If you've hit a plateau, feel bored with your current workout, or just want to change up your workout routine for maximum benefits, you might want to consider the benefits of circuit training.
What is Circuit Training?
It involves alternating between repetitions of a variety of different exercises with rest periods in between.
For example, you could perform squats for one minute, then rest for one minute, then do a plank for one minute, then rest for one minute, then do another exercise for a minute and rest a minute, and so on.
You could either perform a certain number of repetitions of each exercise, or do them for a certain amount of time, like one or two minutes.
The result? An improvement in your endurance, strength, and overall fitness.
Circuit Training is Scientifically Proven
Studies have proven the clinical benefit of circuit training in men and women in any age group.
One study indicates that high-intensity circuit training improved blood pressure, lipoproteins, and triglycerides in middle-aged, overweight men more than traditional endurance training or lower-intensity circuit training.
Another study describes improvement in body composition, functional strength, and overall quality of life in overweight women after nine weeks of circuit training.
A 12-week circuit training study of overweight female college students shows a significant decrease in body weight, percentage of body fat, and body mass index, and a considerable improvement in endurance, flexibility, and cardiopulmonary fitness.
With so much science behind it, circuit training is an excellent option to explore to see if it's right for you.
Circuit Training Benefits
Circuit training offers many benefits:
- Builds muscle
- Improves your heart
- Achieves maximum results in a short time
- Benefits your whole body
- Prevents boredom
- Spikes metabolism
- Improves mood
- Jump-starts weight loss
- Pushes you out of your comfort zone
#1: Builds Muscle
You can use your body weight or try incorporating light to moderate weights into your circuit to build stronger muscles.
#2: Improves Your Heart Health
Since circuit training doesn't allow for much rest between exercises, it forces your heart to alternate between working hard and recovering. This spike in heart rate ultimately strengthens your heart and makes it function more efficiently.
#3: Achieves Results in a Short Amount of Time
Unless you live at the gym, you're probably challenged to fit exercise into your already busy routine. Circuit training is a perfect option if you are time-crunched.
That's because you can pack a lot of intensity into a short amount of time – from 15 minutes to an hour or any time frame in between.
With minimal breaks in between each exercise, you maximize efficiency and get a lot of bang for your buck.
#4: Engage Your Whole Body
Instead of organizing your workouts by leg day, arm day, or core, for example, you can benefit your whole body in one workout with circuit training.
Your routine may involve an upper body exercise (such as tricep extensions or shoulder presses) followed by a lower body exercise (such as squats or jump lunges) and concluding with a core workout (such as planks or crunches), then a short rest. Completing that circuit benefits your arms, legs, back, and core while simultaneously spiking your heart rate.
#5: Prevents Boredom
If you get tired of performing the same routine every time you hit the gym, circuit training is a great way to keep things interesting.
Because of its non-rigid format, you can change out exercises when you want and organize your workout with endless options. Stick to a routine for a while and measure your progress, or change it up every time you work out. The choice is yours, giving you complete control and flexibility.
#6: Spikes Metabolism
Because of its compound exercises with short rests in between, circuit training spurs calorie burn. It increases your metabolic rate during and after your workout, kicking your fat-burning capabilities into high gear.
Studies have shown that circuit training increases the production of the human growth hormone, a hormone that impacts metabolism, by 450 percent during the 24 hours post-workout.
#7: Improves Mood
Circuit training is an outstanding way to beat stress and release feel-good endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine that improve mood. It can also decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and hostility, putting some of those worries in perspective.
Attending circuit training group classes could reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation by helping you feel part of a community.
A circuit training program's flexibility and customized options put you in the driver's seat, which can be fun. When you are doing an activity you enjoy, you not only want to do it more, but it could also bring happiness and overall satisfaction.
#8: Jump-Starts Weight Loss
Circuit training causes your heart rate to elevate and stay there, allowing you to burn a lot of calories during your session. And since you are also incorporating strength training, you will continue to burn calories after your workout is over.
Together with proper nutrition, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep, circuit training could help you achieve the weight loss you are looking for
#9: Pushes You Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you do the same comfortable workout every time, you probably won't see significant changes in your size, strength, or endurance. Stepping out of your comfort zone involves adding more challenging exercises, increasing weights, and intensifying workout techniques.
If you enjoy cardio more than strength training, for example, circuit training will ensure your muscles get the workout they need.
Circuit training is a well-rounded, balanced approach to exercise that ensures you don't spend too much of your time on your preferred exercise of choice.
What You Need for Circuit Training
The beauty of circuit training is that it is flexible. No matter where you are (the gym, at home, or on vacation) or what you have access to (weights, machines, or body weight), you can get in a good workout that is appropriate for your own fitness level.
If you are at the gym, you can take a class or invent your own routine using the weights and stations available to you.
If you are at home, you'll need enough space to stretch in all directions without hitting something (like your couch, TV, or roommate) and a safe, level, non-slip floor (which could be a mat, carpet, or whatever base you have). Wear comfortable clothing that won't restrict your movement. After you've stretched and warmed up, follow these steps:
Step 1: Select a time limit.
First, decide how much time you have. Anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes is ideal.
Step 2: Pick an upper-body exercise
This could be a pushup or dip if you are at home with no equipment, or curls, shoulder presses, or bent-over rows if you have weights or are at the gym.
Step 3: Pick a lower-body exercise
Choose from lunges, squats, calf raises, or hamstring curls, for example, with or without weights.
Step 4: Pick a compound exercise
This could be mountain climbers, burpees, thrusters, or any exercise that involves total body movements.
Step 5: Choose a cardio move
This requires explosive movement – think jump roping, stair climbing, sprinting, or jogging on an incline.
Step 6: Put this all together and repeat
Repeat this circuit in this order for your allotted time.
Be sure to cool down, stretch, and hydrate when you are done.
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Drawbacks of Circuit Training
While circuit training is a fantastic type of exercise, there are a few drawbacks you should be aware of:
- If you're new to exercising, the workout may be too fast. You won't have time to learn proper form, so it might be best to start with a slower type of exercise first and increase the intensity once you are ready.
- It takes some equipment space. If you are working out at the gym, another member might jump on the next piece of equipment you planned to use. If you are at home, you might be limited on equipment, space, and exercise options. You can still get a good workout in, but you might not have as many exercises to choose from.
- There is a risk of injury. Transitioning from eight to 10 different exercises quickly can increase your chance of injury, especially if you aren't paying attention to your form. Make sure you know how to perform each exercise safely before you begin. Take your time and be intentional about your movements.
- Be mindful of overexertion. Circuit training requires speed and different strength components, which can result in fatigue. Consider spacing out your circuit training workouts by incorporating rest days in between. If you’re new to circuit training, take longer rest periods after each exercise. Be patient with yourself, start slow, and increase time/weights as you are comfortable.
Circuit training is a great option for someone who wants an efficient, challenging, and versatile workout. It's a full-body workout with many benefits, such as increasing muscle, improving heart health, spiking metabolism, jump-starting weight loss, and pushing you out of your comfort zone. It could also improve your stress levels and mood.
As wonderful as circuit training can be for some, it's not for everyone. It might be something you work up to.
You will need to decide what works best for your athletic abilities, physical stamina, and environment. Circuit training might be a routine you incorporate as your comfort level with the exercises improves and you understand proper form and your own limits.
Like any other exercise program, you should always discuss it with your doctor before beginning.
The ultimate goal of any fitness routine is to make it work for you. Choose a fitness program that you enjoy doing, that can fit into your life, and that gives you a sense of strength, confidence, and accomplishment. If you let it, fitness can influence your life for the positive, and empower you to make healthy decisions in all aspects of it. Consider getting started with a virtual personal trainer on the Future App.
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