Are you wanting to get in shape? Or perhaps you are already in pretty good physical shape, but you want to add some more strength and endurance training to your workouts. In that case, circuit training may be for you.
You may have heard of circuit training or you may even do it on a regular basis. In that case, you know it is an awesome form of exercise. If you are not familiar with this type of training, keep reading because it is a form of exercise that will benefit everyone.
What Is Circuit Training?
Surely you have heard the strength training versus cardio debate: which is better? With circuit training, there is no debate, because you get both exercises. Circuit training is a technique that alternates strength training exercises with cardio exercise. Typically there are no rests between exercises, which has its benefits. One “circuit” is when you complete all the exercises in the program. In addition, circuit training exercises are typically not very long. You can reap the benefits of this training through only 30 minutes of exercise versus spending hours in the gym lifting weights and running on the treadmill.
What Are the Benefits of Circuit Training?
There are many benefits to this type of training, as we'll discuss below.
1. Your Heart Rate Stays Elevated
You won’t have to worry about not getting your heart rate up high enough and long enough with circuit training. Because there is little to no rest between exercises, your heart rate stays elevated during your workout. This is good, because your heart rate stays in the fat burning zone the entire workout.
2. You Burn More Calories
Because you are moving constantly through the circuits, your body naturally burns more calories during training. This makes your work out more well-rounded and efficient in a shorter span of time.
3. You Train Every Part of Your Body
Not sure what to work out today? Legs? Arms? Abs? You work your entire body when you do circuit training, so there is no need to decide what you will work out on any particular day. That makes circuit training more functional to the average exerciser.
4. You Build Endurance
Because you are moving constantly through the circuit, you are building cardiovascular endurance as you work out. This means that you will have more endurance as you go through your day and as you do your other workouts.
5. You Build Muscle
Part of circuit training focuses on strength training. Because of this, you will build muscle just like you would if you were just lifting weights. Circuit training is effective in building muscle, because you are either using your body weight for strength exercises or you are using weights for strength exercises.
6. You Avoid Weight Loss Plateaus
Your body gets used to your workouts, and they become less effective. If you are running a few miles a day, and then lifting weights, your body will adapt to that and even expect that. In turn, the workouts become less effective. To maximize your fitness level, you should change your workouts every 3-4 weeks to avoid plateaus. Circuit training is perfect for avoiding plateaus because it keeps your body guessing. Your body does not have time to adapt to the workouts, which is a good thing!
7. It Is a Free Workout
You can do circuit training at home and just use things you already have around your house (like a chair for triceps’ dips). If you want to purchase some more equipment, like free weights or an exercise mat, you can, but that is not required to do a successful circuit training workout.
8. Anyone Can Do It
Whether you are a beginner or an expert, circuit training can be beneficial for you. If you are beginner, choose low impact exercises like basic bicep curls or walking in place. If you are an expert, choose higher intensity workouts like jumping jacks and weighted squats.
9. You Won’t Be Bored
The cool thing about circuit training is that you are always moving, so there is no way you will get bored. Contrast this type of working out with spending 45 minutes on a treadmill (that can get boring!)
10. You Will Have Fun!
Circuit training is fun because you are constantly moving, yet not in the same monotonous motion like you would be on an elliptical machine or a treadmill. Also, because you’re always moving from one exercise to the next, the workout goes by fast, so you’re finished before you know it!
Taking Part in Circuit Training
One perk of circuit training is there are numerous ways to do it, and there’s no one “right” way. Interested in adding circuit training to your workouts? Here are some ways to start:
See if Your Gym Offers Circuit Training Classes
Many gyms offer circuit training classes, and participating in these would be a great way to get you started on circuit training. You could get an idea of what it is and how it works in a group setting. Group classes can be very motivating and fun.
Select Your Time Limit
How long do you want to work out? If you are starting out, you could start with ten minutes. If you are an avid athlete, you could handle 45 minutes (or even more) of circuit training.
Choose 10-12 Exercises to Start With
Make them a mix of strength training and cardio (so five or six of each). Some examples are pushups, crunches, bicep curls, and squats. Make sure that you target different muscle groups when you choose your workouts. Don’t just focus on legs. Focus on legs, arms, back, shoulders, and core. Here’s an example:
Start With a Warm Up
Your warm up should be about 1-2 minutes and should be cardio. Run in place or do some jumping jacks during this time.
Set Your Timer
After you have done your warm up, set your timer so that you can do each exercise for 30 seconds to a minute. Decide on the time frame ahead of time.
Here is where you will do your actual circuit training. Complete each workout for your set amount of time. Alternate between strength training activities (such as bicep curls) and cardio exercise (such as running in place). Give yourself about ten seconds of rest in between each exercise. This will give you time to catch your breath but not enough time to get your heart rate down.
Repeat the Circuit (If You Want)
If you want a more challenging workout, repeat the entire workout. If you are doing 10 exercises at a minute each, this means that each circuit should take approximately ten minutes. You can repeat up to three times, making your workout about 30 minutes, which is ideal for circuit training. It will be a little longer when you add in the ten second rest in between exercises.
End with Stretching
Every circuit training workout should conclude with a cool down to rest and relax your muscles. Do a few minutes of stretching, and make sure you stretch every major muscle group.
Make sure you hydrate after and during your training workout. Water is the best choice. Water helps hydrate your body so you won’t get overheated and dehydrated before, during, or after your workout.
Congratulate Yourself on a Successful Workout
After you finish your circuit training workout, tell yourself “well done!” You have completed an efficient and effective workout in a short amount of time. You did not have to go to the gym to complete this workout. It could have been done from the comfort of your own home. Nice work!
The great perk of circuit training is that you can adapt it to work for you. If you have any physical limitations, just avoid doing workouts that make it worse. For example, if you have arthritis, choose lower impact exercises that don’t cause a lot of pressure on your joints. Work at your own pace and you will reap the benefits.
Check With Your Doctor Prior to Working Out
If you haven’t been working out, check with your doctor before starting a circuit training program. If you need to lose weight or if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, it may be good to start working out. Talk about the details with your doctor.
As you can see, circuit training can benefit anyone. Whether you already workout regularly, and just want some new ideas, or if you have never worked out in your life, you can benefit from circuit training. You will build muscle, build endurance, and most importantly, have fun! Circuit training helps your body get into shape and fast!