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Circuit Training: Benefits and How It Works?

One of the most obvious benefits of circuit training is that you will definitely not get bored. Circuit training will have you moving through as many as 8 to 10 exercise stations in any given workout. 

From your core to your extremities, the benefits of circuit training cover your entire body. In addition to specific target areas like legs, glutes, and abs, the benefits of circuit training also include greater flexibility, increased strength, and a full aerobic workout. 

One of the reasons this type of workout has gained such popularity is that the benefits of circuit training are so numerous that it has garnered the attention of people who are looking to stay fit and serious athletes. The benefits of circuit training can ranger from a basic form of fitness to a high-intensity form of workout. 

Since there are so many benefits to circuit training, we thought it best to break things down into categories like strength and endurance so we can detail how it all works. 

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is a fast-paced series of exercises that move quickly from one mode to another. There are generally 8 to 10 exercise stations, and you move through them without resting. For example, a circuit training program focused on muscular strength will put you through various muscle groups. You will go from upper body to core, to lower body with minimal rest. 

An aerobic circuit would typically move through a set of one or two resistance exercises, progress to a series of stations that would include free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. This would also have a series that includes things like jogging, rowing, and stationary cycling. Again, one of the central components of circuit training is that you do not rest between exercise stations. The entire circuit generally takes between a half-hour and an hour. 

Circuit training can vary in intensity. Obviously, this type of workout is intense by its nature, but circuit training is tailored to your needs. There are beginning, moderate, and high-intensity levels for circuit training.   

How It Works and Which Areas it targets?

Circuit training falls under the general category of metabolic training. This is a function of the amount of exertion and the type of exertion that goes into it. By contrast, speed training is not a metabolic workout since it falls under the category of maximum training. 

The most important thing about circuit training is that it is scientifically proven to work. While circuit training will not make you faster or stronger, it will provide two primary benefits. 

  • Since circuit training necessarily causes a build-up of lactic acid, it prepares your body to handle the acidosis which will, in turn, lead to more effective endurance training. 
  • Second, circuit training causes the release of a growth hormone which minimizes fat. This will make favorable changes in the fat/muscle composition of the body. This has a dual benefit for people looking for overall fitness training and for intense athletes who want to prepare for further max training. 

The basics of how it works involve 8 to 10 workout stations, each geared toward a specific type of workout. You spend approximately 30 seconds to 3 minutes at each station, working the exercise with maximum intensity. Then move on, repeating this process through the entire circuit. 

The circuits are geared toward specific areas. So, for a full-body workout, the circuit is set up to spread the exertion over the span of your whole body. You do 3 sets of 10 reps at each station. Below is a standard example:

  1. Squat
  2. Hip thrust
  3. Bench press
  4. Pullups
  5. Right leg lunge
  6. Left leg lunge
  7. Deadlift
  8. Close grip bench
  9. Dumbbell

You take no more than one minute of rest between each station. This workout is the type that will build lactic acid in muscles, eventually training your body to handle acidosis. 

Since circuit training is geared toward specific types of work, the essence of the workout is the multiple workout stations. You simply alter the specifics of each exercise. A sample for upper and lower body would include the following. After a round of lunges, squats, push-ups, etc, you would move on to a circuit of upper body workout rounds that would include:

  1. Push-ups
  2. Bicep curls
  3. Tricep extensions
  4. Shoulder presses
  5. Rows

Again, the key is the multiple exercises in quick succession. The target areas can be altered with the correct combination of circuits. The reason circuit training has gained such popularity is that it can target any area. Just from the two examples above you can easily see how versatile this type of training can be.

Circuit Training Benefits

Again, the greatest benefit of circuit training is its versatility. You can adapt your training circuit to most about any purpose.

From specific target areas like abs and lower body to overall endurance and fitness, circuit training can be as broad or as narrow as you require.  

Some of the most notable benefits of circuit training are:

Improved cardiovascular health.

Increased muscular strength.

Increased overall and muscular endurance.

Workouts can be done in as little as 10 minutes.

Greater inspiration for exercise. 

In the most practical terms, circuit training is easy to set up. If you are already going to a gym, the basic equipment is almost certainly there for a varied circuit. Kettlebells, weights, and basic gym equipment will be all you need. In many cases, you can do a highly effective circuit training regimen with little more than bodyweight. 

Muscular Strength

Since you can do circuit training at home or in the gym, when it comes to building muscular strength there are a lot of options. Circuit training can benefit those who are after basic fitness and it can provide a tremendous boost to those who are training for serious athletics. Circuit training can easily fit your needs. 

For muscular strength, you can follow one of two basic options. Here are two examples:

For home circuit training: 

Do a 5-minute warm-up. Fast walking or a short easy run will suffice. Follow this with 

  1. Jumping jacks- 2 minutes
  2. Push-ups-1 minute
  3. Jogging- 5 minutes
  4. Abdominal crunches- 2 minutes
  5. Squats- 1 minute
  6. Pull-ups- 1 minute
  7. Lunges- 30 seconds for each leg

Notice that this is measured in timed stations, not reps. Circuit training does not need to depend on how many reps. It can easily be measured in quick but sustained bursts. 

To increase the level of intensity for muscular strength, follow this example in the gym:

  1. Leg press- 15 reps
  2. Lat pull-down machine- 15 reps
  3. Military press- 15 reps
  4. Bicep curls- 15 reps
  5. Hamstring curls- 15 reps
  6. Abdominal crunches- 30 reps
  7. Stationary bike- 5 minutes

The circuit designed for the gym does involve reps but notice that the number is relatively small and you go through each one quickly and move on to the next. The goal is to get to the burn quickly and push on through the entire circuit. 

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance, as opposed to muscular strength, refers to your ability to exert muscular force consistently and repetitively over a period of time. Strength is the measure of your ability to exert force. Endurance is your ability to sustain or repeat that force for periods of time. 

To utilize circuit training to build muscular endurance you need to set up a circuit that will push the limits of stamina for your muscle groups. Here is an example that requires no gym equipment:

  1. Planking- Do as many intervals as you can (aim for at least 5) at about 30-45 seconds per interval
  2. Bodyweight squats- 5 sets of 25 reps
  3. Walking lunges- 5 sets of 30 lunges (15 per leg)
  4. Push-ups- 5 sets of 15 reps
  5. Sit-ups- 5 sets of 15 reps

If you are used to doing large amounts of sit-ups or crunches, this may look easy. But by building the sets and moving through the entire circuit with little rest between exercises, you will find that these circuits test your endurance and by extension, builds your muscular endurance. 

Body Composition

Body composition basically refers to the total of what our bodies are made of. This consists of body fat, lean muscle mass, bones, and water. When we talk about body composition in reference to exercise what we generally mean is the ratio of fat to lean muscle, what we are working with when we begin exercising, and our goals for exercising. 

Body composition in a more accurate picture of what our bodies are made of than the more commonly known body mass index or BMI. Unfortunately, accurately measuring your body composition involves complex and expensive tests. Thankfully there are some short-hand calculators that will give you enough information to proceed with an effective circuit training program that will optimize your body composition. There are some simple calculators online

It is clear by now that circuit training is versatile enough to target any fitness goals. Circuit training is close to ideal for improving body composition. One study showed that circuit training not only led to improved body composition but also significantly reduced obesity and reduced metabolic diseases. 

Circuit training has also been clinically proven to improve athletic performance due to its positive impact on body composition. For athletes, circuit training improved muscle mass, muscle endurance and even increased bone mineral density. 

Whether you are looking to get fit and healthy or you are a committed athlete, circuit training provides significant positive results in body composition. It reduces fat, builds lean muscle, and improves endurance and stamina. 

Circuit Training Workouts

We have already detailed a few examples of circuit training workouts. Because circuit training is geared toward so many target areas and for so many different programs of fitness, it would be impossible to list all the circuit training workouts. This list would go on forever. That is the primary advantage of circuit training. 

The most important thing to keep in mind when approaching circuit training is to work out our fitness and exercise goals as clearly as you can. Athletes should decide if they are primarily interested in strength or endurance as they begin to work through a circuit training workout. 

You need to be honest with your abilities from the outset. If you are just getting started, work with a beginner’s circuit training workout. Few things are more discouraging than exhausting yourself before you have even properly begun. And an injury from over-exertion will shut you down entirely. Determine your basic fitness levels and body composition before you begin, and work from this. 

Fitness people should set clear goals also. For many people, all-around fitness is their main goal. People want to feel and look good, and most importantly, they want to be healthy. Circuit training that focuses on body composition will provide the basis for these types of general goals because it reduces fat, builds muscle, and increases stamina.

Some athletes may want to focus on more than one target. Runners, for example, need to build endurance and stamina, but they also need to build strength in key lower body areas while building back strength and endurance. Paying attention to balance while working with target areas is important. 

Wrapping things up 

Circuit training has emerged as one of the most popular forms of exercise right now. There many good reasons for this. First, circuit training is available to anyone. You do not need expensive equipment or expensive gym memberships to work out with a circuit training program. You can begin and carry through a complete circuit training workout in your own home using your body weight. 

Second, circuit training can target virtually any part of your body. Abs, upper body, leg strength—everything can be targeted and improved with circuit training. You can also perform circuit training for overall fitness and improved body composition. Building muscle, endurance, or even losing weight are all within reach of circuit training. 

Some of the other benefits of circuit training are that it takes a little time. For many of us, finding the time to work out can be the biggest roadblock to getting fit. Circuit training can be done in as little as 10 minutes. 

Circuit training, unlike some other forms of intense exercise, can be tailored to the beginner, intermediate, and advanced athlete. There are ways to do circuit training no matter your level of athletic ability or physical shape. 

There are many good reasons for the rise of circuit training. Most notably, circuit training is effective. It builds muscle, increases stamina, and reduces fat. 

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