Hit An Exercise Plateau? Change It Up With This HIIT Circuit

Written by Julie Wilcox

Have you ever noticed that after you master a workout, your body suddenly rejects that very same routine you’ve been doing for months? Signs that you’ve become overly accustomed to an exercise routine include:

  • Fatigue (despite doing a known workout for months)
  • Overuse injury
  • The loss of the fitness high (or “runner’s high”)

Recently, I realized that my body was over my workout. I had spent the past several months working almost exclusively on building my running endurance and I had achieved my goal of being able to comfortably and consistently run 5 miles five days a week (3 miles was my previous comfort zone and take note that I've never had a runner's body). Even on the most hot and humid days, I jogged the NYC Central Park loop sporting a smile. For the first time in my life, running was easy. I pounded the pavement with pride and joy, and even gave up my rest days.

A couple of weeks ago, it became clear to me that I had become overly adapted to the 5 mile run. The science of exercise and physiology had kicked in.

Here’s how I knew:

  • I woke up in the mornings exhausted and bored by the thought of running.
  • I no longer ran like a graceful gazelle, but slogged through Central Park like an overworked mule.
  • My body, mind and interest waned, and as a result, rejected the runs I had come to love and rely on to feel good.
  • My body had adapted to the conditions and was demanding something different.

When the body plateaus, in order to give it what it wants, it is important to have different workouts to which we can default. As sad as picking up a jump rope and weights seemed to me when running had become so easy, I faced the first day of combined high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit training with determination.

Below is one of my current intermediate workouts. With all the different combinations of the approximately 150 HIIT cardio and toning exercises I do and offer my subscribers, I can create a huge number of different HIIT and circuit workouts. Since I combine these workouts with running, cycling and other forms of cardio, I keep my clients and myself on our toes!

Here is one of the circuits I use in my workouts (in one of my typical workouts, this would be one of three circuits). This can be combined with other circuits or additional forms of exercise:

  • Jump Rope: 2 Minutes
  • Standing Oblique Toners With 15 lb. Weights: 1 Minute
  • Jumping Jacks: 1 Minute
  • Advanced Cherry Picker Crawls: 1 Minute
  • Triceps Extensions And Pulses with 7 Pound Weights: 10 Reps Each, Consecutively
  • Sit-Ups With 15 Pound Weight On Your Chest: 10 Reps
  • Glute Toners: 10 Reps

I would typically follow this up with two more circuits and cool down by walking 4-5 MPH for 20 minutes.

Here's how to do each of these moves:

Jump Rope: 2 Minutes


Hold a rope in your hands beside your hips. Stand with your feet at hips distance or together. Engage your core.

Swing the rope behind you and take 2 small jumps as it moves overhead. When the rope drops towards the ground jump over it on the third jump.

Standing Oblique Toners With 15 Pound Weights: 1 Minute


Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart

Hold the dumbbell in your right hand alongside your body keeping your arm straight (palm faces your body).

Engage your core and broaden across your chest.

Keeping your core firm, bend laterally to the right, completing the side lean with as much range as you comfortable can (be careful not to overstretch).

Come back to your starting position, pulling your navel towards your spine as you stand tall.

Finish all reps on the right side and then switch to the left side.

Jumping Jacks: 1 Minute


Start with your feet together, arms straight and hands along your legs.

Jump your feet out to the side a few inches wider than your hips and raise your arms along your ears keeping them straight.

Jump your feet back together and press your arms down to touch your sides. As you lower your arms and jump back to center, try to get some suspension in the air.

Keep going!

Advanced Cherry Picker Crawls: 1 Minute


Stand tall with your legs a few inches wider than hips distance apart.

Reach your arms towards the ceiling, bend over to place your hands on the ground and walk them forward until your body assumes a straight plank pose.

Bring your right knee in to touch your right triceps and then extend the leg back out to plank. Bring your left knee in to touch your left triceps and then extend it back out to plank. Walk your hands back in towards your feet. Stand up. Touch your hips.

(Skip the knee to triceps pull ins if you are a beginner and just walk back in and up to start the next.)

Triceps Extensions And Pulses, 10 Reps Each Consecutively, With 7 Pound Weights


Start in a lunge position, left leg forward with your knee bent, right leg extended behind you. Lower your torso over your thigh. Keep your spine long and engage your core.

Place your left hand on a bench or your left thigh for support.

Hold a weight in your right hand with your arm extended along your hip, palm facing your body. For the extensions, bend at your elbow keeping your upper arm locked against your body. Extend the elbow until your arm is straight. Do 10 reps. Go right into pulses.

For pulses, from starting position, keep your arm about an inch or two above your hip and straighten it, beginning to elevate your arm with small pulses. Do 10 pulses then switch sides.

Sit-Ups With 10-15 Pound Weight On Your Chest, 10 Reps


Lie down with both knees bent and pressed together. Make sure your feet are together as well. Secure your feet under something (you can do these on an extension hyperextension bench) or have your trainer hold them down.

Hold a dumb bell or kettle bell horizontally across your chest.

Perform traditional sit-ups, rolling all the way to a seated position keeping the weight on your chest from start to finish. Roll down onto your back (or hold in space if you are on a bench) and continue into the next rep!

Glute Toners: 10 Reps


Lie face down over an extension hyperextension bench with your feet tucked under the foam roller and the end of the hip pad right in your hip creases.

Once your feet are secure, hang all the way over the end of the bench so that your torso is perpendicular to the ground (you will be upside down with your head reaching towards the floor).

Clasp your hands behind your head with your elbows reach away from each other.

Firm your glutes inward and begin to rise into a back bend to your full extension capacity using your glutes and core (not low back) to lift your torso.

With control, lower your torso back to starting position.

Begin the next rep.

Repeat the full circuit twice, in the same order.

For a cool down, I recommend walking on the treadmill at 4-5 MPH for 20 Minutes.

Good luck!

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