Creating Equipment Based Circuit Classes

How to Map Out Equipment Based Circuit Classes For Best Results

By Amanda Vogel, MA Human Kinetics

Circuit classes are a great way to make use of equipment resources or allow fitness clients or gym members to test the water with a new fitness tool. However, circuits that aren’t properly planned out can feel quite disorganized, especially if each station offers a different piece of equipment.

As the group leader, you are responsible for keeping the workout running smoothly. Bottom line: You can’t look lost.

Read on for quick tips on how to “map out” your equipment based circuit classes in advance. Doing so allows you to feel in full control of the class and every circuit station. You’ll also come across as a stronger leader to your group!

Map It Out

It’s hard to “wing it” with a circuit class. There are too many moving parts. While you might be able to mentally imagine the set-up you want for a small circuit and just a few participants, the bigger the circuit and the more people, the trickier it becomes to keep track of it all without a hardcopy roadmap.

Before class, draw a map on your computer or pad of paper outlining every station exercise, every piece of equipment, the purpose of each exercise, and whether any of the exercises require special consideration, such as unilateral moves where participants must change sides either halfway through the circuit or during a second round.

Looking at your circuit map, you’ll be able to clearly see if the circuit as a whole represents all major body parts (if that’s the intention) and whether there’s a logical flow from one exercise to the next.

If you manage a group exercise department that offers equipment based circuit classes, you might decide to create a series of maps that you can share with instructors. This helps you ensure quality control and the best member experience possible.

Keep It Simple

As you map out each station, be sure to avoid exercises that are too multi-faceted or complex for the format. Unlike a training session where you can keep a constant eye on a single client, or a fitness class where participants mimic the instructor’s every move, circuit classes often require participants to recall exercises on their own when they arrive at a new station.

Nine times out of ten, participants won’t remember how to do a move with multiple, complex parts to it. So stick with what’s familiar to the average exerciser, especially since you might not have the opportunity to help each person refine his or her technique.

As a general rule, you should be able to explain each station’s exercise in about 15 to 20 seconds. If it takes you longer, consider simplifying the move.

Plan Your Time-Keepers

Keeping track of how long participants spend at each station can become a major distraction if you don’t have the right tools. So plan that out too.

Instead of trying to time stations and transitions from a clock on the wall or your watch, which will prevent you from properly observing and helping the group, use an interval app that you can set up in advance.

You might also pre-program intervals or a timer from a smart watch that alerts you with a tap or sound at the end of each interval. Some workout music includes auditory cues that tell you when it’s time to move between stations.

Test-Drive Your Own Circuit

Even after you’ve created your circuit blueprint, consider doing the workout yourself before bringing it to class. Why? You might discover that doing Exercise A and Exercise B back-to-back feels more intense than you’d anticipated. Or that exercises in two consecutive stations don’t actually flow together as well as you thought they might.

Armed with this knowledge and your written map, you can easily rearrange stations as needed.

Have A Backup Plan

As with any workout for clients, devise a Plan B in advance. This is especially important with circuits because you might end up with more or less people than expected, which could throw a wrench into your plans for equipment usage or partner drills.

Every exercise should also include one or two modification options, if needed. You can jot down ideas for what these might be next to each station on your circuit map.

Over time, you’ll have a series of circuit maps that you can use to mix and match stations for faster prep time and more variety.

Amanda Vogel, MA human kinetics, is a fitness professional in Vancouver, B.C. In addition to being a blogger at and writer for popular fitness magazines, she is a social media consultant for fitness brands and public figures. You can reach her at, @amandavogel (Twitter), @amandavogelfitness (Instagram) and

Recommended Products from ELIVATE