Circuits When Pressed for Time

A lot of times when it comes to training I find myself not having a heck of a lot of time to get things done, which I would assume is something that most people can probably relate to. In times like this, we have a couple options; one, call it a day and move on, or two, make the best of things and do something productive.

I’d recommend option two.

Enter a circuit. These circuits keep you moving at a decent pace and also allow you to get a decent amount of work done in a very short time frame. You get all aspects of a quality and well rounded training program, from activation through strength training and even some aerobic conditioning due to the continuous movement.

Here’s what a typical circuit day would look like;

General Warm Up
• Diaphragmatic Breathing x2 minutes
• Total Body Foam Roll
• Total Body Stretch

Activation Circuit
• Cook Hip Lift w/ breathe x5 each
• Floor Slides w/ breathe x10
• Leg Lowers w/ breathe x5 each
• Dead Bug w/ breathe x5 each
• Supine Band Hip Flexor 2×10 second hold each
• Mini Band Overhead Squat x10
• Lateral Band Walks x10 each way
• Band Pull Apart x15

Mobility Circuit
• V-Stance T-Spine Rotation x10 each
• Wall Ankle Mobs x10 each
• Split Squat x5 each
• Lateral Squat x5 each
• Rotational Squat x5 each
• Reaching 1-Leg RDL x8 each

• Front Plank x30 seconds
• Side Plank x20 seconds each
• Body Saw x8
• Tall Kneeling Anti-Rotation Press x8 each

Bodyweight Strength Circuit (3 sets of each exercise)
• Push Up x20
• 1-Leg Squat x5 each
• Chin Up x10
• 1-Leg Shoulder Elevated Hip Bridge x15 each leg

• :10:20×8 Air Assault (2 sets, 4 minutes of rest between sets)

Simple and effective. A full program, from top to bottom, that will take you all of 30-45 minutes. This allows you to get something done even when you are in a crunch for time. Doing something like this on a daily basis won’t get you looking like The Rock or put you on the cover of Men’s Health anytime soon, but sometimes our busy lives require us to get in and out of the weight room quickly. Punch the clock and move on.

Pressing Alternatives

Pressing movements like an overhead press, incline bench or many other pressing movements can be both difficult and painful at times, especially for overhead athletes like volleyball, swimming, and baseball players.

More specifically, pressing movements tend to be more painful for overhead athletes when they are lying supine (on their backs) with their scapulae motion restricted by a bench and/or the floor.

Exercises like push ups, KB Bottoms Up Presses and the Landmine press allows for an overhead athlete to perform pressing movements while also allowing the scapulae to move freely and typically pain free, not being restricted by a bench or the floor and allowing the scapula to be free.

Push Ups
The push up may be my favorite upper body pressing exercise, and is hands down the most underrated exercise in the world of strength and conditioning, especially in female populations. It’s actually amazing how many people, both males and females, can’t perform a proper set of five or more push up. It’s a great upper body strength movement with the added benefit of both core and shoulder strength/stability and that you don’t get in most all other pressing exercises like benching.

Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press
It allows the shoulder to find the path of least resistance. Not all shoulders work the same, especially overhead athletes.

It helps to facilitate more rotator cuff activation. The rotator cuff is a reflex driven group of muscles built for stability, not strength. KB bottoms up press demands stability. If the rotator cuff isn’t stabilizing, the KB will fall over.

It also teaches the core and the shoulder to work together as a unit. If you lose core stability, you’ll again probably lose the kettlebell.

Overhead athletes tend to have cranky shoulders with pain in certain positions. Simply flipping the KB over turns a typically painful movement into a non-painful movement. Training through pain is a terrible idea. On the other hand, not training through pain is always a good thing.

Landmine Press
The landmine press, which has been made popular by Eric Cressey, is slowly becoming one of my favorite pressing exercises for all athletes. The landmine press frees the scapula, is great for building upward rotation of the scapula, requires some core stability, and helps with improving thoracic mobility – that’s a lot of bang for your buck.

If you have shoulder pain, work with overhead athletes, are tired of bench pressing, or just want to add some variety to your pressing, give some of these movements a try!

Quick Shoulder PreHab Circuit

Depending on who you listen to, you may or may not feel that direct rotator cuff work is important in order to keep the shoulders of overhead athletes healthy. Coaches like Eric Cressey and Michael Boyle still include direct rotator cuff in their programs with various external rotation exercises.

One the other hand, coaches/physical therapists like Gray Cook would tell you the rotator cuff is a reflex driven muscle group that is built for stability, and therefore strengthening isn’t necessary. They would argue that Turkish Get Ups, various crawling variations, and loaded carries (suitcase, farmers) is ideal for rotator cuff health.

Three extremely well educated, highly thought of coaches and physical therapists with somewhat differing opinions.

I personally tend to agree with Gray Cook in the thought process that direct rotator cuff is unnecessary – strengthening a muscle that is built on time and stabilization just doesn’t make sense to me. As a result we do a ton of carries, a ton of get ups and a ton of crawling variations.

But we also perform a band circuit and do some external rotation exercises just to cover all our bases. My thought process: the direct cuff work takes 2-3 minutes – you are better off safe then sorry and 2-3 minutes is not taking up much time at all. The following video is our typical shoulder band circuit with some direct external rotation.

Random Thoughts: August Edition

Happy August! As usual, here are 10 random thoughts that been going through my mind in the last month or so. Hope something on this list makes you think.


1. As a strength coach or personal trainer you are dealing with other peoples health. Don’t forget that.

2. Athletes don’t buy into coaching, they buy into coaches. – Kevin Carr

3. As simple as it sounds, understanding exercise selection along with proper technique can lead to some really great things.

4. A new common theme in our field is everyone trying/wanting to sound really smart. The reality is doing simple things is usually much more effective. Simple usually wins.

5. Everyone is open-minded until they find out everything they know is wrong. Then they aren’t very open-minded anymore. – Charlie Weingroff

6. People and/or teams don’t win by accident – principles of success have common themes. Study the greats and figure out what it is that makes them great.

7. This gets said a lot, but not all athletes are the same. It can be more difficult in the team setting, but coaches need to individualize things as much as possible.

8. Are you chasing numbers or chasing health? Getting better or cooking the books for the head coach? – Patrick Ward

9. Simple fixes to get people/athletes into neutral according to PRI: left leg down, right leg up on half kneeling exercises.

10. Don’t let ego cloud decisions.

Training on the Road

Landed in Seattle last week after a 6 hour flight/10+ hours of traveling and had to get something in, had to just move a little bit. Not the greatest set up here at the hotel gym (50lb. DB was the limit) but while on the road you need to make it work with what you have. Here’s what I did… 20 minutes, as many rounds as possible.

DB Snatch x3
1DB 1-Leg RDL x8 each
Alternating DB Bench Press x8 each
Goblet Split Squat x8 each
DB Row x8 each
Treadmill Tempo Runs x10

No excuses, make your own health a priority.