6 Top Reasons to Try Circuit Training

Sport & Activity

From improved muscular endurance to a boost in cardiorespiratory fitness, discover the top health benefits associated with circuit training.

Last updated: 9 November 2022
4 min read
What Is Circuit Training and What Are the Benefits?

If there was ever a workout tailor-made for folks who prefer varied bouts of movement, both in terms of duration and exercise type, it would be circuit training.

"Circuit training is sequentially progressing through a number of exercises, usually 5 to 10, in a row with little to no rest beyond getting into position for the next exercise, so usually 5 to 15 seconds", explained Jason Machowsky, CSCS and exercise physiologist. "Then, you usually take a break, typically 90 seconds to 2 minutes, and restart the circuit again".

Generally speaking, he noted that there are two types of circuit training: strength-based circuit training and high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, circuits.

(Related: What Shoes Should You Wear for HIIT Workouts?)

"Strength-based circuit training involves aiming to bring the target muscle groups to a level of fatigue to stimulate strength adaptations", he said. "Alternately, HIIT circuits may challenge power production, like high-velocity movements, or cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular endurance without fatiguing a particular muscle group".

Both types of circuit training—strength and HIIT—are associated with a trove of health benefits. Read on to learn more.

Benefits of Strength Circuit Training

  1. 1.Muscular Endurance May Increase

    In a 2018 study from the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, university-age participants who completed a 12-week circuit training programme that featured resistance exercises, such as squats, crunches, lunges and push-ups saw improvements in all moves (meaning participants were able to execute more repetitions and with less fatigue in the allotted amount of time). This is defined as muscular endurance, or the capacity of muscles to contract until fatigue.

    (Related: Does HIIT Really Work? The Benefits of HIIT Workouts)

  2. 2.You Get an Effective Total-body Resistance-based Workout—Quickly

    As strength-focused circuit training involves alternating between most, if not all, of the major muscle groups, exercisers are often able to effectively train their entire bodieswithout repeated sessions.

    "Circuit training may be a bit more time-efficient for exercisers who want to get a full-body workout in a relatively short period of timesay, 30 to 40 minutes", Machowsky said. "Also, some people may enjoy the faster-paced nature of circuits".

  3. 3.Muscular Strength Can Increase

    Although muscular endurance is often a hallmark perk of circuit-style training, the workout can also bring improvements in both muscular strength and muscular hypertrophy (when a muscle increases in size), Machowsky said.

    A systematic review of studies surrounding strength training and older adults, for example, found that regular participation in strength-based circuit training could effectively increase strength. That was an important finding for the subject group, as increased muscle strength in older adults is associated with a reduction in fall risk and other injuries.

Benefits of HIIT Circuit Training

  1. 1.Certain Important Health Markers Can Improve

    In HIIT circuits, exercisers may receive health benefits on a metabolic and vascular level too, science shows. In the previously noted 2018 study from the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, participants also saw improvements to their cholesterol and triglyceride levels by the end of the trial.

    Another study, published in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, noted that HIIT circuit-style training could potentially help decrease exercisers' insulin resistance, or their risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes.

    Even better news: It doesn't take much HIIT circuit training to reap the benefits. The study noted that as few as eight minutes of all-out exertion (not necessarily for the full eight minutes at once) could help reduce insulin resistance.

  2. 2.You Could Benefit Cardiovascularly

    A 2017 study from Frontiers in Physiology found that there's a strong likelihood cardiovascular fitness will increase from regular participation in HIIT-based circuits. During the nine-week study, female participants performed three weekly sessions of mainly resistance exercises with short treadmill sprints, and those exercisers were able to improve their overall oxygen uptake ability.

  3. 3.Exercise Variation—and Social Connection—Can Deflect Boredom and Improve Commitment

    Circuit training might not necessarily be better than other forms of exercise at improving certain health and fitness markers—but it can sure be unique and fun, said Missy Berkowitz, a NASM-certified personal trainer.

    "Circuit training keeps workouts interesting", she said. To boot, many popular group fitness classes use a circuit style of training—and studies show that social support and interaction alone can spur athletes to show up to workouts continuously.

Words by Julia Sullivan, ACE-certified trainer

Originally published: 9 November 2022

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