Any experienced athlete knows if you want results, you have to keep your training fresh. “That’s why I love circuit training so much — because it’s an intense workout with lots of variety that keeps me motivated and my body guessing,” Nicole Costa says.
The beauty of circuit training is that anybody at any fitness level can do it and see results. Not only is it good for strengthening and toning, but it can also reduce body fat and helps to maintain and improve lean body mass. If you’re looking for a way to reinvigorate your workouts, whether just for a day, a week, or a month or more, Costa provides six training options that all hit multiple bodyparts and get you moving.
“Typically, people follow a 30-minute circuit-training program, but for someone at my level of fitness and to achieve the results I need for competition, I circuit-train for an hour,” Costa says. “It’s great for burning calories — an estimated 6 calories per minute for women and 9 calories per minute for men. That means that for every one-hour circuit I perform, I’m burning 360 calories. You can’t beat that.”
Costa follows a periodization schedule of five days a week of circuit resistance training — three days on, one day off, two days on and one day off, with one or two yoga classes thrown in for flexibility, agility and relaxation. “Before I prepare for any figure competition, I begin my 14-week training period with two to three weeks of circuit training,” she says. “I find it’s a great way to strengthen and prepare your body for the next phase, which is isolation training.”
In addition, Costa adds 45 minutes of cardio training to her program five days a week. “To keep me motivated and my body in prime condition, I split up my cardio into 15-minute exercises that include the elliptical, running, stairs and rowing,” she says. This breaks up the cardio to keep it interesting and reduces the chance of repetitive stress injury.
“While the aerobic training helps to burn calories and condition my cardiovascular system, I find circuit training is better at improving my lactate threshold,” Costa explains. “The more you perform circuit sessions, the more your body adapts to the higher workloads and your muscles’ tolerance for lactic-acid buildup improves. This makes a huge difference when I move onto phase two of my competition prep. I have more strength and endurance to get through those heavy lifting days.”
COSTA’S CIRCUIT: The Rules
Before you get started, there are a few circuit-training guidelines you need to follow:
1. Your goal is to perform as many circuits as you can in one hour with a minimum of four full sets per exercise.
2. Staying within the 12- to 15-rep range, choose a challenging weight so you reach failure on each exercise.
3. Do not rest between exercises, but move straight on to the next one in the circuit. This transition should take no longer than 15 to 30 seconds.
4. With little-to-no rest in between exercises, it should be possible for you to maintain an elevated heart rate throughout the program.
5. After you have completed one full circuit, take a one-minute rest before you begin again. Use this time to rehydrate and mentally prepare yourself for the next circuit.
6. Each time you perform circuit training, strive to increase the resistance on some or all your exercises.
7. To avoid plateauing, mix up the order of exercises and bodyparts each time you train and rotate the circuit sessions from week to week.
8. Rest for a full 24 hours between circuit-training sessions.
THE NICOLE COSTA CIRCUIT PLAN
These six workouts comprise Nicole Costa’s circuit program. For sets, reps and rest recommendations, follow the instructions given in the box Costa’s Circuit: The Rules.
Nicole Costa’s Nutrition Regimen
As any competitor knows, training is not the entire equation. This is a sample of what Nicole Costa eats and supplements with during a typical training day.
Meal 1: Wake Up
Costa takes green-tea extract, Gingko biloba, garlic, lecithin, fish oil, fiber, cayenne pepper, glutamine, arginine, CLA and a host of AllMax Nutrition supplements, including Rapidcuts Hardcore, IsoFlex Whey Protein Isolate, an Aminocore BCAA stick pack and a VitaStack packet.
Meal 2: Breakfast
Costa prepares an omelet — using four egg whites and one whole egg — mixed with chopped peppers, mushrooms and asparagus. She also has 1/4 cup of oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal or one slice of Ezekiel bread with one tablespoon of ground flaxseed and a piece of fruit. She drinks 1 liter of water with this meal.
Meal 3: Lunch
Costa has 5 ounces of chicken breast, turkey breast, white fish or trout, along with 1/4 cup of brown rice or Ezekiel cereal or one slice of Ezekiel bread. She has one cup of green vegetables and 10 asparagus spears on the side, as well as a cup of salad that includes cucumber, mushroom, red and green pepper slices, green beans, sunflower sprouts and black pepper, topped with balsamic vinaigrette. She takes two cayenne pepper pills and has another liter of water with this meal.
Meal 4: Preworkout (15 to 30 minutes before training)
Fifteen to 30 minutes before training, Costa takes one teaspoon of AllMax Glutamine, two AllMax TestoFX capsules, one scoop of AllMax MusclePrime and 500 milligrams of Vitamin C.
Meal 5: Postworkout (15 minutes after training)
Within 15 minutes of her last set, Costa takes one teaspoon of AllMax Glutamine, one Aminocore BCAA stick pack, one tablespoon of lecithin, one teaspoon of ground flaxseed and one scoop of AllMax IsoFlex Whey Protein Isolate mixed in water.
Meal 6: Afternoon
This meal is the same as Meal 3, minus the cayenne pepper supplement and oatmeal or Ezekiel products. She adds a small amount of avocado to her salad for the healthy fat content and drinks a liter of water.
Meal 7: Dinner
Costa eats 1 1/2 cans of tuna or 5 ounces of salmon, orange roughy, tilapia, sashimi or steak. She also has two cups of salad, using the same ingredients as in Meal 3, and drinks a liter of water.
Meal 8: Snack
If she’s dealing with some hunger, Costa will have a small meal of 10 shrimp seasoned with cayenne, paprika and black pepper.
Meal 9: Bedtime
Before going to sleep, Costa will have four egg whites, a tablespoon of flaxseed, a teaspoon of fiber, a teaspoon of lecithin, as well as glutamine, ZMA, CLA, arginine, melatonin and an AllMax Aminocore BCAA stick pack. She also drinks a liter of water.