Circuit Training – Descending Metabolic Circuits for Fat Loss


Circuit training has been around for decades. Traditionally used by athletes, but nowadays it’s becoming more and more popular and used by personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts.

Circuit training is an excellent metabolic conditioning tool for anyone seeking fat loss and or improved physical conditioning. Circuit training basically combines resistance training with interval training, that’s what’s so beautiful about circuits!

I’m sure everybody is fairly well familiarized with traditional circuit training protocols whereby you perform a group of exercises (anywhere from 6-12 exercises) for a prescribed number of repetitions or for a certain time period. Moving from one exercise to the next until all the exercises are completed, then resting before starting the next round of the circuit and usually anywhere from 2-6 rounds of circuits are performed depending on how many exercises are used to form the circuit.

Now I want to introduce you to what I like to call ‘Descending Metabolic Circuits’. Descending metabolic circuits are real easy to understand, but challenging to perform. Let me quickly explain them to you.

To explain the descending metabolic circuit set up let me use a 4 exercise based circuit and I’ll use exercises most people should be familiar with. I will use push ups, inverted body rows, dumbbell front squats and alternating lunges using just body weight.

circuit-training-stop-watchWhat you do for round 1 or circuit 1 is to perform 10 reps for each exercise, with the exception of the lunges (perform 20 repetitions – 10 per side) with little to no rest between exercises (ideally no rest, but this will depend on your own ability level) until you finish all four exercises.

So that’s one round down, now you will quickly (again little to no rest) start round 2 or circuit 2, but this time you will drop 1 repetition per exercise, meaning you will perform 9 push ups, 9 inverted body rows, 9 dumbbell front squats and 18 (9 per side) alternating bodyweight lunges.

All you are doing is dropping one rep for each exercise per round. Usually you will perform a full 10 rounds or 10 circuits, which means that when you get to circuit 10 you will be performing just 1 push up, 1 inverted body row, 1 dumbbell front squat and 2 alternating bodyweight lunges.

The key is to rest as little as possible, but ideally take no rest, between exercises and between the rounds. Your aim is to complete the entire 10 rounds as fast as possible. It’s a great mini workout challenge.

What makes these descending metabolic circuits so effective is the fact that you get a full body resistance training and interval based workout in at the same time, and also the most important thing for metabolism boosting purposes is that you will be encouraged to FINISH FAST!!! As the reps start to descend you will quicken up your repetition speed or tempo. This is something that is very important for boosting your post workout metabolism. Too many people ruin their sessions by ending their sessions with something long and slow. I say finish FAST and STRONG!

Below I have included a table that illustrates the overall structure of the circuit workout and have also included pictures of each exercise.

Circuit RoundExercise 1:
Push Ups
Exercise 2:
Inverted Body Rows
Exercise 3:
DB Front Squat
Exercise 4:
Alternating Lunges
Round 110 Reps10 Reps10 Reps20 Reps
Round 29 Reps9 Reps9 Reps18 Reps
Round 38 Reps8 Reps8 Reps16 Reps
Round 47 Reps7 Reps7 Reps14 Reps
Round 56 Reps6 Reps6 Reps12 Reps
Round 65 Reps5 Reps5 Reps10 Reps
Round 74 Reps4 Reps4 Reps8 Reps
Round 83 Reps3 Reps3 Reps6 Reps
Round 92 Reps2 Reps2 Reps4 Reps
Round 101 Rep1 Rep1 Rep2 Reps

Push Ups – Keep Elbows Tucked In


Inverted Body Rows – Keep Body Rigid


Lunges – Upper body Tall and Alternate Legs


dB Front Squat – Keep The Elbows Up High


NOTE: If you are only a beginner level trainee you can modify some exercises. Instead of doing full push ups you could perform elevated push ups or kneeling push ups. Also, another thing you can do is to start at round 6 (5 repetitions per exercise) and over time as you get stronger add in another round and another until you reach the full 10 rounds.

Here’s another way to take advantage of these descending metabolic circuits!
You can use this same ‘DESCENDING’ protocol as a workout finisher and simple use 2-3 exercises. For example, you could do a ‘Descending Metabolic Pairing‘ using push ups and inverted body rows and perform 10 rounds at the end of a strength training session as opposed to going for a run or doing traditional intervals or Tabata intervals.

Another option is to perform a ‘Descending Metabolic Stack‘, which will consist of 3 exercises in total. Let’s say push ups, inverted body rows and to really crank things up metabolically we will throw in squat jumps or burpees as the third exercise in the stack.

Trust me, these protocols used as a quick workout finisher on a frequent basis will crank up your metabolism and skyrocket your conditioning levels. Go ahead and try one of these protocols the next time you hit up the gym.

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About Author

Ian Graham

My training philosophy is to always train individuals like they are athletes. Even if they are not competing in any sport, they can gain from this athletic approach. We are all designed to perform like athletes. The athletic approach can help anyone achieve their health and fitness, fat loss and muscle building goals! See my profile page for more information!

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