CIRCUIT h2O: The Secret to Circuit Sanity

Tuesday, July 02 2019

(Above preview is for Circuit h2O, posted 6/23/15)


Teaching a circuit class is not for the fainthearted.  I can barely control ONE group; the thought of orchestrating several groups at once has always horrified me.  Circuit h20 is the culmination of my circuit phobia and the steps I have taken to overcome it.


For the past few years I have been working as a consultant with Aqua Sphere, a company dedicated to swimwear and aquatic training.  Three years ago they asked me to develop a workshop that showcased four pieces of their equipment.  To do so, I created a circuit program with four stations – one for each piece of equipment.  That meant I had to teach four groups and four different exercises at the same time. What was I thinking?  Let me think of some words to describe this experience:  disastrous, grueling, chaotic, exhausting, red-faced, sore throat, manic.  Starting to get the picture?


Lesson learned!  Yes, some instructors are really good at creating signs, organizing flow and self-directing their students in circuit classes.  Apparently I missed out on this talent.  The following year I revised this workshop to feature just two stations.  Much better – but I was still doing twice the amount of demonstrating and talking.  Enter revision #3 – Circuit h2O.


Circuit h20 features three equipment stations – handheld buoyancy, drag resistance and noodles.  In this circuit format there are only two groups. At the first equipment station, half the class does 5 exercises with the equipment.  Each exercise is performed at high intensity for 40 seconds followed by 20 seconds of recovery. The other half of the class does the SAME exercises at the SAME time without equipment. 


After the 5 exercises are completed there is a switcheroo and the non-equipment people now get the equipment and vice versa.  The SAME 5 exercises are then repeated.  Once this is completed, the class moves on to the next equipment station and the process is repeated.  And finally they move to the third and last equipment station.  This translates into a 45- minute class (with warm-up, cool down and switch breaks), with six sets of 5 exercises – three with equipment and three without.


Why do a circuit class like this?  Three reasons. 

1.  Muscles are targeted differently with and without equipment.  This provides a greater variety of exercise outcomes.

2.  If only half the class is using equipment at once, you only need half as much equipment.  This can leave more money in your equipment budget to purchase a wider variety of equipment.

3.  Having students perform 5 exercises with equipment and then perform the SAME 5 exercises without equipment reinforces the fact that you really can hard without equipment.


If you read my blog, Equipment Addiction, you will recall my ‘issues’ with equipment when I moved to Florida.   If you did not read it, below is an excerpt.


When I moved to Florida, I started teaching at a facility where equipment was used in all classes – all the time.  _ _

Rule of thumb:  Whatever the students have always done is what they think is right and what they think they should always do.  _ _

Woe unto the heretic who tells them otherwise.  And thus the weekly battles of “Mark the Heretic” versus the Dumbbell Rebels.  Week after week, I started my classes with the same message.  “Attention everyone…

Read full article – Equipment Addiction


Because of my own experiences, Circuit h2O was designed to be a user-friendly experience for the instructor.  There are no manic episodes of demonstrating multiple exercises at the same time.  The same exercise is taught at all times with different cues given to the equipment and non-equipment groups. 


The template is simple.  In Circuit h2O, I use foam hand bars, noodles and gloves but any equipment on hand will do.  The only thing that is essential is picking exercises that can be performed with and without equipment.  If you are a deck instructor, this means getting in the pool to practice and make sure the exercise can be performed with and without equipment.


The full video and the notes for Circuit h2O are posted on the Fitmotivation website – along with LOTS of other full videos and notes.  And don’t be nervous about signing up to watch the videos.  It’s cheap!  $14.95 or $24.95 for a full month of viewing ALL videos.  You aren’t going to get trapped in anything.  You can cancel anytime by hitting the big red cancel button in your settings.

 I promise!

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.