Home Workouts – The Power of Circuits

Obviously with a title like Time Poor Training, this site values the efficient use of time above all else which is why we place such an emphasis on circuits for our home workouts. Often, but not exclusively, our programs structure the workouts in a circuit structure. They ask you to go through exercises in such a sequence as to continue to constantly work the overall system (at a safe level) while giving the individual muscles time to rest.

We believe this optimizes toning or muscle gain (whichever you are after) while keeping the workouts to a reasonable length. Many people will say circuits are only good for cardio-vascular development. They’ll argue that 90% of all weight workouts follow a straight set structure and, that, therefore is the best design to follow.

But is this true?

We’re not aware of any studies that test circuits against straight sets in terms of hypertrophy (the process of building muscle). Particularly circuits like ours where we advise the person to move comfortably between exercises. So, we ask if the notion that circuits are sub-optimal for hypertrophy is really just something taken to be true because it’s been repeated so.

Some proponents of straights sets will cite studies/meta-analysis that say you need to rest completely between sets, sometimes up to 4 minutes or at most do a superset of antagonist muscles. But conclusions like this are simply varying the time between straight sets, not evaluating straight sets against circuits.

Then, some of the most advanced muscle building techniques advocated by top trainers actually require minimal rest between straight sets e.g. myo-reps and rest-pause sets.

One of the most respected bodybuilding experts of the golden age, Vince Gironda, advocated moving quickly through sets, sometimes with as little as 10 to 15 seconds between sets of the same exercise.

So, faced with these conflicting theories, who is to say that a properly structured circuit within your home workout which gives you a decent amount of rest between 2 sets for the same muscle group but keeps you moving overall isn’t optimal.

To support our argument we’d point to athletes who play field sports such as rugby, soccer and Australian rules – yes some of these athletes spend time in the weight room but even in past decades, these aerobic and anaerobic (depending on position) sports usually produced toned/muscular athletes.  For an even more direct comparison, look at a lot of recreational Crossfit athletes who often utilize circuit style workouts and have superior physiques.

As we said at the outset, time is of the essence for most people. If we don’t figure out a way to be efficient with time then we just won’t bother exercising at all. Circuit-oriented home workouts deliver this requirement and besides being good for your schedule they also deliver a cardiovascular conditioning benefit. Cardiovascular health and muscular strength are two of the most important physical qualities, particularly after our twenties.

So, feel confident pursuing a home workout circuit-based  training program knowing that it will deliver for you.

Time Poor Training – Practical Weight Loss Tip 1

There are countless diet experts with various recommendations online, some of them are true experts and some maybe not so much. There’s advice around on everything from:

What to eat: everything on the continuum from vegan to wholly carnivore


When to eat: intermittent fasting, alternate day fasting, have breakfast/don’t have breakfast.

We think that some of this advice has taken on the characteristics of ideology and is more about putting down others’ views rather than looking simply to help people.

We’re not dietician’s or nutritionists and won’t pretend to be. So, we’re just going to share some recommendations over a few posts that we believe are easy to understand and easy to implement.

Just to be clear the idea is that you implement one of these tips for a short period of time and then when you’re confident it’s in place, start to implement the next one. Using this slow steady approach you will reap great benefits.

Our first practical weight loss tip would be, don’t eat between your main meals.

In her excellent book, The Shape We’re In , Sarah Boseley points out that it was during the 70’s in the UK that the large confectionary companies marketed, for the first time, treats “you could eat between meals without ruining your appetite”. Up to that point parents would tell children to wait until your lunch or dinner if they were hungry because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to eat their dinner and the implication was that  the dinner food was better for you than the snack food. Snacks weren’t the norm.

Once the confectionery companies got people to accept the snacks between meal in principle, however, they had a bridgehead they could build on. If children could eat then so could adults. If you could eat a small bar of chocolate why not a medium bar, if you could eat mid-afternoon why not mid-morning. These snack breaks became the social norm. Sarah points out that we went from a situation where eating a snack on the high street would have been seen as odd, if not downright rude to it being the norm.

Next, came the assertion that more small meals throughout the day was preferable to few large meals intermittently. There was never any scientific basis for this but eventually it just became accepted ‘wisdom’. Again the food companies understood that 5 small meals would grow to 5 medium meals and in some cases 5 large meals.

So, our advice to you, if you find you do snack between meal, is choose 3 or 4 meals for the day and stick to them (3 would be better but 4 may be more manageable at the outset, so just go with that). Look at your daily routine and figure out when the easiest times for you to eat and stick to them. Try it for a month and you will lose weight. It is very hard to eat, in one sitting, what you can eat in two, even if one of those was a snack.

One important caveat to this would be if you are on a medically supervised diet by a health professional that has stipulated you need to eat regularly to maintain some health marker then you should stick to this. But the people in this category will be a very small minority.

If you find during the first few days that you’re having cravings at your normal snack times, try to interrupt the pattern by taking a walk or having water or tea or black coffee.

This first practical weight loss tip is enough to implement initially and we’ll give some more tips in coming posts.

Finding Time for Home Workouts

One of the biggest impediments to people beginning an exercise or training routine is their hectic schedule. Whether it’s your work that requires much more than simply 9 to 5, a busy family routine or one of countless other reasons, we can all feel too time pressed to commit to improving our health and fitness.

The irony, though, is that it actually needs precious little time to get a great return and, if you can commit this small amount of time, all of the pressures on your time will actually seem much more bearable. Home workouts are something that will provide more than just the obvious benefits.

The first step is to think about your daily routine and ask yourself, “Do I have 5 to 10 minutes at least 2 to 3 times a week?” If the answer is ‘yes’ then we’ll give you some ideas to get started below. (If your answer is ‘no’ then you’ve either got some serious commitments or you’re having trouble being honest with yourself.)

Now before looking at ways to increase activity, the first step is to grasp a couple of central principles:

  • Regular doses of exercise no matter how small are preferable to substantial bouts followed by long periods of inactivity or put more simply, 5 minutes three times a week is better than 90 minutes every two weeks. It creates a framework we can sustainably build on.
  • If you miss a planned day, absolutely 100% forget about it, put it out of your mind. It doesn’t matter, the next day you’ve planned some activity just resume where you left off.

If after taking stock of your weekly schedule you found you had a regular slice of time of say 20 minutes or more, twice or more a week when you’re at home, then we’d encourage you to look at our home workouts training programs as there are lots of home workout ideas there. Particular workouts of interest would be our bodyweight or minimal equipment routines to start then our modest equipment routines later.

If you just don’t have that time initially, here are some simple-to-implement ideas:

  • If you work in a multi-storey building, walk a couple of sets of stairs before or after lunch then increase it when you can. Similarly, if you have a medium to large car park do a couple of laps. (Obviously if you can walk in more attractive surroundings do but even the most austere of surroundings aren’t a barrier).
  • Whether you commute by car or public transport, when you get to your house or apartment block, before going inside, do a 5 or 10 minute lap of the neighborhood.
  • Before / after you clean your teeth, sit down on the bed then stand 10 times then catch your breath and do 5 pushups (start with wall pushups if you can’t do one on the floor). Increase this over time.
  • If you’re watching tv then during the breaks do the same thing, sit down and stand up a few times and do a few wall pushups.

Whether you go for one of these options or something else, just work within your capabilities, think of no more than a ‘7’ in terms of effort initially and then when you’ve become accustomed, no more than an ‘8’. The feeling you’re looking for is one of satisfaction from pleasant activity and not one of being devastated. Over time, this ‘7’ or ‘8’ will naturally improve without you having to particularly make an effort to do so.