Run Circles Around Your Fitness

Run Circles Around Your Fitness

Given that you probably have enough to do already, it makes sense to try to streamline your fitness workouts or exercises as much as you can, right?

The key when you do this is to make sure that your short cuts are still being productive for you and your body. Otherwise, you may end up actually wasting your time, or even getting injured because what you are doing is not compatible with how your body works.

Perhaps the first thing that you think of in this fitness realm is the latest craze called HIIT training, or High Intensity Interval Training. This type of training does indeed save time because of the intensity (high), while at the same time keeping it doable because the intense part is sprinkled in with periods of less effort. On top of that, many studies have shown that the overall benefit to your body is greater than say, spending the same amount of time walking or running at a steady pace.

This is certainly a good idea for some, but not all. If you are just starting to work out, have body parts that hurt, or even are coming back after a lay off, it is not a good idea to jump into this type of training. This is better left to people who have a base level of balanced fitness UNLESS you are supervised and have a plan to slowly ramp up your intensity intervals. There is more detail on this in my blog, Want More Benefits from Your Strength Training? Take a (soft) HIIT.


On another note, here are a few tips that you can slip into most exercise plans or workouts without adding any extra time to it. All of these exercises will add more dimensions to what you are doing so that you end up using more of your body, but in a good way.

  1. If you are into lifting dumbbells (and I hope you are), use this simple set-up. Stand tall, extend your spine, and put your feet in a “tripod” position. Meaning, heels together, toes pointed out to form about a 45-degree angle. Stay tall with your feet like that as you lift. Why? The smaller base of support for your effort will activate your core muscles a bit to help keep your balance.
  2. Do some of your dumbbell lifts while standing on just one leg. You can also do this for some of your exercises if you are using tubing. This is a great way to engage your core while you strength train, again because you will need to be balancing as you lift or pull.
  3. Use circles when you warm up or even while stretching after exercise. Why? Circles are a good way to get your joints moving in ways that lubricate them, increase the circulation around there, and keep your ability to maintain good motion. This is particularly relevant to your shoulder and hip joints, both of which are configured with a ball and socket arrangement. This means they are designed for rotation.

See below for some circles that are safe and easy to do. As you do these, keep your arms and legs as straight as you can. This will lengthen and stretch the muscles. Again, this is a good way to do two things at once (i.e., warm up or cool down AND lengthen). Work all of these motions from either the shoulder joint or the hip joint, not the arms and legs. This may take a bit of concentration.


Behind the back shoulder circles. Stand tall. Open your chest as you place your arms behind your back (arms straight). Pinch the shoulder blades together and then make small circles clockwise and counterclockwise. If the circles get big, it means you are using your chest muscles as well. Avoid doing this by keeping the circles small and the chest open.

Big shoulder circles. Stand tall, arms straight. Working from the shoulder joint, make small circles. As you get more warmed up, make bigger circles. Do them each direction (forward and backwards).

Side-lying leg circles from the hip. Lay on your side on a mat, in good alignment (not a rounded back). Stack your legs. Keeping the legs as straight as you can and working the motion from the hip joint, make circles forward, and then backwards. As above, start small and work into larger circles as you get warmed up and more used to the motion. NOTE: If you are feeling unstable or have trouble with this set-up, you can bend your bottom leg.

Supine leg circles from the hip. Lay on your back with both legs straight. Engage your abdominal muscles (you are going to need these). Raise one leg and make circles with it, working it from your hip joint, not the leg. Go one direction and then the other. Experiment with how big you can make these circles without tipping over (abs are key for this)!

So there you have it. You can use the circle exercises as a warm up OR a cool down. As explained above, it gets your joints moving, but also lengthens your arms and legs, which can be a great warm up OR a way to sneak in a stretching move after you have been strength training your arms and legs.

All the best,

© 2019-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.

Behind the Back Shoulder Circles
Big Shoulder Circles
Side-lying Leg Circles from the Hip
Supine Leg Circles from the Hip
Design for Fitness - Personal Assessment

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