How to Become a Circuit Training Instructor

Circuit training instruction is an appealing career option for people who enjoy creating unique workout packages for individuals with diverse fitness needs. If you choose to become a circuit training instructor, you´ll be required to devise multilayered fitness routines that incorporate many different types of exercises and/or vigorous physical activities.

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is an intense style of workout that consists of multiple exercises performed in sequence. Participants move from station to station or exercise to exercise, performing a series of preplanned movements or activities for intervals of between 30 seconds and five minutes. Rest periods between exercises are kept short, to make sure heart rates stay elevated throughout the duration of the workout.

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A typical circuit training routine will last for 30 minutes to an hour. It will include anywhere from eight to 20 specific exercises in most cases. Circuit training workouts generally include a complementary mixture of exercises that will increase strength, flexibility or aerobic fitness, with an equal emphasis on all areas.

Circuit training routines are structured to alternate between activities that focus on different parts of the body. Aerobic or anaerobic activities are interspersed with strength-building activities, creating a compactly structured workout that delivers multiple benefits simultaneously. But circuit training workouts are malleable, meaning they can be customized to emphasize the development of specific muscles groups or promote dramatic increases in aerobic fitness or flexibility, if that is what a circuit training student desires.

Students enrolled in group circuit training courses, or pursuing their own customized routines in home or gym environments, are generally seeking a comprehensive, full-body workout. Personal trainers or group class leaders must work closely with students to design circuit training routines that are personalized to their fitness levels and focused on long-term wellness goals.

Personal and Professional Qualities of a Successful Circuit Training Instructor

Men and women who pursue careers as circuit training instructors must have extensive knowledge of exercise physiology, biomechanics, anatomy, exercise techniques and motivational strategies. They must understand how to properly use all the exercise equipment typically found in fitness facilities, whether it’s used to build strength or endurance or improve flexibility. Circuit training routines often incorporate exercises that don’t require the use of fitness equipment, and instructors must understand how to execute those maneuvers or activities safely and effectively as well.

By their nature, circuit training routines offer a highly individualized workout. As an instructor you must act as a facilitator, which means you’ll be designing singular workout routines that are specially customized for each student. This will challenge your creativity, along with your knowledge of your profession.

As a circuit training instructor you’ll need good focus and attention to detail. You must be able to identify and correct mistakes or bad techniques that might put your students at risk of injury or reduce the effectiveness of their exercise routines.

Above all, to become a successful circuit training instructor you must have great passion for what you’re doing. You must take genuine pleasure from watching others reach their health and wellness goals, and feel inspired and motivated by the role you perform in helping them attain their loftiest fitness-related ambitions.

Certification Programs for Aspiring Circuit Training Instructors

You may pursue college-level training in fitness instruction to establish a baseline of knowledge and competency. While the completion of a two-year or four-year degree may be enough to secure employment, your chances of finding a job may be enhanced if you add certifications to your official resume.

If you’re interested in becoming certified as a personal trainer who specializes in circuit training, you can sign up for courses sponsored by one or more of these accredited, professional organizations:

These organizations offer self-guided, online study courses, supplemented by physical textbooks and other learning materials, for aspiring personal trainers. If your goal is to become circuit training instructor, you can choose courses that lead to certification as either a Personal Trainer or Group Fitness Instructor. The former designation would qualify you to instruct students on an individual basis, in an institutional or home environment.  The latter certification would train you to manage group exercise classes sponsored by fitness clubs, gyms, studios, educational institutions, medical facilities and so on.

Modules offered in these courses will teach you everything you need to know to become a personal trainer who specializes in circuit training. You’ll study exercise science, physiology and anatomy, to gain the knowledge you need to design multileveled exercise programs that will produce good results and can be performed safely by students of all fitness levels and abilities. You’ll also work on developing good teaching skills and strategies. 

These comprehensive preparatory courses generally require between 80 and 100 hours of work to complete. If you study at a normal pace, you’ll likely finish the courses in six months or a bit less. Once the process is finished, you’ll have to pass a comprehensive exam to receive your certification. Access to these exams, which may be administered online or at regional testing centers, will be offered as a part of the instructional package you purchase. The cost of a certification program plus exam will generally run somewhere between $300 and $650, depending on which organization or organizations you choose to contract.

In order to qualify for a certification course and subsequent exam, you’ll need to have at minimum a high school diploma or its equivalent, along with a government-issued photo ID. You’ll also need active and up-to-date CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) certification, which you can obtain by taking a one-day course offered by a sponsoring institution.

Once you’ve passed your certification exam, you’ll remain certified for a period of two or three years, depending on which certification you’ve achieved. Renewal will require a fee (of less than $100 in most cases) and possibly some proof that you’ve taken continuing education classes to advance your knowledge in the fitness field.

Higher Education and Your Future as a Circuit Training Instructor

You don’t need a college degree to become a circuit training or fitness instructor. Nevertheless, your chances for career success may be enhanced if you pursue a two-year, four-year and/or master’s degree in an area related to health, wellness and fitness.

There are many community colleges and universities that offer degree programs suitable for aspiring personal trainers or group fitness trainers. Should you seek an associate degree, it would likely be in exercise science or in fitness and health. Your coursework would cover subjects like anatomy and physiology, athletic training and fitness, first aid, and exercise techniques and theories. 

Many four-year universities offer bachelor’s degrees in exercise science, physical education or kinesiology, all of which are appropriate for those seeking employment as fitness professionals. If you pursue this path, your educational program will be more demanding than your coursework in a two-year program or certification course. You’ll be asked to study a variety of fitness-related topics including anatomy, sports nutrition, exercise theory, strength and conditioning, weight management, and safety and health in a fitness context.

Even if you choose the college path, some of the jobs you apply for in the future might require certification from an accredited organization. But your chances for advancement in the profession will be enhanced if you have a degree in a fitness-related field, regardless of what entry-level positions you might pursue in the early stages of your career.

Employment Prospects for Circuit Training Instructors

Fitness trainers can find employment in a number of environments where exercise is practiced, for general fitness or for the purposes of rehabilitation.

Aspiring circuit training instructors may find opportunities for employment with:

  • Health clubs
  • Gyms
  • Sports teams
  • Recreational centers
  • Spas or resorts
  • Country clubs
  • Hospitals
  • Universities
  • Businesses that sponsor fitness programs for employees

The other option for fitness trainers of all types is to work independently as a personal trainer. If you chose this career, you would visit clients in their homes or offer your services online.

Personal trainers and group fitness instructors will remain in demand for the foreseeable future. There are currently more than 350,000 people employed as personal or fitness trainers in the United States, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the available jobs for fitness trainers will rise 13 percent between 2018 and 2028. This is well above the national average for all occupations.

As of 2018, the median salary for someone employed as a fitness trainer was $39,820. According to PayScale, the median hourly salary for individuals holding such jobs is slightly under $20 per hour. Salaries in the industry range from $25,146 to $72,062 annually, with the variance explained by differences in experience levels and on-the-job duties.

Personal trainers who specialize in circuit training instruction will be entering a field that is likely to grow faster than the national average for fitness training employment as a whole. Circuit training is a relatively new development, but interest in it is growing rapidly, as it makes an ideal workout choice for busy men and women who need to condense their aerobic workouts and strength training in one convenient package.