The Death of Circuit Training

On Saturday morning at my local YMCA, I watched two guys do “vomit inducing conditioning workouts”.  I call them “vomit-inducing” because I wanted to vomit from watching their form.

One guy was doing explosive reverse curls (meant to be hang cleans) while another did flippity flop DB snatches followed by one of the worst planks I’ve ever witnessed.

Injure your rotator cuffs and lower back much, boys?

And this is why we are going to see the Death of Hard-core Circuit Training in the next few years. Between the injuries and the vomiting, these home-made hard-core trainers are making a mockery of serious, professional personal trainers.

I mean, listen, I’ve watched two 15-year old boys make each other puke at the gym, but would you want THEM to be your trainer?

Of course not.

You want results. That’s all that matters. You don’t want to – or need to – vomit when you exercise. And you don’t want to be injured all the time either. Or am I just that out of touch with what the cool kids are doing these days?

I don’t know…maybe it’s just the grizzled ol’ veteran trainer in me that gets frustrated with the way things are in the fitness industry.

After all, I’ve been through…

“The Endless Amount of Cardio Phase”

“The Situps and Crunches Phase”

“The Dangerous Standing on the Stability Ball Phase”

and now

“The Do Circuit Training Until Your Puke With No Regard to Form Phase”.

But this too shall pass.

Of course, it won’t disappear overnight, but you and I will still be here when these “hard-core” trainers shiftily disappear and fly-by-night after their clients come in with sore backs, cricks in their necks, and ruined rotators.

You see, they don’t understand that it’s not about destroying clients.

Just the opposite.

It’s about TRANSFORMING clients. About making them better people. Challenging them to change their bodies and their lives. And yes, working through physical challenges is a part of that, but not at the expense of their overall health and safety.

After all, there’s no point in being able to do a “killer workout” if it puts you on the disabled list for 6 weeks or makes you vomit up that $4 protein shake and $5 chicken breast. Sounds a little counter- productive to me.

Listen, there will always be room for tough workouts, for trainers to take their clients to their limits, but only when done safely and under the guidelines of proven scientific research and years of experience.

In fact, I spent an hour this weekend going through an article on Metabolic Finishers that Certified Turbulence Trainer Mike Whitfield submitted for a new TT program for our members.

Now THAT is how you should do advanced, intense workouts.

Thank goodness for trainers like Mike, and I’ll be sharing some of these workouts with 91,500 TT readers very soon.

But those home-made hard-core trainers and their circuit death workouts “finished at all costs” are not going to last.

And that’s a good thing.

That will leave more room for our Turbulence Training 1 Million Mission of helping 1 Million Men and Women transform their bodies and their lives.

More room for you and I to make a difference and leave a legacy that remains long after we’re working out in the old trainers home down in Florida 🙂

So I’m calling a peak in the market. The bubble is bursting. The stock of hard-core circuit training is going down, and will be replaced – starting today – with better solutions, by trainers who care about results, not locker room boasting of how many people vomited in their class today.

It’s time to change the way the fitness industry thinks about exercise. It’s time to move away from sacrificing form and function and shift back to what matters – helping you transform and redesign your body so that you get the results you want.

Not the results that some hard-core, sadistic, home-made trainer wants.

Circuit training is dead. Long live smart training.

To your safety and success,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Certified Turbulence Trainer

  • Great article Craig. I see the same thing in my gym on a regular basis.

    People are so worried about the next exercise in their circuit that they don’t complete their current exercise with proper focus. I am a firm believer in the power of your mindset.

    I always try to perform each repetition like it’s the most important one of my life. I don’t allow myself to get caught up in the “circuit craze” trying to have my heart pump through my chest.

    I admire your approach to training. People would have much more success following your “smart training” philosophy.

    • Thanks Daniel, greatly appreciated. Keep up the awesome work, Craig.

  • Mike Whitfield

    Well said Daniel! I couldn’t have said it better myself. And Craig, I had a blast putting that together. I truly appreciate your encouragement. I can’t wait to share this.

  • First off, I am a huge fan of Mike Whitfield! Cannot wait to see the work outs he created. And I hope he put some of his good humor in there as well.

    Secondly, thank you!

    This post could not have been found at a better time.

    Just this morning I was at my gym working out and biting my tongue as I watched a trainer take his client through a rigorous workout of kettlebells, TRX cables, well…you know the death circuit routine by now. Nothing wrong with these tools or the exercises aside from the fact that the client could not execute a single one of them.

    Trainers don’t impress me when they give clients exercises so difficult that they cannot even be done. That shows ignorance, lack of training in their profession, and severe negligence on the part of the gym that is stupid enough to hire them.

    Better yet, stand there with your arms across your chest and stare blankly as you wait for the hour to pass so you can go ruin reputations of legitimate trainers everywhere as you pass your “tough routine” on to the next unkowing client.

    Progressions? Modifications? Technical instruction? Feedback? Spotting? What the hell are those things?

    Sadly it seems, less and less trainers seem to know. Who the hell is “certifying” them?

    I applaud your movement and I will be following.

  • Don’t be too sure that this phase will pass!


  • Gerald Balk

    Very interesting,
    I did boxing circuits this morning for 45 mins now please bear in mind the following, I started at 7 am after having my breakfast at 6 so not ideal, also I haven’t trained hardly at all for just over a year also not ideal BUT the difference was the young lady in charge new this and made sure that I didn’t go overboard I rested when I needed to and drank plenty of water now any class/workout I walk away from must satisfy three things;
    One did I enjoy myself?
    Two did it make me sweat?
    And three was their any benefit from doing it?
    I think if the trainers look at their classes from this point of view then there is nothing wrong with circuits, it is only when as you say they brag about how many people threw up there is a problem, and that is with the trainer in question not the circuit.


  • Faye Fontana

    Isn’t this essentially what most boot camps are? I have tried out two different boot camps with excellent trainers over the past couple of years. I think one-on-one these trainers would have been great. But, I a boot camp setting with 20-30 people who don’t necessarily have good form and different fitness levels, I think you are just setting people up for injury. For example,I am a very fit person, but, in one class the trainer had us doing hand stand pushups with our feet up on the wall, then pushing a sled around that was too heavy for me to even move. I have a bad shoulder anyway and this just re-injured it. The in another class where we were doing “fitness testing” and had to do the 40 yard dash out in the cold, I tore my hamstring so have been out of commission for 6 weeks and in physical therapy. I know boot camps are “hot” right now but I am not sure if they are the smartest or safest thing. All caution just seems to fly out the window and the trainers are screaming at you to do more, faster, higher, blah blah blah. It is a glorified group circuit training.

  • Hey Faye, you have a great point. I run boot camps at a local high school inside their gym and I have beginners through advanced people. It’s important that I explain to the campers that we’re here to have a good workout, but that this is THEIR workout. I allow them to adjust the camp to their fitness level by offering substitutions on certain moves. For example, for 30 seconds, some of my campers are doing Spiderman push-ups while others are doing normal and kneeling push-ups. I reiterate to not compare themselves to anyone and to not judge, doing the best job THEY can do. I think that is the biggest problem – that some people and/or trainers think they have to throw up in order to have a great workout, and that is certainly not the case. With that being said, I hope your hamstring heals up and wish for a speedy recovery. Stay strong, Mike.

    • Great points Mike, thanks. It all comes down to the trainer.