Sets of circuits vs sets of one exercise at a time (ish)

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  • #42838

    Many of the UA training programs include variations of Scott’s core routine. This routine is often presented as “sets of circuits”, for example it may be phrased as “Do 3x of the core routine” where the core routine is a succession (circuit) of many different core exercises.

    For example, the program I did most recently it starts with bird dog (lets call it exercise A in this forum post), then strict push-ups (exercise B), then windshield vipers (exercise C), and so on. When you are done with the sequence, start over with exercise A to start the second set.

    I wonder: what are the (unintended) consequences of, and negative side effects of, instead of doing these circuits, you simply complete one exercise at a time? That is instead of A B C A B C A B C you do A A A B B B C C C?

    I can see two drawbacks:

    1) A good circuit is designed to aid recovery, and by doing one exercise at a time you will not get the same recovery as if you did something else in between.

    2) This one is less obvious to me, but by doing a circuit it’s more or less guaranteed that you will always do all exercise with some fatigue. That is, if you do 3 sets of bird dig (exercise A) in a row in the beginning, you will not get the benefit (?) of ever doing that last set of bird dogs when your core is very tired.

    My second question is really, apart from the unintended consequences: how much does it actually matter?

    The reason I ask is I really really really strongly prefer to complete one exercise at a time. Sometimes I do two at a time and shift between them for efficiency (for example I do an easier exercise between a heavy exercise). Keeping track of circuits require so much concentration and mental energy for me I really can’t focus on anything else when doing the program, whereas if I do one exercise at a time I can complete the session much faster and can enjoy doing stuff during the program (like listening to audio books, or writing quick emails, or similar).

    But if what I’m doing sucks I will go back to the circuits 🙂

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    Anonymous on #42846

    Sometimes I do two at a time and shift between them for efficiency…

    I think that answers your question. By doing it in a circuit, and alternating the muscle group that’s used, one group can rest while another is working. Overall, I think a circuit method will be faster.

    If you can do three rounds of reps in one go, then you should probably increase the resistance for the exercise.

    be on #42871

    Thanks Scott!

    For me it’s actually the opposite: doing the circuit takes much longer than one-two at a time because of the cognitive load of keeping track of what I’m doing, what I have done and what I have left to do. I think it’s a kind of mental laziness: for all other training I do (running, walking uphill, etc) my brain can be completely zoned out, whereas doing the strength circuits I actually have to pay attention and focus otherwise I start to forget exercises.

    I think I will continue with doing one at a time for a few more weeks and see if it starts to feel too easy (that is, point 2 in the original post becomes a problem).

    Aaron on #42887

    I share your cognitive load issue. That is one of main reasons I have gravitated to a very limited diversity of general/core, muscular endurance and max strength routines. There is soo much out there, I find it overwhelming and if I don’t know the routine down pat I have a mental barrier to starting or being efficient. I’m settling on a yearly pattern using some from Big Vert plan, and some from TFTNA with a little added to the GS/Core based on some of my personal issues and PT advice, and spicing in a little runner mobility/hip stuff. I love the clarity of the UA approach between those 3 main modalities, and progressions within them. More broadly that cognitive load thing feels more and more like the prime general life lesson these days: figure out how to take care of mind/body/soul without overthinking it, make it a habit, make it consistent.

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