Are you tired of doing the same old gym routine and are looking to try something new, fun, and just as effective as (if not more) your regular routine? If so, then we suggest circuit training. This mode of exercise has gained popularity among both newbies and advanced gym goers in recent years for good reason. In today’s article, we shall be outlining and explaining some circuit training benefits to show you how efficient and effective this form of exercise can be when added to your gym routine.
What Is Circuit Training?
Before delving into answering the question, “what is circuit training good for?”, let’s first figure out what exactly this form of training involves and how one does it.
Dictionary.com defines circuit training as a workout technique that involves a series of exercises performed in rotation often with different kinds of equipment and minimal rest throughout the workout session (1).
In simpler terms, circuit training is a type of exercise routine that involves rotation through different types of workouts, all targeting different parts of the body with minimal rest in between each exercise. This kind of workout session allows you to target multiple muscle groups in a small amount of time– giving you a quick, yet very effective full-body workout.
What Does A Session Of Circuit Training Workouts Look Like?
While circuit training sessions more or less follow the same “rules”, no session will necessarily look like another.
This is due to the following reasons:
- It Is Not Set In Stone: There are no set types of exercises that one needs to follow in order to be in circuit training.
- Time Limit: Sessions often vary in terms of how much time one can spare in a day. Naturally, those with less time will end up doing fewer exercises/fewer reps than those with more time.
- Experience Levels: Not all people attempting this exercise will be lumped together. Beginners often have their own separate sessions, which involve easier (but not less effective workouts) as compared to intermediate or advanced gym goers.
- Goals: We all exercise for different reasons. For some it could be weight loss, others want to improve their flexibility, and there are those who want to improve their cardiovascular health, among others. Some circuit training classes can be specifically set up to help individuals reach a certain goal, such as increased muscle growth, improved speed and agility, and improved cardiovascular health.
With that being said, here is what a session of these workouts might look like:
- 8 to 10 Exercises Per Circuit: This mostly depends on the time available as well as the experience levels of the people in the class. All these exercises will be targeting different muscle groups.
- Reps: Each set of exercises requires a specific number of sets to be done before you can move on to the next exercise on the list. These amounts of reps are often pre-determined by the trainer, or an individual if you are working out alone.
- Rest Time: Remember that, unlike regular exercises, you do not rest in between the reps or sets. Instead, you may rest after all the workouts for each cycle are completed. This rest time is usually anywhere between 1 to 2 minutes.
- Cycle: As previously stated, you will be rotating through different kinds of exercises in such a session. Each training circuit may require you to cycle through these workouts up to three times before your session is over.
- Time Limit: One of the biggest advantages of circuit training is how quick it is. Most sessions take anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes, thus you can be in and out of the gym in less than an hour ready to go back to your normal day-to-day activities.
What Are The 7 Benefits Of Circuit Training And Its Single Downside?
Here are some benefits of circuit training workouts:
One of the biggest, and most understandable, reasons that many people use as to why they don’t work out is the lack of time. Not everyone can spare an hour or two, three to five times a week just to get in some much-needed exercise session.
This is where circuit training comes in. This high-intensity workout is often done in just 30 to 45 minutes (even 20 minutes in some cases), which is a huge time saver for anyone with a busy schedule. It’s very easy to fit a quick circuit workout either very early in the morning before work, during the break time at lunch, or even right after work before heading home– and still be on schedule with all that you need to do.
Offers A Full-Body Workout
The “Split Workouts” is a type of training program that breaks up training sessions by days and muscle groups. They are huge in the fitness community but they aren’t necessarily the best for beginners or people looking to lose weight.
Such training programs are perfect for people who aim to grow their muscles. However, it is also important to note that they require a lot of planning and dedication, which might be overwhelming for a beginner. Choosing to do circuit workouts helps you work all the major muscles in one session through a variety of exercises— something that works well for anyone who does not have a lot of time to spend in a gym.
May Lead To Weight Loss
Other than watching your diet, the other best way to lose weight is by working out using a combination of cardio and strength training. This makes circuit training the best option to consider since such programs combine these two things in one cycle. In a meta-analysis study published in 2019, study reviewers found that circuit training for weight loss was especially effective in obese and overweight people (8).
In another study published in 2018, 20 obese female college students were divided into 2 groups. One group was placed on a 12-week, 3 times a week exercise program where they did circuit exercises that involved 10 types of resistance and aerobic workouts. The other group was a control group.
At the end of the 12 weeks, researchers found that the women in the circuit training program had lost more body weight, body mass, and body mass index, on top of having smaller waist circumferences, than those in the control group (2).
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Can Increase Muscle Growth And Strength
Having bigger and stronger muscles is probably one of the biggest benefits of circuit training with weights, especially for those whose goal is to not only lift heavier but also have a very “gym fit” physique.
In fact, in one study published in 2021, researchers found that resistance circuit-based training (aka circuit training with weights) was incredibly effective not only for weight loss and reducing total body fat, but it also worked extremely well in increasing muscle mass (4).
But, how do circuit training benefit muscle mass and strength compared to traditional training methods? According to an older study published in 2011 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, this form of training produces similar results in muscle strength and gains in roughly half the time as compared to traditional muscle training methods (5).
Improves Heart Health
According to the World Health Organization, the leading cause of death globally is heart disease, which is responsible for 16 percent of the world’s total deaths (this was about 8.9 million deaths in 2019 alone (7).
To prevent heart disease, the NHS recommends practices like eating a well-balanced diet, giving up smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your blood pressure and diabetes in control, reducing your alcohol intake, and, above all else, making regular exercise a part of your daily life.
Circuit training for heart health is a great idea because the minimal resting time between the exercises ensures that your heart rate is always elevated, which in turn strengthens this muscle, enhancing its endurance to pump and circulate blood throughout the body (4).
Improves Muscle Endurance
Muscle endurance is described as your body’s muscle ability to perform repetitive motions like lengthening and contracting over long periods without getting tired. For dedicated gym goers having good muscular endurance means that they can sustain exercise for longer, meaning less fatigue while working out, better overall results, and even less risk of injury (6).
For an average person, muscular endurance is also an important part of everyday life. This ability of your muscles to seamlessly lengthen and contract over and over for an extended time helps us do everyday activities and chores like carrying groceries, opening doors, walking or cycling, chopping wood, swimming, etc.
For many people, the words “working out” and “fun” do not fit in the same sentence– and with good reason. Not only is it a very sweaty experience, but it is – more often than not – quite painful, especially as a beginner. What’s worse is that most exercise routines are often quite rigid and repetitive, which makes the experience extremely boring.
Circuit training is the best fix for this for two main reasons:
- It is quite fast-paced. You quite literally have little to no time to rest in between the exercises, which gives you no time to really think too much about what you are doing, hence, allowing no time for boredom.
- It has varieties. As previously stated, no circuit training program is similar to another. Since this form of exercise mixes up different kinds of exercises, your sessions will always have something fun or new for you to try.
What Is The Biggest Disadvantage Of Circuit Training?
Despite all the above-mentioned circuit training benefits, this type of workout routine has a higher risk of injury as compared to other more traditional programs. This is because you are moving through different types of exercises with little to no rest. Additionally, by doing these exercises at a high intensity, many people – especially beginners and those who are using weights – are very likely to injure themselves.
To prevent this, it is advisable to:
- Seek the help of a trainer who can always make sure that your form is perfect, especially when circuit training with weights, to reduce the risk of sustaining an injury.
- Start and go slow. As a beginner, do not attempt or join intermediate or advanced classes. Remember to pace yourself.
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Circuit Training Vs. Straight Sets: Which Is Better For Muscle Growth?
If muscle strength, growth, and definition are your gym goals then traditional training (aka straight sets) might be your first option for workouts. However, you might want to rethink this decision.
To many people, circuit training is seen as a form of cardio or fat-burning workout. While this is true, research shows that this very same – often disregarded – form of workout works just as well as traditional weight lifting and provides good results in half the time doing straight sets would (5).
What Are The 5 Advantages Of Circuit Training?
Circuit training benefits certainly exceed 5, and they include improved lung capacity and heart health, better muscle strength and endurance, time-saving, full body workout, weight loss, and much more.
The Bottom Line
The above-listed circuit training benefits clearly show that this type of training program is perfect for anyone irrespective of your goals or gym experience. If you’ve been looking for a workout program that’s not only fun but also combines cardio and strength training in equal measure, then look no further than this. Remember to always speak to your doctor before starting any new workout, especially if you have any underlying health issues.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- circuit training (n.d., dictionary.com)
- Effect of circuit training on body composition, physical fitness, and metabolic syndrome risk factors in obese female college students (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Exercise to Improve Cardiovascular Health (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Resistance Circuit-Based Training on Body Composition, Strength and Cardiorespiratory Fitness: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Similarity in adaptations to high-resistance circuit vs. traditional strength training in resistance-trained men (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Importance of Muscular Strength: Training Considerations (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The top 10 causes of death (2020, who.int)
- Weight loss effects of circuit training interventions: A systematic review and meta-analysis (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)