a station, the students will leave the center of the gym and jog 3 laps around the perimeter of the gym floor, I encourage you to measure this so your students know how far they are jogging. When they are done with their jog, they re-enter the circuit and move to the next station. This is a very challenging circuit, but the beauty is that the students work at their pace and ability.
Another circuit you could use for a large group would be a Partner Circuit. The video describes what a partner circuit could look like in my gymnasium. Again, this a great circuit to use to get every student in class actively participating on their level.
Small Group Circuits
For small group circuits, we utilize a variety of equipment and try to make it so students can safely and effectively get through in a small space. We do our small group circuits in our auxiliary gymnasium which is less than half the size of our main gymnasium. When we do small group circuits we have students divided in half with half the group doing their cardio workout on spin bikes in the same space and the other half doing the strength circuit. For our cardio, we have our students do up-down workouts.
Up-down workouts are when students pedal at a required gear at a specific RPM while seated and then when they go up they increase the gear and pedal as hard and fast as they can until they come back down. The intervals for these workouts range from 1 minute down-15 seconds up to 3 minutes down-45 seconds up. Students start with 3 minutes of down to warm their legs up and finish with 3 minutes down to cool down. Check out great spin and exercise bike options!
One of the circuits we do in small group is a mini version of the whole groups circuit. We like to start with this one before do whole group because it allows us to demonstrate proper technique, plus easily correct students because the group is smaller. We also love to use fitness bands in small group circuits because of the small space and the versatility bands provide. The video below will show you the fitness band circuit that we do in class. Remember that there are a lot more exercises you can have students do with fitness bands, so mix it up!
Fitness Band Circuit Example:
Every station will be 20 reps and each exercise should be done slowly and controlled.
- Bent Over Row
- Bicep Curl
- Tricep Extension
- Seated Row
- Shoulder Press
- Forward Raise
- Lateral Raise
- Seated Leg Press
While You Wait Circuit
I love While You Wait Circuits! They keep ALL of our students active at ALL times. We play a variety of games in our classes. So, instead of the sitting and waiting to play, we created the While You Wait Circuits! These circuits can be just about anything you want to have students do in the small space you have while they wait. We typically pick 5 exercises that require no equipment have the students do 10 to 30 reps per exercise. The rule for this is that your team can’t get back into play until every member has completed the circuit at least 1 time and those that have completed it keep going. Below is one example of a While You Wait Circuit and a short video demonstration.
While You Wait Circuit Example:
- 1- Squats – 15 reps
- 2- Ab of your choice – 25 reps
- 3- High Knees – 30 steps
- 4- Push-Ups – 20 reps
- 5- Rocket Jumps – 20 reps
These are just a small sampling of circuits, and I encourage you to be creative and create your own. Keep in my mind your student’s abilities, the space you are working with, and the equipment you have at your disposal. Add more fun to the circuits by adding music! Another fun way to get students more engaged is to invite and encourage other faculty members to join your classes during their planning periods. As a reminder, you do not need a lot of equipment to create successful circuits. Use what you have and what you have around. Benches and stairs are everywhere and can be used for dips, push-ups, and agility exercises. The sky is the limit,so use your imagination and have fun!
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