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You’ve probably heard the term “Circuit Training” before. Many people say it’s effective, but do you even know what it is?
Circuit training: what is it?
The term circuit training is usually thrown around in the gym here and there especially in gym circuit classes. Circuit training class is offered everywhere!
It’s a form of physical training that involves moving from one station (exercise station) to another in quick succession.
The idea behind circuit training is that you are able to get an all-around and intense workout because your body never has time to rest between stations.
Circuit training has been around for many years. It’s a great way to build muscle and burn fat at the same time.
Circuit training can be done using weights, bodyweight exercises, or a combination of both. The goal is to move from an exercise station to the next with as little rest as possible.
In this article, we will talk about how to implement circuit training and how it can help you achieve your fitness goals.
If this sounds like something you might enjoy, then read on for more information about how circuit training can improve your health and fitness!
How to make a circuit training workout?
Circuit training workouts are several exercises targeting major muscle groups and for each station, they train different muscle groups to minimize overfatigue or a particular muscle.
No rest to minimal rest is required before moving to the next station and a longer rest period is done at the end of a whole round of exercises.
It can be done with weights and/or just your body weight depending on your preference and goals.
What is circuit training good for?
Circuit training classes are usually marketed for you to lose weight but there are many other reasons why you might want to implement circuits in your workout.
Generally, circuit training is good for getting an INTENSE workout, but for more specific goals, we’ll cover the advantages of this type of training.
Disclaimer: Check with a physical therapist/healthcare specialist to provide medical advice first before attempting anything new with your fitness regimen.
Traditional sets vs Circuit training
The main difference between circuits and traditional sets is the amount of rest and the exercise order.
With traditional sets, you have to repeat a single exercise for sets and get ample rest after each set.
For circuits, you move straight to the next exercise with limited rest or no rest at all. Longer rest periods are only after a round of a circuit.
Although it seems like a minor difference, these changes have a massive impact on how your training will stimulate your body.
More explanation on rest periods here: How long should I rest in between sets: Make faster and safer progress!
What does a good circuit training workout look like?
Not all circuit training looks the same. With many available platforms to share knowledge with the world, many claim their own circuit training that melts fat but is actually dangerous to your body.
Here’s what you need to watch for and avoid when looking at circuits:
- Exercise with too much intensity
- Too many exercises in a single round
- Working the same muscle groups in consecutive exercises
- Too frequent circuit training (get plenty of rest)
- Non-adaptive variables with too strict rules
A good circuit can be separated into the lower body, upper body, or full-body workout. It’s not necessary to hit the entire body.
The entire circuit usually includes high-intensity exercises but should be done just enough so that you don’t sacrifice your form which could be dangerous in the long run.
Circuit Training Benefits
There are many benefits of taking advantage of the circuit training approach and why you would want to implement this in workout sessions.
Hitting multiple muscle groups
Circuit training usually covers different exercises in each station. As a result, you get to target different muscle groups per exercise.
Since circuit training requires you to move from an exercise to exercise with minimal rest, it’s best to structure the program so that one exercise hits a particular muscular group then the following exercise hits the opposite muscle group or different body part.
For example, if the first station is push-ups, you can move to pull-up for the next station. The next exercise can be squats so that the upper body muscles can rest as you are performing the exercise.
With this approach, you get to target the whole body optimally in terms of muscle endurance.
Improving cardiovascular fitness
One of the main reasons why you would want to incorporate circuit training is to improve muscular endurance. However, you can also switch up the exercises to it can also improve your cardiovascular endurance as well.
From strength training exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups, add some cardio exercises to the mix such as jump rope, high knees, or even burpees.
Perfect for weight loss
Because circuit training incorporates compound movements as well as the inclusion of minimal rest periods, this training style is excellent for increasing the metabolic rate for “burning” fat and more calories for weight loss.
The low rest periods sustain an elevated heart rate which will help you keep burning calories even after your workout.
The training circuit is also good for improving your “muscle tone” and improving your aesthetic physique by shedding the fat making your muscles more visible.
Increasing muscular endurance
Due to the increased intensity of the workout and minimal rest, muscular strength isn’t prioritized in this approach, but it’s more on increasing the muscular endurance or how long your muscles can sustain intense exercises.
Cuts workout time
If you’re looking for a time-efficient training style, circuit training might be the approach for you. The little to no rest per exercise before moving to the next exercise keeps the whole workout relatively short compared to regular strength training which requires you a minimum of 3 minute rest periods. You can do an entire workout in 30 minutes or less!
Although circuit training seems to be the perfect training style for your busy daily life and full of advantages, it also comes with disadvantages as well.
Not optimal for strength or hypertrophy training
Building strength and/or muscle mass is still best done with straight sets. It’s
Although circuit training CAN still build muscular strength as research suggests with older and middle-aged adults, trained individuals looking to maximize strength development might find the training style limiting due to the lack of rest in between exercise. This stops you from recovering enough energy to perform the optimal volume with the high load required for strength training.
Due to the high intensity of the exercise and again, lack of rest, circuit training prohibits you to get high volume from your workout with the necessary intensity.
Don’t get me wrong. You CAN still build muscle like the strength mentioned above, but it is not optimal if your goal is to gain muscle mass.
For more help with building muscle, check out this article instead: HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE MASS USING BODY WEIGHT ONLY
Not effective on skill work
Similar to the reason above, you need ample rest for learning calisthenics skills. With skill work, you need to mind and body fresh every attempt to instill proper form and technique. Get the minimum amount of rest for each set for skill work.
Circuit training workout
Here’s a workout you can do and some tips and protocols you can implement for your training. Combination of upper body exercise
- Always do a proper warm-up before beginning one circuit.
- Circuit training is for all fitness levels. Progressions can vary depending on your skill for each exercise.
- Feel free to choose exercises depending on your fitness goals.
- More intermediate exercisers can ramp up a higher intensity
- 0 to 30 seconds (MAX) rest time after each exercise
- 1 to 3-minute rest after each round
Conventional training strategies suggest that prioritizing compound movements is best before moving isolation work. But a 2019 study suggests that it can depend on what you what to focus on. It’s best to target your weaknesses first for better holistic progress.
Full body workout
Push-ups – 15 reps
High knees – 30 seconds
Pull-ups – 8 reps
Slow sit-ups – 12 reps
Jump rope – 30 seconds
Squat jumps – 15 reps
Whether you opt for weight training or calisthenics, circuit training is a great option to improve your overall fitness level with shorter workout sessions.
Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of circuit training:
- Build muscular endurance
- Can improve cardiovascular endurance
- Shorter workout sessions
- Increase metabolic rate for fat loss
- Compound movements for holistic development and more calories burnt
- Possible but not optimal for developing strength and muscles mass
- Not effective for skill training
Like any other training approach, circuit training has its advantages and disadvantages so choose the right approach according to your fitness goals.
If you’re interested in using a calisthenics circuit for your workouts, make sure that you have at least a good understanding of the exercise fundamental progressions that work well for your current skill level.
Best workout maximum results
For more help on your calisthenics fundamentals, head over to The Movement Athlete (TMA) so you can build a solid foundation for your calisthenics journey.
TMA offers a personalized and adaptive program structure so you can get the most after each workout while keeping things fun and sustainable. It’s like training with your own coach!
Begin your personalized training journey, by first knowing what your body is capable of.