Functional Circuit Training

May 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Circuit Training

A lot of our philosophy is movement based. Meaning we want to clean up movement problems and make sure that people are healthy and injury free (especially athletes). While I don’t really know what “functional training” is-mostly because it has been misinterpreted, extrapolated, and tweaked until it comes out completely different-the idea of movement based circuits is a progression in our system.

Basic cardio and intervals have their place, and I’ve talked at length about interval training in a number of posts. But what functional circuits get at is adding volume in the form of multi-planar movement while still getting the cardiovascular effects.

That being said, I tend to err on the side of too little volume rather than too much with regards to training. Based on Hans Selye’s epic work The Stress of Life, you can see that too much volume (a la overtraining) results in NO IMPROVEMENT (or no adaptation) where as under training just SLOWS PROGRESS.

Exercise isn’t a dose response effect like drugs.

If you take a sleeping pill and you need 10mg to get the effect, nothing will happen if you take 5mg. In exercise, you will still make some slowed progress even if it is “shy” of optimal.

On the flip side, if you take 20mg of said sleeping drug you will pass out before you swallow. In exercise, you will quit making progress because you’ve presented too much of a challenge for the body to adequately recover. While it’s true the body can handle a substantial amount of stress (I have faith in human resolve), there are other stressors in life-work, kids, money, wife/husband, etc-that essentially “fill up” your stress cup.

Everybody has a limited cup size, and everything mentioned as stressors are faucets pouring into that cup. Adding too much inappropriate workout stress to the equation is going to destroy the ability of your recovery.

While I’ve completely gone off on a tangent, let’s focus on the principle of functional circuits. Since they are movement based we are going to be using bodyweight and light/moderately heavy equipment for them. This allows us to add volume without adding nearly as much stress as a typical resistance training workout. But don’t confuse less stress as easy, because the ultimate goal here is to tax the cardiovascular system by using the entire muscular system in a variety of movements done back-to-back with little to no rest.

Although stress is seemingly intangible, it is absolutely something that can be felt and experienced. Everything tightens up, recovery is sub-par and strength will decline. The functional circuits are an attempt at a more metabolic component than inducing heavy muscle tension. The approach too is density training-an important component for body composition training.

Ryan Patrick is a fitness and sport training coach who owns Patrick Performance Training in Fort Collins, CO. He is a black sheep of a true ‘lifter’ displaced in a city that is an endurance mecca. Because of this, his recently developed callous sarcasm is contagious by all his clients and he is constantly subject to his own medicine. In reality, he takes his clients success seriously and has created a culture of quality program design, camaraderie, and intense training. For more information visit his website at or sign up for a free fat loss report at

Mimi, Nico, & Rico doing circuit training on 6July09. Circuit consisted of 3 rounds of (each 1 minute long, w/ 30 second rest): -dumbell shoulder press (on ply-ball) -box jumps -kettlebell swings -C2 rower -pull ups, continuous (jumping pull ups, if needed) -russian twists w/ 45 lbs bar (over head)

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