5 Powerful Reasons to Do a Circuit Workout


5 Powerful Reasons to Do a Circuit Workout

Circuit training is resistance training with an extra “kick.” Rather than resting two or three- minute rest between each set of resistance exercises, you move quickly to the next one, with as little recovery time as possible. It’s like a souped-up version of resistance training that moves at a quicker pace.

Of course, you might wonder why do circuits at all? Here are five kick-butt reasons to workout circuit style.

You Should Do a Circuit Workout When You’re Short on Time

Let’s face it – sometimes life gets in the way of working out. On those days when your to-do list is longer than the line at the grocery store when snow’s in the forecast, there’s still good news. You can still add movement to your day. Simply adjust the number of circuits you do to conform to the time you have. It’s a flexible and adaptable way to work out.

Need some upper body work? Design circuits with all upper body exercises. Likewise, you can pound your lower body or abs with leg or core-focused circuits, or alternate back and forth between them all. The only rule for circuit training is to keep moving and don’t rest for more than 30 seconds between sets.

Does circuit training offer cardiovascular benefits? Focusing on larger muscle groups will get your heart rate up more than doing isolation exercises. If you include power moves for some of your circuits or even a cardio circuit where you do high knees, jumping jacks or jump squats you’ll get even more cardiovascular benefits as well as a stronger metabolic response.

Of course, you might wonder why do circuits at all? Here are five kick-butt reasons to workout circuit style.

You Should Do a Circuit Workout When You Need a Low-Impact Workout that Still Gets Your Heart Rate Up

When your feet or legs are a little achy from too much jumping and high-impact exercise, a circuit workout will get your heart rate up while your legs stay on the ground. Research shows circuit workouts, with no rest between sets, offers cardiovascular benefits without pounding your joints. In fact, some studies show circuit workouts elicit greater improvements in aerobic capacity than moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, assuming you rest less than 30 seconds between each exercise.

How effective a circuit workout is for cardiovascular fitness will depend on the exercises you choose. You’ll get more benefits if you include more compound exercises that work large muscle groups or incorporate some power moves like kettlebell swings or focused cardio circuits. To keep it low-impact, you can always include cardio moves where one foot stays on the floor.

You Should Do a Circuit Workout When Your Motivation Could Use a Boost

Another benefit of circuit workouts is the variety this type of training offers. Whether you’re short on motivation or simply bored with your current routine, circuit training offers all the diversity you need to get your mojo back. It’s a fun, boredom-busting way to work out that you can customize to meet your goals. It’s hard to get bored when you’re constantly moving from one exercise to the next without stopping.

You Should Do a Circuit Workout When You Don’t Have Access to Equipment

No equipment? No problem. You can do a circuit workout using only your own body weight as resistance. For example, a circuit of push-ups, squats, planks, wall sits, and abdominal crunches works all of the major muscle groups without equipment. Throw in some cardio circuits like jumping jack or jump squats to boost your heart rate. It’s a good workout when you’re confined to a hotel room. Of course, you can always add extra resistance using dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands if you have them available. That’s how flexible circuit training is.

You Should Do a Circuit Workout When You’ve Reached a Plateau

Have you stopped losing weight or feel like you’re no longer making fitness gains? A workout that’s fast-paced with no rest between sets may be just the stimulus your body needs to begin changing again. If your primary focus has been on strength training, circuit training’s short rest periods will give your body a different type of stimulus to help jumpstart your gains. Plus, a resistance-training workout circuit style burns 30% more calories relative to a traditional weight workout due to the lack of rest between sets. In fact, research shows circuit training, depending on the intensity, burns between 5 and 9 kilocalories per minute. No wonder! You’re constantly moving. (and burning calories) When your body craves variety, circuits are a way to make that variety happen.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are lots of reasons to do circuit workouts. On the other hand, if you’re trying to build strength or muscle size, you’ll get the best results if you also include regular strength-training sessions with heavier weights and longer rest periods in your fitness routine. Since you’re not resting between circuits with circuit training, you can’t use a resistance that’s as heavy. That will ultimately limit the strength gains you make.

Circuit training is an excellent total fitness workout that increases muscle endurance and even offers cardiovascular benefits, but by itself, it won’t maximize strength development. When planning your routine, think about your goals and what you want to accomplish. A circuit training session or two might fit nicely into your plans. If you’re pressed for time, you can make it your “go-to” workout, but it can also be a workout you do on a lighter day or as a break from heavier training. Why not finish up a week where you trained with heavy weights with a circuit workout? The advantage is it works lots of fitness components at once.

Enjoy the benefits and variety that circuit training offers!



ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal: May/June 2013 – Volume 17 – Issue 3 – p 8-13 doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e31828cb1e8.

Fitness Magazine. “Circuit Training Workout: Burn 30 Percent More Calories”

ACE Fitness. “Circuit Training Basics”

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(4), 760-764.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 3(3): 144-148.

ACE Fitness. “Circuit Training”


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Does Light Weight Lifting Have Benefits?

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