Circuit Max is another effective and fast paced cardio + strength workout. It is part of one of Cathe’s wonderful multi-workout DVDs. The other full workout on this DVD is Cardio Kicks which has already been reviewed on this blog.
Circuit Max is 65 minutes long; 10 minute warm up, 50 minute training period and 5 minute stretch. Technically the length is 66:30, but the first 1:30 is an intro by Cathe that you can fast forward through (unlike later DVDs, you do not have the option of starting the workout without listening to the intro). During this intro Cathe says that Circuit Max is an advanced workout. It is not. It is an intermediate workout.
I have a lot of thoughts and conflicted emotions about this workout. It has some great upbeat music, I like the fast pace, it hits every major muscle group and is a great cardio workout. It is an effective workout and a keeper. However, it will not be part of my regular rotation. It will be something I come back to at times to mix things up. I mentioned when I reviewed High Step Challenge that my favorite workouts are cardio + strength workouts. Well, that is true; however, Circuit Max is the opposite of High Step Challenge. High Step Challenge encapsulates what I love about cardio + strength workouts—there is more strength than cardio, but sufficient amounts of both. Circuit Max is very cardio heavy. It does give you a full body strength workout, but not a great one like High Step Challenge does. Plus, the cardio, though adequately intense, wasn’t really fun. Well, not all of it—I really liked some of the circuits. With High Step Challenge the time just flew by. Not so with Circuit Max. It just wasn’t a very fun workout.
The cardio choreography was basic for the most part, though there were some moves that it took a few tries for me to catch on to and a few I never quite caught on to. With practice I would be able to get the foot work down, I think. But that would require me wanting to do the workout frequently enough… which won’t happen. So I guess I’ll never get the choreography down. I’m ok with that. The few times I was confused didn’t really stop me from getting a great workout. This workout (like Cardio Kicks) is a space hog. This one is way worse than Cardio Kicks though. It seems so odd to me—does she think I’m working out in an empty gymnasium? She is all over the place in this workout! I have a good sized workout room, too—but it was not big enough to accommodate her choreography! And unlike Cardio Kicks she gave no suggestions on doing the moves in limited space. And finally, my last nitpick is the length of the warm up. 10 minutes was just too long. I didn’t like the warm up either—so 10 minutes of no fun.
You don’t need a lot of equipment for Circuit Max: a 6 inch step, 8 and 5 pound dumbbells. I used heavier weights for most of the exercises. As the title suggests, this workout is set up circuit fashion. It consists of 6 circuits. Each circuit is approximately 7 minutes long. The first 5 minutes of the circuit is cardio and the last 2 minutes are compound strength work. The step is only used in the cardio portion of the last 3 circuits. At the end of the 6 circuits there are some more strength moves—Cathe wants to make sure she hits every major muscle group. I really like that.
Circuit #1: 5 minutes of floor cardio. Strength: wide squats with overhead press; halfway through you rotate the dumbbells when bringing them up (not an Arnold Press). Cathe uses 8 pound dumbbells.
Circuit #2: 5 minutes of floor cardio. Strength: alternating front lunges with side lateral raise (bent arms); wide squats with straight arm front raise. Cathe uses 5 pound dumbbells.
Circuit #3: 5 minutes of kickboxing on the floor. Strength: back lunges with bicep curls. Cathe use 8 pound dumbbells.
Circuit #4: 5 minutes of kickboxing using the step (I really liked this cardio segment). Strength: Plie squats with one arm tricep extensions. Cathe uses 5 pound dumbbell.
Circuit #5: 5 minutes of step cardio (this segment is more choreographed than #6). Strength: static front lunges with overhead two arm tricep extensions. Cathe uses two 5 pound dumbbells.
Circuit #6: 5 minutes of step cardio (this cardio segment is more athletic). Strength: front leg extensions with bicep hammer curls. Cathe uses 5 pound dumbbells. I went heavier on most of the strength exercises—but definitely on this one! The leg extension is a balance/stability move, so you cannot go super heavy, but heavier than 5 pounds!
At this point, the cardio is finished so you can put the step away if you wish. The biceps, triceps and shoulders have been worked, so Cathe wants to get in some back, chest and ab work before she stretches you out. You do some one arm rows. Cathe uses two 8 pound dumbbells held in one hand. Next get out your mat if you need one for some push ups. Not a lot—I thought we should have done more push ups. The strength portion ends with plank work to work the core and lower back. You hold a low plank (on elbows) for a long time then you do a high plank (on hands) and alternate lifting one leg. The work ends with a 5 minute stretch.
As you can see this is a solid workout. However, you shouldn’t rely on it for strength work. Warning—you’re about to get some of my fitness philosophy. I believe a good overall workout program contains many components and sub-components. The main components are: strength, cardio and flexibility. But these can be broken down further: high rep strength training (light/medium weights), slow/moderate rep strength training (heavy weights), metabolic resistance/circuit training, HIITs, recovery cardio, yoga/flexibility/stretching. I could break this down even further, but for an overall balanced and effective fitness program I believe these components and sub-components need to be present. Not in a single workout, of course, but in your workout program as a whole (though there are many workouts that combine several of these components into a single workout, which of course is a just a bonus). So yes, Circuit Max has a place in a fitness program, but it should not be relied upon to cover all bases.