UPDATED 24th March 2023
Circuit training is a form of training where participants rotate through a number of stations, performing different exercises to time or repetitions, back to back, with minimum rest periods until the circuit is completed. There are various ways of constructing a circuit, but they would normally contain several movements including body weight, weighted and dynamic exercises.
One of the greatest benefits of circuit training is the adaptability available. Circuits can be developed for cardiovascular improvement, strength, mobility, sport specific… virtually anything. They also don’t need a lot of space or time and don’t need to be overly complicated (unless you want them to be).
What are the advantages of circuit training?
There are a huge number of advantages of circuit training workouts, from helping you lose weight/improve body composition or gain muscular endurance to being able to craft an entire workout using only body weight exercises – we could go on forever. But in our experience the key benefits to a circuit training workout are the ones we’ve listed below.
Circuit Training Can Improve Cardiovascular Fitness
Circuit training is an excellent way to increase your heart rate and challenge your cardiovascular system – fantastic for your lung capacity and your heart health. It can improve your endurance and overall fitness by incorporating exercises like jumping jacks, high knees, and mountain climbers.
Circuit Training Improves Muscle Strength and Endurance:
Circuit training involves resistance exercises that work multiple muscle groups, it helps to build overall strength and improves muscular endurance. By performing a variety of exercises with little rest, circuit training can help to challenge your muscles and promote growth.
Circuit Training is Time Efficient
Because it involves a series of exercises back-to-back with little to no rest, it’s an efficient way to get a full body workout in less time. A 30-minute circuit training workout can provide similar benefits to longer traditional workouts.
Circuit Training is Versatile
Circuit training workouts can be adapted to suit various fitness levels and goals. Exercises can be modified to make them easier or more challenging, and the number of circuits and exercises can be adjusted based on your fitness level.
Circuit Training Can Burn a Lot of Calories
Circuit training is a high-intensity workout that can burn a significant number of calories in a short amount of time. By incorporating exercises targeting multiple muscle groups, circuit training can help to boost your metabolism and burn calories long after your workout. When combined with a healthy diet, circuit training can be an effective tool for people looking to lose weight.
Circuit Training Workouts Can Be More Social
Circuit training can be more social than other types of exercise because it often involves group or partner exercises. In a circuit training class or group exercise workout, participants will typically rotate through a series of exercises together, with little to no rest in between. This creates a sense of camaraderie and encourages participants to work together and encourage each other throughout the workout.
Circuit Training Can Help With Adherence to Exercise
Many of the benefits mentioned above can make it more likely that people stick to a workout plan incorporating circuit training. It’s time efficient, improves cardio and muscular fitness, is social, can help with weight loss, and can include various movements, so it never gets boring.
Circuit Training is Practical
From a practical point of view, circuits are very easy to set up and they need minimum space and equipment. They can be used with weights, kettlebells, boxes, TRX and various other bits of equipment, but in many cases, bodyweight is more than adequate. This can make circuit training an ideal home workout routine or workout when you’re travelling as you can create your own circuit when you don’t have access to gym equipment and get a great workout for your entire body using just bodyweight movements.
Circuit Training is Great for Personal Trainers
From a PT perspective, circuits can be a fantastic way to get multiple people involved (read more money) Assuming you have the space; a studio, park, garden, you could set up a circuit for any number of clients. Longer term, these clients could be converted into 1-1 clients, but even if they aren’t, a good PT will still have sessions running with several clients across the week, bringing in additional income.
Circuits are incredibly versatile. Whether you are working with one client or a group of clients, they can be adapted to any situation and physical need. Circuits can tackle weight loss, strength, athletic performance and core training.
A good PT will be capable of devising the circuit, engaging those taking part, creating weekly/daily challenges and most importantly, will be able to make them fun. If the circuit has multiple participants, a PT can foster a friendly competitive edge, which would naturally push participants a little further each session, some competition can make a lot of difference.
The biggest takeaway of circuit training is the adaptability as a training system. They can be done anywhere, with or without equipment, can cover a range of specific needs, can be done as a group or on a 1-1 basis and can even be tailored to make improvements in a specific sport. They can be an effective exercise as an entire session or a tough finisher. Circuits are a valuable tool for any PT
How to construct the perfect circuit
This is a quick and easy way to construct a circuit which can be used by a personal trainer for their clients or by individuals creating their own circuit training sessions, remember there are many variations which can be adapted to any goal/need, but the following circuit is a good template to use:
- Upper body Exercise, think; pull ups, push ups, shoulder press
- Lower body Exercise, think; Squats, lunges, step ups
- Core Exercise, think; plank, v sit, bicycle crunches
- Cardio, think; shuttle sprints, jump rope
- Full body exercise, think; Burpee, thruster, bear crawl – exercises that hit the major muscle groups
Frequently asked questions about Circuit training
Is circuit training good for building muscle?
Circuit training is excellent for building muscle. Muscle growth, is when the muscles grow larger in response to a stimulus such as strength training. Circuits are performed in relatively short bouts of high-intensity work, which is more than enough to stimulate muscle growth.
Circuit training generally focuses on large compound and functional movements, which means you work many different muscle groups simultaneously. The more muscles being worked in harmony, the more muscle growth you will see.
How often should you do circuit training?
As a rule of thumb, beginners can aim for two 30-minute sessions per week, progressing to thrice weekly as fitness increases.
However, it depends on various factors such as duration, intensity and type of circuit being performed. The exercise selection and circuit protocols can all impact the frequency they should be performed, not to mention individual fitness levels and experience, so putting a one size fits all number isn’t always appropriate.
Is circuit training good for beginners?
Circuit training is perfect for beginners. One of the main benefits is that it is instructor-led, allowing you to get feedback and have any errors in technique corrected by a professional – making it safer.
Circuit training will introduce you to various exercises that you might not have considered doing alone. Beginners need external factors to help motivate them, and group-based activity is perfect for extrinsic motivation to help you power through the most challenging parts of the workout.
Another massive benefit of circuit classes is that most are based on time protocols, meaning you can go at your own pace – doing as many of each exercise as appropriate to your fitness level. An experienced circuit instructor can give you regressed or suitable alternative exercises if you struggle with the prescribed movements.
All of these elements combined mean that circuit training is super friendly for beginners – but also can be as challenging as needed as you progress on your fitness journey.
How many calories are burned in circuit training?
Many factors impact the number of calories burned in circuit training, but a general estimate would be around 250 calories. These include the type of circuit, the exercises performed, the rest and the work period. The number of calories burned will also be impacted by individual factors, including fitness levels, muscle mass, age, gender and more.
When you begin you might start at classes with a lower intensity level, with short intervals and longer breaks. As you get fitter and can work closer to maximum intensity for a longer period with minimal rest you will burn more calories.
What is the difference between HIIT and circuit training?
Circuit training is where exercises are done at stations, performing a range of functional exercises designed to target the whole body. HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is one type of circuit where all exercises performed will be low-skill but must be executed at high intensity for a short period. HIIT durations are shorter, and the benefits are more specific; general circuits have a broader range of benefits.