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What Exactly is Circuit Training? Circuit Training 101.

January 25th, 2014 · No Comments ·


Have you ever seen a trainer in your gym set up different weights or equipments at few places before getting someone to start working out? The user then moves from one place to another. He is actually doing circuit training. In fact, some gyms I have visited have actually grouped few resistance machines together at one area to be used for circuit training.

What Exactly is Circuit Training?

  • Circuit training is a type of interval training. Circuit training combines short bursts of strength exercises with aerobic exercises. The word of “circuit” means a group of activities and it refers to a number of “stations” which are to be visited in rapid succession. Those stations may required you to do cycling or running, squats, push ups, crunches and other exercises.
  • Depending on the muscle groups you are targeting, normally you will work on few of them in the circuit. It can be shoulders, arms, back, legs and butts. It can also be chest, back, shoulders, legs and abs.
  • You will go through all stations once or twice with certain number of repetitions or until a certain time has lapsed. It can be 10 repetitions of biceps curl or 30 to 45 seconds of biceps curl. You take minimal breaks (not more than 10 seconds) between exercises and you should move rapidly to the next exercise. Once you finish one full circuit, you can go twice.
  • All circuit training includes proper warm up and cool down. Cool down is important to minimize the muscle soreness you have the next day.




I have seen mostly female gym goers do circuit training. So, it is common to get people think that it is only meant for women. Not really though. Some of the benefits of circuit training:

  • You work on your cardiovascular fitness while working on your strength. Throughout the exercise with minimal rest between each workout, your heart rate is constantly up. It is like you running on treadmill.
  • With shorter rest period, your body may actually release more testosterone which helps to grow your muscle. However, the testosterone level drops if your session is too long. That is why a well designed circuit training should not last too long.
  • Circuit training is suitable for city folks who do not have time to work out for an hour in the gym. By moving through the workouts quickly, you do not have to spend long hours in the gym.
  • As for myself, the key reason to try circuit training is to kill the boredom or whenever I feel like reaching a plateau.

Few tips:

  1. In order to keep stimulating your body, you can also replace one exercise with another similar exercise. For instance, you can replace push-up with one-hand push-up or clap push-up.You can choose to do one or two rounds of circuit training, adjust weight or repetitions to suit your fitness as you progress.
  2. Because of the high intensity, halfway through the circuit, I have seen people started to compromise on the form. It is important to maintain proper form with each lift for safety reason. Reduce the weight or repetitions once you lose form.
  3. Some personal trainers use heart rate monitor to keep track of their client’s exercise intensity. But, if you do not have the heart rate monitor watch or you train alone, you can just use “talk test”. The talk test implies that you are able to talk adequately, if not altogether comfortably, while exercising. If you are completely breathless and unable to talk in this program, slow down or do fewer repetitions or rest between exercises. Do not be too hard on yourself if you just started circuit training. I myself do not bother with heart rate monitoring and most people do not too. Just bear in mind that circuit training is meant to raise the heart rate to the stage you should breathe “somewhat hard” yet without being breathless and unable to talk at all.
  4. Normally, you do not perform circuit training every day. You should rest at least a day. In fact, in order to have a more complete training program, you must not ignore the conventional type of pure strength training with proper rest and repetitions in each set. Also, do not forget to do pure cardio session like cycling, running or rowing too.


Some people avoid circuit training because they believe that it may not be helpful to bulk up their muscle. Actually, you can reduce the repetitions and increase the weight. There is no hard rule carved and stoned. I do not deny that the conventional type of 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions may give you better result for muscle building and a dedicated aerobic exercise is better for your stamina training, but, circuit training is just unique in a way that it complements your normal workout. It gives you different challenge. It combines high intensity aerobics and resistance training. I do it occasionally and I like it because it gives me good feeling for doing something different.



Category: Weight Training

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