The benefits of circuit training are many but my favorite is that it allows you to get in both a killer cardio workout and some powerful resistance training at the same time.
When done correctly circuit training also burns far more calories than either weight training or steady state cardio alone can ever do because circuit training’s high intensity keeps your metabolism cranking for up to two days after you’ve finished your workout!
That’s why every workout I ever do involves circuit training, supersets, or high intensity interval training (HIIT) because they all give you so much benefit for the effort and time you put into them.
However, circuit training is unique in that it’s the easiest to implement without any kind of equipment since it works so well with bodyweight exercises.
Below I’m going to tell you how to work circuits into your workout out and explain exactly what the benefits of them are:
What Is Circuit Training?
Circuit training is a form of exercise where you never let yourself completely rest.
You just keep switching from one exercise to another until you’ve completed all of the exercises.
Then you can give yourself about one minute of active rest before beginning the circuit all over again.
The idea is that your heart rate is always kept elevated; almost as if you’re doing intervals with sprinting except instead of sprinting you’re doing resistance training.
For example, let’s say you want to do the following exercises:
This is a simple but good circuit as you have both a push and a pull motion for the upper body which focuses on different muscle groups as well as squats for lower body strength.
To make a circuit you would start with one set of pull-ups followed by one set of push-ups and end with one set of squats.
You wouldn’t allow more than 10 seconds to pass in between each exercise before beginning the next set.
Then, when you’ve done all three you would do some form of active rest, such as jumping jacks, for about a minute before doing the whole circuit again.
You can also do circuit training for as long as you like but I think that 15 minutes is plenty of time to both get in a cardio workout and make sure that you’ve done three to five sets of each exercise for muscle growth.
Also, you can make much more complicated circuits than just the three exercises I listed above if you want more of a challenge.
Just make sure that the exercise which follows the one before doesn’t target the same muscle group or your muscles will still be tired from the previous exercise and you won’t be able to gain the full benefit of the second exercise.
For example, you don’t want to do one set of the bench press followed by a set of shoulder presses as they’re both pushing motions which makes your shoulders move in a similar manner.
Instead do one set of the bench press followed by a set of pull-ups and then do the shoulder presses after.
That way you’ll be alternating muscle groups throughout the circuit and be able to gain maximum benefit from it.
5 Benefits Of Circuit Training
1) Improved Conditioning And Cardiovascular Health
When done correctly circuit training is a type of high intensity interval training (HIIT) which does an incredible job of conditioning your body.
HIIT has been shown to be just as beneficial, or even more so in some cases, than traditional steady state cardio for improving overall cardiovascular health.
This type of training also prepares your body for sudden all-out bursts that can be more beneficial to real world scenarios.
How often do you have to run at a steady relaxed pace for 30 minutes during a normal day?
The answer is not very often.
But how many times do you have to sprint after your dog or cat when it gets out of the house?
Or clean a bunch of heavy objects out of your garage or basement on a weekend?
Much more often.
The type of aerobic conditioning which you develop from circuit training translates much easier into your day to day life and ultimately makes you stronger.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like going for a run or spinning on a bike too but I’ve come to realize that the old adage about it being something you have to do every day to be healthy is just flat out wrong.
2) Improved Strength
If you do circuit training using resistance exercises as I’ve been talking about then circuit training is going to help you grow stronger.
Just doing traditional cardio without weight training will not help your muscles grow significantly stronger.
In fact, doing prolonged endurance events can even cause your body to cannibalize your muscles to use as fuel.
This can further reduce your over-all strength.
That’s why most endurance athletes work some kind of strength training into their programs in order to perform at their best and remain healthy.
With circuit training, however, you don’t have to worry about that at all.
Because you’re already doing resistance training along with your cardio you can grow your muscles at the same time.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you, if you’re going for maximum hypertrophy then circuit training is not the way to go as you’re not leaving enough time in between sets to maximize muscle growth.
But if you’re looking for a great conditioning and cardio workout that still helps your muscles grow larger, stronger, and increase definition then circuit training is for you.
3) Burns Way More Calories Than Steady State Cardio
Circuit training can actually burn way more calories than regular cardiovascular workouts because of one key factor.
The intensity of the workout causes your body to burn a far greater number of calories in the hours after the workout.
This is because of two main reasons;
The first is that the intensity of a good circuit routine causes your body’s muscles to burn up huge amounts of their glycogen stores.
This turns your muscle cells into energy craving mad men that continue to absorb every bit of glucose that flows into your bloodstream over the course of the next couple of days.
The other reason is that the heavier resistance training involved in circuit training, as opposed to steady state cardio, means that your muscles need more fuel in order to heal and grow stronger.
When you finish a thirty minute jogging session you have essentially stopped any extra calorie burning.
But when you finish a resistance training session your body has to spend a much greater amount of energy to replenish and heal the muscles afterwards.
These two factors combined ultimately make circuit training the go to exercise technique if you’re looking to burn more calories.
4) Saves You Time
Because of all the factors listed above circuit training saves you a huge amount of time.
You’re essentially getting both your resistance training and your cardiovascular training done all in one shot.
That alone will cut in half the amount of time you need to dedicate to exercise every week.
On top of that the high intensity of circuit training will cause your muscles to be desperate for energy which means you can even burn more calories than you could with normal workouts.
All of those factors together make circuit training un-paralleled for saving you time.
And because of that you will actually be more motivated to exercise because you know that it’s not going to be as huge a time commitment as before.
5) Its Fun!
The final reason for why you should try circuit training is that it’s just plain fun.
When you’re using circuits in your workouts you really feel like you’re pushing yourself to the max!
Your heart is thumping as you push yourself through each exercise and when you finish you feel great.
You’ve just worked out every muscle in your body at break neck speed and it feels very primally satisfying.
It feels how a workout is supposed to feel.
Circuit training is an extremely efficient and effective way to work out your whole body.
Incorporating circuits into your workouts will improve your cardiovascular conditioning, increase your strength, burn a huge amount of calories, and save you tons of time.
If you don’t believe me then listen to one example from my own fitness experiments;
I didn’t run or bike for almost two months.
During that time I only did circuit training two to three times a week.
My circuits were composed of:
- Shoulder Presses
- Goblet Squats
- Kettlebell Swings
I would do three total circuits which would take me less than twenty minutes.
At the end of this time I jumped on the treadmill at my local gym and set a personal best for a 5K.
And that after not running for almost two months!
So go ahead and give circuits a try yourself.
Let me know in the comments below how it goes or if you have any questions.
Until next time; stay strong, healthy, and happy!