PE 630
Aerobic Super Circuit Study Packet

What is aerobic super circuit training and what are its benefits?

Circuit training involves alternately doing weight training exercises and aerobic exercises. Dr. Kenneth Cooper developed this program at the Aerobic Institute in Dallas, Texas. The primary focus is on cardiovascular fitness; however, improvements in muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility can also be realized. In addition, circuit training is an excellent way to decrease the amount of fat and increase the amount of muscle on your body.  Circuit training was designed for people with busy lives that have only one hour per day to dedicate to exercise.  For example, you can get a good workout by completing one circuit, which takes approximately 25 minutes.  Add a 5 minute warm-up and a 5 minute cool-down, and you have an exercise session of 35 minutes.  Take a shower, change clothes, and you can be back to work/school in less than an hour!

What is cardiovascular fitness?

Cardiovascular fitness is the ability of the body to perform prolonged, large muscle, exercise at moderate-to-high levels of intensity.  The muscles in your legs are some of the largest muscles in your body.  By vigorously pedaling the bicycles in the circuit you will increase your heart rate so you are exercising at a moderate-to-high intensity level.  The faster your heart beats, the higher your exercise intensity. 

If you want to make greater gains in your cardiovascular fitness, after you have completed one circuit, you may choose to use a treadmill, recumbent bicycle, stair climber, or elliptical machine.  It is recommended that you exercise continuously for at least 20 minutes at a moderate-to-high level of intensity. 

Cardiovascular fitness is the most important aspect of your physical fitness because it involves the health of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.  People who have a high level of cardiovascular fitness have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.  They also have better control of their body fat and an improved immune function.

What is the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance?

Muscular strength and muscular endurance are related, yet they are two different aspects of physical fitness.  Muscular strength is the maximum amount of force a muscle can produce in a single effort.  In other words, it is the maximum amount of weight you can lift one time, called a 1 repetition maximum (1RM).  In order to make large improvements in your muscular strength, you need to train specifically for this goal.  You need to lift heavy weights with a low number of repetitions, about 1-5 times.  Select a weight heavy enough to cause fatigue by your 5th repetition of the exercise.  Examples of activities that require muscular strength are:  lifting a heavy box off the floor, throwing the shot put, and swinging a bat to hit a home-run.

Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to exert a submaximal force repeatedly or continuously over time.  In other words, it is the ability of your muscles to keep working over and over and over and over. . . .   In order to make large improvements in your muscular endurance you need to train specifically for this goal.    You need to lift a lighter weight and do a high number of repetitions, about 15-20 times.  You would choose a weight heavy enough to fatigue your muscles by the 15th repetition of the exercise.  Examples of activities that require muscular strength are:  rowing a boat across a lake, pedaling a bicycle and jogging a couple of miles.

The circuit is designed to primarily increase your muscular endurance.  You will notice some gains in your strength, but because you will be lifting the weight over and over for the full time period (40-50 seconds), muscular endurance is the focus. 

How do I decide how much weight to lift?

If you are new to weight training or if you used to train, but took a break and haven’t lifted in over a month, we recommend that you begin with an amount that allows you to easily complete at least 10-12 repetitions of each exercise using good form and proper technique.  This will lessen your chances of injury and muscle soreness.

If you do the circuit regularly, after the first 3-4 weeks, you can try adding one plate.  If one plate is too much, it is possible to add less than that by raising the round cylinder and twisting it into a locked position.  If you cannot do the exercise with proper form or cannot complete at least 10 repetitions, lower the weight.

What if I am interested in increasing my muscular strength and size?

After completing one or more circuits, you should do additional weight training to help you reach these goals.  Use the PRECOR weight machine to focus on increasing strength and size for specific body parts (i.e., chest, arms).  You do not need to change exercises on the PRECOR every 50 seconds as required on the circuit.  Also, you can do as many sets and repetitions as you desire.  Sets are a group of repetitions followed by a rest period.  Ask one of our instructors to teach you how to use the PRECOR.

What causes muscle soreness?

It is not caused by lactic acid.  This is a myth.  Lactic acid does cause muscular fatigue, but not muscle soreness.  The pain you feel a day after a hard or different type of workout is caused by injury to the muscle fibers and surrounding connective tissue (ligaments and tendons).  Scientists think that when you injure your muscle fibers they become inflamed, in other words, hot and swollen.  The inflammation causes the release of enzymes called proteases that break down proteins.  The proteases break down the muscle tissue and cause pain. 

In order to avoid muscle soreness, we recommend the following:

  • Do not believe the saying, “No Pain, No Gain”!  You do not have to exercise in pain in order to make improvements. 
  • Exercise on a regular basis.  If you stop exercising for a few weeks and then start up again you may get sore.
  • Increase the amount of weight you are lifting a small amount at a time.
  • Warm-up with 5 minutes of stretching and cardiovascular exercise.
  • Cool-down with 5 minutes of stretching and cardiovascular exercise.

Does spot-reducing work?

Spot-reducing is the idea that you can decrease the amount of fat in a specific area of your body if you exercise that area of the body.  It doesn’t work.  For example, doing abdominal exercises, like crunches, does not decrease the fat in your stomach area.  But, it will improve the strength and endurance of your abdominal muscles.  Doing leg lifts does not decrease the fat in the thighs.  But, it does increase the strength and endurance of your thigh muscles. 

The only way to decrease body fat is to expend more calories (through resting metabolism and exercise) than you consume (through food).  A combination of aerobic exercise and weight training will help to raise your metabolism.  But, remember, your body will take the fat off from wherever it prefers.  You have no control over which part of your body sheds the fat.

What are the guidelines for lifting weights safely?

  • Use proper lifting technique.
  • Perform all lifts through the full range of motion.
  • Do not lock your elbows or knees when lifting - places too much stress on your joints.
  • Adjust each machine for your body and lock everything in place before you begin.
  • Keep your fingers away from the weight stack.
  • Make sure the machines are clean. 
  • Beware of broken bolts, frayed cables, or loose cushions that can cause injury.
  • Never hold your breath when you lift.  Exhale when exerting the greatest force, and inhale when lowering the weight.
  • Wrap your thumbs around the bar when gripping it.
  • Gloves are not required but may prevent calluses on your hands.
  • Maintain good posture and do not arch your back while lifting.  Keep your entire back pressed flat against the cushion.
  • Lift weights smoothly and slowly.  Do not jerk them. 
  • Control the weight throughout the full range of motion.

If I stop exercising will my muscles turn into fat?

The answer is “No”!  Muscle tissue cannot turn into fat tissue.  Can an orange that isn’t eaten turn into an apple?  Of course not!  Neither can muscle turn into fat.  They are two different types of tissue, with their own physical and chemical make-up.  One cannot become the other.

Typically what happens is that when people stop exercising they continue to eat the same amount of food that they ate when they were exercising.  Therefore, the amount of calories they are burning has decreased, yet the amount of calories they are consuming has remained the same.  So, they gain weight and put on more fat.  Also, since the muscles are not being exercised they atrophy, meaning they become smaller and weaker.

Why is flexibility important?

Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion.  You could be quite flexible in one joint but very inflexible in another joint.  So, flexibility is joint-specific.  It is important to have good flexibility to:  keep your joints healthy, delay the normal deterioration process that comes with aging, prevent low-back pain, improve your posture, and improve your sports performance.

What is the best way to stretch?

It is best to stretch a warm muscle.  Stretching a cold muscle can cause injury and will not result in significant gains in flexibility.  So, before you stretch, do some type of cardiovascular warm-up (jog, walk, bike) to increase the temperature of the muscles and the blood flow to the appropriate muscles.

The best type of stretching is called static stretching.  With this type, the muscle is gradually stretched, and the stretch is held for 10-30 seconds.  It is a slow stretch and you do not stretch to the point of pain, just until you feel slight tension.  Relax and exhale during the stretch.

The dangerous type of stretching is called ballistic stretching.  With this type, the muscles are stretched suddenly in a bouncing movement.  For example, bending over and touching the toes repeatedly is a ballistic stretch for the hamstrings.  Ballistic stretching can cause injury to the muscle fibers and is not recommended.


  Name of Machine Muscles Trained
Super Leg Press Quadriceps, Gluteuls, Hamstrings
Standing Leg Curl Hamstrings
Leg Curl Hamstrings
Leg Extension Quadriceps
Standing Calf Gastrocnemius
Abductor Abductor Group
Adductor Adductor Group
Lat Pull-down Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Chest Press Pectoralis Major, Triceps
Shoulder Press Deltoids, Triceps
Vertical Chest Press Pectoralis Major, Triceps
Rowing Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, Biceps
Low Row Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, Biceps
Arm Curl Biceps
Overhead Triceps Extension Triceps
Lateral Raise Deltoids, Trapezius
Shoulder Press Deltoids, Triceps
Low Back Erector Spinae
Seated Abdominal Rectus Abdominus
Abdominal Crunch Rectus Abdominus