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Developing Functional Circuits

It isn’t a secret, in fact, I would venture to say that MOST in today’s fitness landscape use this method. Of course it makes sense for most, especially that are using more and more models to work with a greater number of people at a time. Even those in still one on one settings are finding this to be a more efficient way of programming.

Yes, it is the age old idea of circuit training. I am not going to get into the history of circuit training other than to say it has been around for awhile and has long proven to be an effective means for addressing many fitness goals at once. It is also helpful considering that one of the biggest challenges that faces the coach of the today is the amount of time they have contact with their clients.

If we already know that circuits are great, what more could we have to say about them? One idea that is rarely discussed is how we can program them more effectively. How we can cycle movement patterns and fitness qualities to stimulate multiple training effects at once.

Let’s go over a few examples of how you can accomplish a lofty goal that many would say it too challenging. Below is a circuit where we show how we use these concepts to make smarter and more efficient functional fitness programs.

Movement Pattern/Exercise



Rest Intervals

Fitness Qualities

Lunge/USB Shoulder Up Down


5-7 per side

30 seconds

Lunge-Stability-Anti-Rotation/Lateral Flexion/Glute strengthening in multiple planes.

Vertical Push/KB Push Press



30 seconds

Explosive push/anti-extension-flexion/shoulder stability

Hip Hinge/Rear Slide Deadlift


6-8 per side

30 seconds

Glute multi-planar training/anti-rotation/ stability of lower leg and foot

Horizontal Pull/Band Split Row


10-12 per side

30 seconds

Upper body balance/Anti-rotation/hip and core connection

Resisted Flexion/Hollow Body


30-60 seconds

30 seconds

Total body tension


What may look like a rather simple training program, when we give greater purpose to our functional training exercises we see how much can be accomplished. Of course, the BEST part is the fact that any of these movements can be easily regressed or progressed without having to change too much load or implement.

For example, Shoulder Up Downs can be replaced by Front Loaded, Press Out, or even Split Squat versions as a regression to the movement. It can be made MORE challenging by placing the load overhead in a variety of ways. The Push Press can become a strict press (volume would probably have to change), or even an alternating Push Press where the client gets the to build greater core strength and power, but also focus on one arm at a time.

The future of functional training isn’t necessarily in more complex equipment or drills. More than likely it is in increasing our ability to identify the RIGHT exercise for our client while making them feel still successful and part of any type of group we place them in. Becoming a professional where we can say, “this exercise is RIGHT for you!” increases the confidence and value that our clients see in our coaching.

Josh Henkin, CSCS, is the creator of the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training System. His innovative program has been taught in over 13 countries worldwide as well as top industry conferences and mainstream magazines. Check out more about DVRT HERE.