Circuit Training and Exercise Drills - Designing a Circuit

The designer of a circuit must consider many factors. The six steps below cover the most important aspects of circuit development.

Determine Objectives
The designer must consider the specific parts of the body and the components of fitness on which soldiers need to concentrate. For example, increasing muscular strength may be the primary objective, while muscular endurance work may be secondary. On the other hand, improving cardiorespiratory endurance may be the top priority. The designer must first identify the training objective in order to choose the appropriate exercises.

Select the Activities
The circuit designer should list all the exercises or activities that can help meet the objectives. Then he should look at each item on the list and ask the following questions:
• Will equipment be needed? Is it available?
• Will supervision be needed? Is it available?
• Are there safety factors to consider?
Answering these questions helps the designer decide which exercises to use. He can choose from the exercises, calisthenics, conditioning drills, grass drills, and guerrilla drills described in this chapter. However, he should not limit the circuit to only these activities. Imagination and field expediency are important elements in developing circuits that hold the interest of soldiers.

Arrange the Stations
A circuit usually has 8 to 12 stations, but it may have as many as 20. After deciding how many stations to include, the designer must decide how to arrange them. For example, in a circuit for strength training, the same muscle group should not be exercised at consecutive stations.
One approach is to alternate “pushing” exercises with “pulling” exercises which involve movement at the same joint(s). For example, in a strength training circuit, exercisers may follow the pushing motion of a bench press with the pulling motion of the seated row. This could be followed by the pushing motion of the overhead press which could be followed by the pulling motion of the lat pull-down. Another approach might be to alternate between upper and lower body exercises.
By not exercising the same muscle group twice in a row, each muscle has a chance to recover before it is used in another exercise. If some exercises are
harder than others, soldiers can alternate hard exercises with easier ones. The choice of exercises depends on the objectives of the circuit.

Select the Training Sites
Circuits may be conducted outdoors or indoors. If the designer wants to include running or jogging a certain distance between stations, he may do this in several ways. In the gymnasium, soldiers may run five laps or for 20 to 40 seconds between stations. Outdoors, they may run laps or run between spread-out stations if space is available. However, spreading the stations too far apart may cause problems with control and supervision.

Prepare a Sketch
The designer should draw a simple sketch that shows the location of each station in the training area. The sketch should include the activity and length of time at each station, the number of stations, and all other useful information.

Lay Out the Stations
The final step is to lay out the stations which should be numbered and clearly marked by signs or cards. In some cases, instructions for the stations are written on the signs. The necessary equipment is placed at each station.

Calisthenics can be used to exercise most of the major muscle groups of the body. They can help develop coordination, CR and muscular endurance, flexibility, and strength. Poorly-coordinated soldiers, however, will derive the greatest benefit from many of these exercises
Although calisthenics have some value when included in a CR circuit or when exercising to music, for the average soldier, calisthenics such as the bend and reach, squat bender, lunger, knee bender, and side-straddle hop can best be used in the warm-up and cool-down periods. Exercises such as the push-up, sit-up, parallel bar dip, and chin-up/pull-up, on the other hand, can effectively be used in the conditioning period to develop muscular endurance or muscular strength.
Please note that exercises such as the bend and reach, lunger, and leg spreader, which were once deleted from FM 21-20 because of their potential risk to the exerciser, have been modified and reintroduced in this edition. All modifications should be strictly adhered to.
Few exercises are inherently unsafe. Nonetheless, some people, because of predisposing conditions or injuries, may find certain exercises less safe than others. Leaders must consider each of their soldier’s physical limitations and use good judgment before letting a soldier perform these exercises. However, for the average soldier who is of sound body, following the directions written below will produce satisfactory results with a minimum risk of injury.
Finally, some of the calisthenics listed below may be done in cadence. These calisthenics are noted, and directions are provided below with respect to the actions and cadence. When doing exercises at a moderate cadence, use 80 counts per minute. With a slow cadence, use 50 counts per minute unless otherwise directed.