Last week we had a great Facebook discussion on the wall of Daniel Martinez, Director of Strength and Conditioning for Entheos Athletics (a strength and conditioning company in San Antonio, TX that specializes in youth strength and conditioning and particularly the development of volleyball athletes), regarding some of the circuit training ideas used by great track and field coaches like Dan Pfaff.
The discussion was centered around the use of FUNdamental circuits as a way of developing certain qualities or competencies. I talked about some of this stuff in an article a year ago, Developing Requisite Competencies, and an article from 2011, Circuit Training Methods. Jeremy Frisch, owner of Achieve Performance in Clinton, MA, was a contributor to the discussion and I am constantly reminded of the article and ideas he shared in my blog back in 2011 on a similar topic.
From the discussion I thought I would share some examples of what I call Field Circuits.
The goal of our field circuits is two fold:
- To work on fundamentals and learning of basic tasks which can be taken advantage of in later training phases.
- To provide the athlete with some circulatory work in an athletic environment and with tasks that are (a) more similar to what they will be doing in their sport and (b) not as boring as sitting on a stationary bike or plodding away on a treadmill.
Because of the continuous nature of the circuit, the circulatory benefit serves the purpose of raising the athletes work capacity. For those that are unfit and needing to get in shape, these circuits can be performed frequently and will provide the necessary stress needed to improve fitness. For those that are already in shape these circuits can be used in active recovery purposes to get the athlete moving following intense competition, practice, or training.
- Medicine Ball (4-8lbs)
- Stop watch
- HR Monitor
- An open field
The intensity of the circuits is not high, meaning that you should not be frying yourself when performing the work. A lot of times people have the habit of turning exercises into huge lactate generating workouts. This becomes problematic for two reasons. First, this sort of work takes body longer to recover from so if the goal is to perform these workouts frequently (if you are trying to raise fitness) or perform active recovery (following an intense workout) you shouldn’t expect to go all out. Second, in order to have a circulatory effect we want to work continuously for a good period of time and going all out for 2-3min wont allow you to accomplish that goal. The circuits should be “extensive” by design. Finally, if you are trying to push yourself to the limit and perform a very anaerobically focused circuit you are not in a position to optimally allow learning to take place. Many of the exercises you will choose for these types of circuits will be focused on fundamental tasks, postural tasks, or the exercises will be aimed at limitations you may have. A fatigued state is not a good state for learning to take place.
Sets, Reps, & Rest Intervals
We typically do anywhere from 3-6 sets of the circuit, depending on what else have to do that day or the length of the circuit and the reps can vary depending on the exercise or task. Some exercises are performed for repetitions while others may be performed for distance (IE, 10 yards, 20 yards, 100 yards, etc) – it really depends on the exercise, as you will see in the example below.
Rest intervals can be applied between exercises and at the end of the circuit. Between exercises the athletes are allowed to take anywhere from 0-10sec. This amount of time allows for transitioning from one activity to the next or for the athlete to get a quick sip of water before the next exercise. Remember, the intensity is low during these circuits so there shouldn’t be a need for very long rest intervals. If the athlete is in need of longer rest intervals due to excessive fatigue then you need to evaluate the intensity the exercises are being performed at or prescribe less reps or shorter distance for the given exercise because the athlete may not be fit enough to handle it. Additionally, you can use the HR monitor to evaluate how well the athlete is tolerating the circuit. Generally, we try and keep the athletes below 75% max HR during these circuits and if they begin to exceed this early in the circuit then we provide some rest between the exercises and re-evaluate the exercises we have chosen, the sequencing of those exercises, and the amount (reps or distance) that has been prescribed to the exercises.
Rest between the sets of the circuit can be longer and can range anywhere from 2-4min depending on the fitness of the athlete or how you are progressing the circuit over subsequent weeks. The HR monitor can come in handy here as you can alternatively program rest intervals based on HR recovery (Ex., recover down to 120bpm and then perform your next circuit). The HR achieved during the circuit, time interval of HR recovery and the length of time it takes to perform the circuit (this is where the stopwatch is used) can come in handy in helping you understand how the athlete is adapting and if they are getting more fit. Faster times through the circuit with lower HRs being achieved during the circuit and quicker HR recovery are all good signs.
Below is an example of what a Field Circuit may look like:
- Straight Leg Lowering x5ea
- Plank x20sec
- 100yrd easy stride out x22-25sec
- 10 push ups
- 30yrds forward skip
- 30yrds backward skip
- MB chest pass, jog after it, pick it up, and repeat x3 throws
- Straight Leg Lowering x5ea
- Bear Crawl Forward x5yrds
- Bear Crawl Backward x5yrds
- Ankle Rocks x10ea
- Squat + MB Overhead Press x10
- 200yrd easy stride out x40-45sec
- Walking Lunge x8ea leg
- Side Plank x15sec ea
- 1-leg RDL w/MB Anterior Reach x4ea leg
- Pogo Hops x15yrds
- Lateral crawling x5yrds left/5yrds right
- Lateral skipping x5yrds leg/15yrds right
- MB Scoop Throw, jog after it, pick it up and repeat x3 scoop throws from both sides
- Push up x10
Rest = 2-4min between sets
Sets = 3-5