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KISS Principle for Group Training+(3x3x3 Circuit Workout)

KISS Principle for Group Training+(3x3x3 Circuit Workout)

By Sarah Rippel, Author of The Ultimate Group Training System , Build ‘N Burn & The Brand NEW Build N Burn 2.0


“Keep it stupid simple.”

Those are pretty wise words to live by!

If negative self-talk works for you, then feel free to switch the two last words. 🙂

Putting simplicity at the forefront of your group training program is probably one of the best pieces of advice that I can give.

While I cannot recommend a set way to simplify YOUR group training program, I can outline some strategies that may help you put the KISS principle into practice!


Any and all of these strategies can be combined into your group training program design process as well as your delivery of quality coaching…so that your clients keep coming back for more!




Three seems to be a magic number, at least it has been in my group training experience! I have mentioned it before, but the number three seems to work well for most people with regard to circuits. Most people can handle three exercises. Three is relatively easy to retain!


Throw out a list of 12 exercises, however, and you’re asking for people to get overloaded. Just looking at a list of 12 exercises is enough to send some people in a tailspin, as they automatically assume they will not be able to remember all of them. Even if you have that many exercises listed on a board for reference, I don’t feel it should be common practice to have people performing circuits of that size.


That said, I have done these kinda things in the past when I had huge groups. I was able to learn through trial and error that it basically results in organized chaos. Who wants to keep tabs on 20 people doing 10 different exercises all at once? I know I don’t. It’s not something I recommend at all.


So, an easy way to simplify your process of designing circuits is to use the number three. Three exercises in a circuit. Three rounds of a circuit. Three circuits per workout. See what I’m getting at here? Simple.


Here’s an example:


Circuit 1: Warm-Up x 3 Rounds (10-12 min)

Circuit 2: Power/Strength x 3 Rounds (15-20 min)


Circuit 3: Conditioning

  • Row/Ski 500m OR Air Bike 1000m
  • Wall Ball x 10
  • Ultimate Sandbag Shoveling x 20 (10/side)
  • Row/Ski 500m OR Air Bike 1000m
  • Wall Ball x 15
  • Ultimate Sandbag Shoveling x 15 (7-8/side)
  • Row/Ski 500m OR Air Bike 1000m
  • Wall Ball x 20 (can break into 2 sets of 10 with 5-10sec rest between)
  • Ultimate Sandbag Shoveling x 10 (5/side)

*Rest 10-20 sec between exercises!


In the above example, circuits one and two are relatively straightforward. Three sets of three exercises! Simple! Circuit three has nine things listed though, so how does that fit in with this? Well, when you look at it, it’s really three rounds of three exercises. The reps just change a bit for the wall balls and shoveling.


Three is also a dang good number of options to have available for each exercise, with regard to regressions/progressions. In my first book & program, “Build ‘N Burn,” I outlined five options for many of the exercises included in the “build” workouts, but I do not feel it is necessary to have more than three these days.


The power of three. It’s simple! Try it! Get out a piece of paper and put together a week’s template that includes three workouts using three circuits of three exercises each that fits your current training philosophy.


(Side note, the number four also works pretty well.)




If you’re familiar with strength training, then you probably have heard of a deload week. For those who aren’t as experienced with a traditional model of strength development, the deload is a scheduled week of decreased volume, loading, and overall intensity. The deload week offsets weeks of more intense training, with the goals of recovery and ensuring that everything is progressing as it should.


A “learning week” could be scheduled during a deload week, if you are utilizing a more traditional approach in your group programming. Alternately, it could be scheduled following a 4-6-week training block, or in between programs.


During the learning week, the goal is to introduce any new exercises, variations, and circuit formats in a manner that helps clients feel good about these new additions. This can be done in a way that allows people to feel that they have gotten in some good training, while keeping an emphasis on the acquisition of new skills.


The learning week can help you be a better coach! Why? Because when your clients know that the main focus of that week’s training sessions is to focus on learning and not solely “getting to work,” it takes the pressure off everyone. You can coach them up in a more relaxed setting. I mean, who thinks it’s a great idea to try and work on someone’s front squat technique while they are in the middle of a training piece in which the group is hitting two reps “every 30 seconds” for 12 rounds? Not the best time to do that!


In a learning week training session, a block of time can be devoted to one main skill. Again, let’s take the front squat. By devoting 30 minutes of the training hour to that one skill, all levels of ability can get in some solid work! A person who is just learning the front squat may work with an empty barbell or light loading, going by feel with sets of three. A person who has some experience with front squatting may choose to use that block of time to work up to a 3-rep max. A person who is quite proficient at the front squat may choose to focus on a weak point in that lift by performing tempo or paused front squats.


Again, there’s that number three! 🙂


Here’s an example of a learning week:




  1. Introduce new warm-up sequence that will be used for the following four Monday sessions. Should take no more than 15 minutes to demo & explain, then have everyone complete 2-3 rounds.
  2. Teach the front squat & allow for a 30-minute focused block of work time. Those who are familiar with the movement may immediately get to work.
  3. Wrap things up with a short conditioning circuit that uses three familiar movements: push-up, rowing, and kettlebell swing variations.




  1. As with Monday, introduce new warm-up sequence that will be used for the following four Wednesday sessions.
  2. Teach Ultimate Sandbag press variations that will be used in the upcoming four-week training block: military stance, sprinter stance, & tall-kneeling. If possible, prescribe which variation each client will be using when the block starts. Allow for a 30-minute focused block of work time. Those who are familiar with the movement may immediately get to work!
  3. Wrap things up with a short conditioning circuit that uses three familiar movements: wall ball, air bike, and static hold variations.




  1. As with Monday & Wednesday, introduce new warm-up sequence that will be used for the following four Friday sessions.
  2. Teach the trap bar deadlift & allow for a 30-minute focused block of work time. Those who are familiar with the movement may immediately get to work.
  3. Wrap things up with a short conditioning circuit that uses three familiar movements: step-up, Ultimate Sandbag around the world, & battle rope variations.


The learning week helps you take care of going over any and all teaching aspects of new movements, so you don’t have to do as much of this in the upcoming weeks! Of course we are always coaching people up, but spending a little more focused time for this week makes things a heckuva lot better!


Stay tuned for the next KISS principle installment!


In the meantime…..

Check out top level programming by Sarah Rippel :

The Ultimate Small Group Training System”  The most Comprehensive Guide to Semi-Private and Small Group Training for Fit Pros.













Build N’ Burn  – Done For YOU 16 Wk Metabolic Group Training Program for Fit Pros











Check out The ALL NEW Done-for-You Build ‘N Burn 2.0 for Fit Pros:












Other articles by Sarah Rippel:

Deceptively Devious Conditioning Circuit

The Smart Program Design Series: Incorporating Variety & Making Progression Seamless Part 5 – Selecting Exercises for Conditioning Work

SGT Workout Breakdown- Program 4  Part 1

The Conditioning Based Warm-Up: 10 Minute EMOM

SGT Workout Breakdown Program 4 – Part 2

Metabolic Circuit Revamp V1.0

Unconventional Cardio: Strongman Conditioning Circuits

Density Training for Metabolic Conditioning & Strength Work

Using Cluster Sets To Spice Up Strength Programming

Wall Ball Conditioning Workouts+4 Tips to Improve Wall Ball Technique(Videos)

Using a Tempo Focus with Build ‘N Burn Workouts

Speed Ladder + Static Core Continuous 30-Second Circuit Version 2.0

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