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Guiding Members Through Individualized Circuit Strength Programs

Developing a clear and concise guide to circuit strength training will help members get the most out of your fitness center.

Circuit strength training is effective and efficient; but, if members don't realize how the equipment is meant to be used or its benefits, it just sits there. How you educate members on the basics of using a strength circuit - and guide them through individual circuit strength programs - depends on your facility's size and goals. But developing a clear and concise guide to circuit strength training will help members get the most out of your fitness center.

The Lawndale Christian Fitness Center, Chicago, Ill., has experienced great success with group training circuit classes since the facility opened in 2005, according to Supervisor Montsho Fowler. For individual circuit strength workouts, Lawndale relies on a multi-layered system to guide members to success. "In relation to our facility layout, our resistance equipment is numbered and strategically placed to ensure a balanced workout," Fowler explains. "We have wonderful fitness assistants who guide our members/guests throughout this format. To enforce consistency, we issue Resistance Tracking Sheets to every member/guest."

MediFit Program Supervisor Amanda Yost says her facility also implements multiple approaches to help members use circuit strength equipment. "We have an optional machine orientation that every member can take advantage of," says Yost. "We utilize workout cards and a written basic workout for them to follow. We will take members through every machine and write down their settings and appropriate weight. We also provide a 'muscle of the month' bulletin board, which highlights a muscle or group, ... and gives examples of exercises and stretches."

Not all facilities need to implement a circuit strength training guide this detailed, but if your facility's circuit is languishing on the fitness floor, consider using some of these ideas to boost its popularity.

Strength circuit guide ideas

Create a Circuit Workout of the Month. Enlist a different trainer to design a circuit strength workout each month, then put it on laminated index cards and distribute them to members. This helps keep the circuit fresh, and also introduces members to your trainers' individual personalities and training styles.

Develop professional demos. Nothing draws a crowd faster than watching professionals strut their stuff. Have your trainers show all the possibilities your circuit setup offers with hyped, exciting demonstrations at scheduled times. Ask your most charismatic group exercise instructor to emcee, and peak members' interest by making your circuit look fun and user-friendly.

Implement a circuit orientation. Carefully screen your new members to identify the most time-crunched customers. Then, along with a general tour of your facility, offer these members a free, indepth orientation that explains how to use your circuit strength equipment. "One thing I always recommend to members is a no-rest workout," says Yost. "I will have them do opposing muscle group exercises back to back, ... continuing to go back and forth until all sets are complete. This is a great way to keep the heart rate up, and make the workout quicker." This shows members you care about their needs, and, at the same time, helps you compete with the new express facility around the corner.

Rely on personal trainers. If your fitness center offers a free personal training session as a perk for joining, be sure that a thorough explanation of the circuit setup is on the agenda. Make sure that the trainer is prepared to tailor the program for individuals, and gives members the tools to continue on their own. "Every member who joins receives ... a first workout with personalized workout cards that they can follow [afterward]," says Dion Morreale, owner of Woman's Way Fitness Center, Wayne, N.J.

Get members into groups. Woman's Way wasn't having much success using individual circuit orientations, so it switched gears. "We do them in groups (no larger than five) now, [as] apposed to one-on-one," says Morreale. Be sure the employee leading the group circuit orientation is a loud and clear speaker, but also an attentive listener. People can learn as much from questions as they can from a scripted spiel.

Put it on a placard. Posting placards or signs by each piece of circuit equipment is a visual way to guide members through a strength workout. Use them to number equipment in the order to be used, include photos or drawings of the proper way to use the equipment, or even suggest possible reps. The information you include is up to you, but there are some things it never hurts to reinforce. "Form, weight, reps [and] hydration are all very important things that we stress," says Morreale.

Provide support

No matter which method your facility uses to guide members through a circuit, they will have additional questions and concerns. At Woman's Way, "there is always someone on staff [who] can assist them with any questions while they are working out," says Morreale. Yost encourages staff to take a personal approach with each member. "We will take as many notes as we possibly can to help describe the exact movement and feeling that should be accomplished on each machine/exercise," she says. "Many people come to the fitness center so they don't have to think too much; so, we try to make things as easy as possible. I will even ask the member to describe the motion in their own words and I'll write that down, because their own words might trigger the memory of it more than my words would."

Circuit training is effective and efficient, and giving your members the tools to use your facility's strength equipment is essential to getting the word out. "My advice would be to make it simple and offer as much assistance as needed," says Fowler. "Also, employ self-efficacy methods. When members/guest feel confident, they not only improve their fitness level, they become frequent visitors of your facility."

Purchasing Guide

Body Bar Systems Inc. 800 500-2030; The Body Bar Flex is a flexible fiberglass-composite rod with an easy-to-grip soft rubber casing. Weighing approximately 1 pound, the rod is available in 3- and 4-foot lengths. It can be used for balance and stretching when straight, but offers resistance of up to 10 pounds when bent into an arc. Full-joint range of motion works the entire body in simple or compound movements to develop strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.

Body-Solid 800 833-1227; The Pro-Dual commercial equipment line offers modular flexibility developed specifically to address the needs of facilities with limited space. It includes 10 function-specific dual machines that can stand alone or in combination with a three- or four-stack weight tower to build a single multifunction gym.

Core Spinal Fitness System by MedX 866 814-0719; The Core Spinal Fitness System by MedX focuses on four spinal health factors: strength, stability, flexibility and endurance. The research-based system includes a series of five biomechanically precise machines designed to isolate and strengthen the lower back, neck and torso muscles.

Corepole Inc. 866 547-4173; Corepole workouts combine strength, cardio, flexibility and stability training. Mobile, yet stable, the unit is anchored by 250 pounds of sealed sand, allowing one or more users to perform the same or different exercises simultaneously. Corepole comes with 20 bands encased in nylon safety sleeves, and features six different height anchor points that rotate, offering 360-degree movement around the pole. Accessories include foot cuffs and belts.

Cybex International Inc. 774 324-8000; The Eagle line features Cybex Eagle's Second Generation Dual Axis Technology, which provides a choice of either machine- or user-defined path of motion. In addition, patent-pending Range Limiting Devices ensure the integrity of the strength curve.

efi Sports Medicine 800 541-4900; efi Sports Medicine's GTS machine makes Pilates accessible for every fitness level. GRAVITYPilates employs the GTS's incline glideboard and cable pulley system, using body weight as resistance to produce a feeling of stretch and constant resistance throughout the entire motion of every exercise. GRAVITYPilates instructors can easily adapt exercises by adjusting the level of the GTS incline.

Endorphin Corp. 800 940-9844; The 325 Functional Wall Pulley requires minimal space. A multitude of exercises - including lat pull-downs, bicep curls and chest flies - can be performed. Features include a 75-pound weight stack in 5-pound increments; swivel handles for a wide range of motion; and adjustable, rotating arms. The rotating arms adjust from ground level to a full 7 feet - 90 degrees horizontally and 180 degrees vertically - to maximize exercise versatility.

FreeMotion Fitness 877 363-8449; Each piece of FreeMotion integrated functional training equipment is designed to accommodate a diverse membership - including older adults, rehabilitation patients and elite athletes - with many pieces being ADA-compliant. The 18-piece line requires virtually no adjustments, allowing for quick user entrance and exit.

Full Circle Padding Inc. 800 875-7780; Full Circle Padding has manufactured replacement fitness equipment padding for 22 years, and now offers online ordering of replacement pads for Cybex, Nautilus, Precor, Hammer, Icarian, Life Fitness, Keiser, Freemotion, Paramount, Star Trac, Strive and more. It also sells grips, cables and edge guards for many of the machines.

GP Industries Inc. 800 814-4943; New urethane dumbbells from GP Industries feature a solid design with a Uni-Lock handle, available in either a straight or tapered handle design. The urethane coating is designed for durability against wear. All weight increments are permanently engraved in white urethane and will not discolor or rub off. Weights range from 5 to 150 pounds in 5-pound increments. A half-size set - from 7.5 to 27.5 pounds - is also available.

Hampton Fitness Products Ltd. 877 339-9733; Satellite SeriesT dumbbells feature Gel-GripT urethane handles and a durable, comfortable grip. The rack features weight labels for easy return, and is ergonomically angled for safe lifting.

Hoist Fitness Systems 800 548-5438; The Roc-It Leg Press RS-1403 has 11 linear seat adjustments to accommodate varying leg lengths, a large oval foot plate that provides multiple foot placements for both leg press and calf exercises, and starts a user's body in the traditional leg press position, then rocks the upper torso reearward to provide greater activation of the gluteal muscles.

Innofit Inc. 800 282-5037; The Power Strength Xi2 allows users to define their path of motion when performing strength exercises. This commercial unit features dual weight stacks, arms that adjust in both vertical and horizontal planes, dual pulley head design for better cable tracking and a compact footprint. It has an electrostatic, powdercoated, fully welded tubular 11-gauge steel frame and 3/16-inch cable. A selection of standard colors are available, including white, black, silver, charcoal and platinum.

Intek Strength 866 996-3825; Intek Strength offers a variety of strength products, including solid-steel urethane-encased dumbbells; Pro rubber, Pro steel and Pro urethane dumbbells; straight and curl fixed barbells; and Olympic plates in urethane, rubber and steel. All have patent-pending, ergonomic slots for gripping comfort.

Iron Grip Barbell Company 800 664-4766, Made exclusively in the U.S., Iron Grip's urethane-encased solid-steel dumbbells and fixed barbells feature a urethane coating that won't mar equipment, walls or floors, and heavy-duty welded construction. The welded construction and injection-molded exterior results in a dumbbell that is much shorter in length than pro-style dumbbells. This compact design makes urethane dumbbells easy and safe to handle. They also feature 12-sided, anti-roll heads with stable, flat, tip-resistant ends. Easy-to-read weight markings are permanently engraved and bonded into the surface.

Ivanko Barbell Company Inc. 800 247-9044; E-Z Lift urethane plates are round for the safe and proper execution of floor exercises, such as repetition power cleans and dead lifts. Ivanko's urethane dumbbells, meanwhile, feature a no-bolt/no-weld system that affixes the head to the handle. Logos can be engraved onto plates and dumbbells.

Keiser 800 888-7009; The Infinity series unilaterally and bilaterally works any muscle group safely at any angle, resistance or speed through users' range of motion. Resistance is consistent and unaffected by speed of exercise. By utilizing Keiser's free-moving pneumatic technology, users can safely increase their power output as speed increases. This allows for intense functional workouts without shock load to muscles, connective tissues and joints.

Life Fitness 800 634-8637; The Hammer Strength Olympic Heavy-Duty line, including the new Combo Rack and 6-by-8-foot lifting platform, offers facilities a comprehensive selection of performance-enhancing training products. The rugged, space-efficient Combo Rack lets two athletes train simultaneously, while the lifting platform features full subfloor framing, a finished oak surface and rubber impact mats.

Marpo Kinetics 925 337-4205; The Viper Rope Climber provides an upper-body strength workout, and eliminates the need to use separate machines to exercise different muscle groups. Its levitating seat with counter-weight stack provides a simulation of rope climbing. Seven resistance settings and up to 250 pounds of weight assistance make Viper accessible and effective for a wide range of users. Keeping users close to the ground eliminates safety concerns associated with ceiling ropes. A small footprint and no electricity requirements maximize floor space. The specially-designed rope is soft, yet durable.

Matrix Fitness Systems 866 693-4863; Matrix provides its customers with a full line of selectorized strength equipment in an aesthetically appealing package. The strength equipment features oversized grips; towel and cup holders; ergonomic seating; extra-strong, round-form tubing; automotive-quality powder finish; and color-coded adjustments that can be made from the exercise position.

Nautilus 800 675-0171; The Nautilus One commercial strength circuit features a simple dial that allows users to adjust weight quickly in 5-pound increments, up to 400 pounds, while concealing the actual amount of weight moving inside the tower. The patented resistance engine features a horizontal weight stack that delivers smooth, nearly frictionless movement. Gas-assisted technology helps users quickly adjust the seat, and an educational placard on each unit features holographic photography to visually illustrate how to perform the exercise. The line has one consistent look and feel, since the low-profile tower is identical on each of the 14 stations in the circuit.

Paramount Fitness Corp. 800 721-2121; Paramount designs and manufactures a full range of strength-training products. The 17-piece SP Circuit combines optimum ergonomics, biomechanics and structural performance with contemporary aesthetics. Designed using advanced parametric modeling, each unit fits a wide range of users comfortably, while extensive testing at or above maximum field applications assures long-term durability with minimal service requirements. All SP models meet or exceed ASTM and EN957 Safety Design Standards for Fitness Equipment.

Power Systems 800 321-6975; The Pro Power Pro Trainer Six-Station gym includes a cable crossover, two lat pulls, two low rows and a chin-up bar. The 11-gauge steel tubing frames have a baked-on, powdercoated finish, and the cable crossover has two fully assembled 200-pound weight stacks. Low rows have a 12-by-32-inch elevated seat, lat pulls have an adjustable knee roller pad, and both have 225-pound fully assembled weight stacks. Two 48-inch lat bars, two low row double handles, two single handles and two ankle straps are included. Custom embroidery is available, along with two frame and 25 upholstery colors.

Precor Icarian 800 786-8404; The Precor Icarian line of commercial strength equipment features more than 100 products in six categories, including machine-defined selectorized, user-defined selectorized, multi-stations, plateloaded, free weight equipment, and benches and racks. A redesigned selectorized line incorporates enhanced aesthetics and user-friendly features, with new elevated weight stacks and sleek shrouds. Precor Icarian Modular System components can be connected in virtually any configuration, with more than 100 pre-configured layouts of two- to 12-stack configurations. Precor Icarian equipment features 2-by-4-inch steel frames and high-quality pulleys and cables.

ProFit Enterprises 888 604-2244;; Kids PACE Express (Kids PE) hydraulic resistance equipment is for children ages five through 11, and the PACE hydraulic circuit training program is for adults. Kids' packages include a Kids PE marketing/promo package, NESTA certification and accessories. Adult packages include an onsite PACE certification and marketing/promo package. Both programs are designed to be non-intimidating, effective, safe and fun.

RT Fitness 800 363-2671; The Rotary Torso Bench is designed to eliminate spinal compression while improving disc alignment. With legs partially extended, users' abdominal musculature is placed in an optimal strengthening position during rotation. In addition, a proprioceptive element is added to the exercise when users rotate in either direction with a loosened grip on the handles to engage core stabilizer muscles. The RT/AB/BACK option turns the torso bench into a three-in-one core combination unit.

SportsArt Fitness 800 709-1400; SportsArt Fitness' new strength pieces include a Vertical Bench Press, Smith Machine and Leg Press. The equipment has sleek lines and an ergonomic design to aid in proper form and technique. The Vertical Bench features independent arm resistance for equalized muscle training, and converging press arms. The Leg Press has numerous adjustments, and will convert from a hack squat to a traditional leg press, while the Smith Machine offers rugged construction.

Star Trac 714 669-1660; Star Trac offers a full line of strength products, including HumanSport, Impact and Instinct. HumanSport is a system of six functional training machines, and features two cable-motion pieces within one compact unit. It offers one-touch adjustments and swivel pulleys. The Impact line offers newly designed weight stack towers, shrouds, placards and other features. Instinct, a 30-piece line of user-friendly and space-efficient equipment, consists of single- and dual-function stations, along with benches and racks that can be used as a stand-alone strength line or circuit system.

Strength Inc. 800 370-3307; Strength Inc. has built strength equipment for more than 34 years. It manufactures more than 100 items, including the 5-Station Unit pictured. It is a seated lat, cable crossover with adjustable column pulleys, chin-up bar and low pulley row. It features heavy duty, 3-inch square tubing (decorative holes optional), ballbearing pulleys and adjustable column pulleys that swivel in ballbearings.

Strive 800 368-6448; Strive Smart Strength uses adjustable variable-resistance cam technology, enabling the user to completely work up to 100 percent of a muscle by targeting individual points. Strive circuit training benefits users of all ages, from beginners to advanced. A total-body workout can be accomplished in less than 30 minutes with a Strive "Smart Circuit."

Technogym USA 800 804-0952; The Personal Selection line combines top biomechanics and ergonomic support with visual appeal and more than 30 equipment options. The durable, elliptical design is consistent throughout all benches and machines. Personal Selection products include extensive safety features, including weight stack covers and Easy Start levers to reduce risk of injury. A towel locking device, double hand grip system and visual color prompts for easy set-up enhance user comfort.

Troy Barbell & Fitness 800 872-7767; The new Troy solid-steel, urethane-encased dumbbell ends are press-fit and welded to a hard chrome, 32-millimeter straight handle that is finely knurled for a firm, comfortable grip. The head of each dumbbell is fully encased with polyurethane. The dumbbells are designed to maintain a 2-percent accuracy level.

TruForm Fitness 805 804-577; The IsoBar line of commercial weight bars uses patented sliding hand grips that are linked, thus remaining equidistant from the center of the bar for balance, symmetry and control. IsoBar combines the range of motion, isolation, variation and muscle recruitment afforded by dumbbells, with the control, simplicity and racking ability of barbells. Cable-attachment units also are available.

Vortex Fitness Equipment 877 676-4677; Vortex Fitness Equipment teamed up with HiTech Trainer and Dr. Brian Biagioli of the National Council on Strength and Fitness to produce a set of functional, sport, ADL and circuit training programs. The Vortex 30-Pack and HiTech Trainer offer pre-designed and hundreds of customizable programs, meal and weight-loss programming, and the ability to track clients' results and scheduling online.

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