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Short Circuits 

Circuits of plyometric exercises combine cardio and strength training

Tessa Kambur, a physical trainer at New Orleans Athletic Club (222 N. Rampart St., 525-2375; www.neworleansathleticclub.com) says she derived her training style from her experiences of "getting tortured by coaches for fitness reasons."

  "The coaches were so good. They knew how to push me to my limit, and I learned from that," Kambur says. "I use what they taught, and I relay it on to my clients."

  A former long-distance runner, sprinter and soccer player, Kambur says the circuit training and plyometric exercises taught by coaches of many sports, from gymnastics to football, play an integral part in her work with clients. Plyometric exercises, she says, are any exercises that involve a burst of power, such as sprinting or doing push-ups.

  "[Plyometric exercises] use your own body weight as resistance and involve acceleration," Kambur says. "It tests your muscular endurance and gets your heart rate up so your cardiovascular system is working hard. Balance, agility and strength improves — there are all kinds of benefits."

  Plyometric exercises integrate the effects of weight training and cardio workouts. Kambur says she likes to combine weights and cardio; that way, her clients build muscle while shedding the layer of fat that covers the muscles, creating a lean, toned appearance.

  "I don't often do just weights or cardio with a client," Kambur says. "I either do a little of both or I put them into one move: they'll do so much running that their legs become sore, or so many squats, lunges and push-ups that it becomes aerobic."

  The plyometric moves in the circuit that follows are designed to be completed in rapid succession in order to keep up the heart rate (no breaks in between exercises), with a high number of repetitions to challenge muscular endurance. Kambur suggests that beginners who may feel off-balance while doing the squat jumps hold onto a balance bar at first. Warm up, stretch and then do the exercises on a softer surface, such as carpet or grass. People with knee problems or arthritis shouldn't do these exercises.

  Repeat the circuit three times, resting one to two minutes in between each circuit, and increase the repetitions or add weight to the step-up if it becomes too easy.

  "Once you get through a circuit and you feel like it's easy, find a way to push yourself harder," Kambur says. "You always want to push yourself beyond what is comfortable. That's the only way you are going to improve."

  Do it yourself

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Drop the hips back and squat down with feet shoulder-width apart. Get low, as though you are sitting in a chair. The knee should not extend beyond the toe. Counter balance by extending the arms forward.




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Jump up and extend arms to the ceiling. Land in the original squatting position and repeat 20 times.




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Keeping the body flat like a board, the hands at shoulder level but spread wider than the shoulder, and the feet together, lower your body until your elbows make a 90 degree angle. Push yourself back up and repeat 15 times. People who are not strong enough for a full push-up can rest their knees on the ground or do wall push-ups.




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Stand close to a bench that is 15 to 20 inches tall. Step up leading with your left foot, then step down leading with your left foot 15 times. Do 15 more repetitions, this time leading with the right foot. Hold a 10-pound dumbbell in each hand to increase the challenge.

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