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Benefits Of Circuit Training

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There are loads of benefits of circuit training. Here’s a quick taste before we tuck into the banquet of benefits outlined below. According to Watson, author of Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance, circuit training is one of the most effective methods of improving all-round fitness.

Sean Lerwill, who is a fitness author and Royal Marines physical training instructor (PTI), tells us that ‘circuit training has been proven to have positive effects on the CV and endurance systems.’ He goes on to say that ‘for general, non-specific fitness, circuit training is probably the best one-off method available to develop endurance, stamina and strength,’ (Royal Marines Commando Fitness Manual – p181).

But as Watson points out, circuit training can also be used to develop specific components of fitness. For example, you could craft a circuit that solely stimulates strength gains, muscle endurance, or aerobic stamina. In addition, as this boxing workout shows, circuits can be tailored to enhance sports performance.

In this brief introduction, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the benefits of circuit training. However, instead of explaining all of them, we are going to look at four of the main benefits and review how they can help you reach your fitness goals.

Benefits of circuit training quick finder

Benefits of circuit training #1: Improve whole-body fitness

Benefit 1 outline: Circuits are the single best training method for promoting multiple components of fitness. That is, in a well-organised circuit, you can develop strength, power, muscle endurance, and aerobic stamina.

Benefits of circuit training #2: Greater versatility

Benefit 2 outline: Because circuits encompass multiple training methodologies and welcome all exercises, they are bewilderingly versatile. With a simple framework, you could create a different circuit every day for life.

Benefits of circuit training #3: Time-sensitive

Benefit 3 outline: The characteristics of circuit training – high volume, minimal rest, maximum output – can be leveraged to eke out a lot of exercise in a short time. This quality makes them the training method of choice for those that are time-strapped. A circuit as short as 10 minutes can still deliver a barrage of fitness benefits.

Benefits of circuit training #4: Group friendly

Benefit 4 outline: Circuit training is the ultimate fitness social club. With a wide-open space, such as a sports ground, playing field, or local park, you can conduct a circuit for hundreds, even thousands of people: young and old, fit and fat, circuits accommodate all comers.


Benefits of circuit training #1: Improve whole-body fitness

Fitness trainers enjoying the benefits of circuit training.

Unlike conventional forms of training, circuits enable us to target multiple components of fitness simultaneously. Here’s what I mean.

Weightlifting is primarily used to promote strength and size while sculpting a defined physique. Cardio is practised (often begrudgingly) because, as well as being the best form of exercise for burning fat, it helps improve heart, lung and circulatory health.

But to engage all the muscle groups usually requires three to four weightlifting workouts. (Biceps and triceps on Monday. Chest and back on Tuesday. …) And to hit the NHS’s recommended weekly dosage of aerobic training, you’ll need to factor in a further three 30- to 45-minute sweat sessions into your routine.

For most people, finding time for all that training can be a challenge. What inevitably happens, though, is people prioritise one form of training over another. This can result in fitness imbalances and the neglect of major body systems. (Mel Siff talks about this in his brilliant book Supertraining.)

Circuits combine multiple components of fitness

However, circuits offer a simple way to merge the fitness-promoting benefits of weightlifting and cardio into a single workout. As Lerwill pointed out above, circuits develop endurance, stamina and strength.

For example, as this whole-body conditioning circuit shows, you can create a circuit that incorporates resistance and cardio exercises. Including more of these workouts into your training routine could enable you to get twice as much fitness done in half the time.

Benefits of circuit training #2: Greater versatility

Two people circuit training.

In the introduction to the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits and Workout series, I discuss the bewildering diversity of circuit training. This versatility is attributed to the fact that circuits are not limited to a specific component of fitness.

If you trained cardio at the gym, for example, you’d have about four different pieces of exercise equipment to choose from (usually treadmills, rowers, stationary bikes, and cross-trainers). To spice up your cardio routine, you could apply a couple of training methods (HIIT and fartlek). It’s largely the same situation with weightlifting – expect that there are more toys to play with.

While weights and cardio are tried and tested methods of improving aerobic fitness and muscular strength, they can get a bit boring.

In contrast, because circuits are not bounded by a specific protocol – resistance = sets, reps, rest, repeat – the number of possible permutations is practically endless. Meaning, you can create new workouts every time you train.

This versatility is advantageous for other reasons as well.

Circuits can be tailored to fit like a glove

The versatility of circuits enables you to tailor them to suit almost any fitness goal. For example, if you wanted to improve strength while topping up your weekly cardio quoter, you could create a circuit that delivers these outcomes.

Related: Try this Kettlebell Circuit on for size

Those fitness goals were easy. We’ll turn the intensity and set some that are more ambitious.

Let’s say that you want to burn fat, tone up, and increase complete fitness conditioning while honing a sports-specific technique – say, increasing both your punching power and the one-two boxing combination.

Now, I think you’ll agree, that’s a lot to ask from any one workout. And there’s no way you’d get it all from a cardio or weights session. Yet, as this boxing conditioning workout shows, you can easily craft a circuit that ticks all those boxes – and a few more besides.

Benefits of circuit training #3: Time-sensitive

A woman enjoying the benefits of circuit training.

If like most people you lead a hectic life, packed to bursting with a seemingly ever-expanding number of responsibilities, you probably find it challenging to keep consistent with your training. You have good intentions to go to the gym, but commitments crop up and cardio gets cut for another day. This is both frustrating and guilt-inducing.

But you know I’ve got a resolution at the ready. And you know that resolution involves circuit training. No prizes for anticipating me. It’s true though.

The author of the Royal Marines Fitness Manual identifies ‘time-efficiency’ as a key quality of circuit training. They are time-efficient for the following reasons:

Circuits are conducted at comparatively high intensities. This enables you to pack more exercise into a shorter space of time (see below).
High-volume training leads to greater overload which results in an increase in fitness.
Rest periods are kept to a minimum. Throughout a 30-minute circuit, it’s not uncommon for participants to maintain output for the entire duration.
Circuits are usually pre-planned. Going to the gym with a session plan improves training efficiency because you will not waste time deciding what exercise you’re going to do next.

Get more fitness in half the time

It is more than possible to condense the combined output of a conventional sets-reps-rest gym workout into a circuit of half the duration. Yes, I am claiming that the total poundage of a 60-minute gym workout could be accomplished in a 30-minute circuit.

Yet you might be thinking that even a 30-minute circuit is a bit of a stretch for you at the moment. What with work demands, family commitments, and the myriad other responsibilities you’re currently juggling.

Here’s the thing, you could still eek a lot of exercise out of a 20, even a 10-minute circuit. Emerging studies are showing that high-intensity workouts as short as seven minutes can confer many health benefits.

Benefits of circuit training #4: Group friendly

People completing a circuit workout.

After compiling a lengthy list of the benefits of circuit training, Watson concludes by bringing out attention to two more advantages. (As though ten weren’t enough!) The first is the ‘adaptability’ of circuits.

It could be said that circuits don’t discriminate. Irrespective of a person’s level of fitness, a circuit can be adapted to accommodate.

In addition, circuits can be tailored to suit a broad range of training experiences. As I point out in the introduction to the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits and Workout series, it is more than possible to design a circuit for a wide range of abilities. In a well-designed circuit, beginners could train alongside advanced exercises both being able to maximise their respective potential.

Circuits are pro-social

The final benefit of circuit training that Watson identifies is that ‘with efficient organisation large numbers of individuals can be accommodated with the minimum of space and equipment.’ This attribute of circuit training was brought to my attention a few years back when a friend organised a ‘mass circuit’ to raise money for charity.

On a public playing field one sunny Saturday morning, standing on a makeshift stage and speaking through a headset, he conducted a circuit for over 10,000 people. (He also wanted to break the world record for most in attendance at a circuit, which then stood at 12,000.) For 45 minutes he had this microcosm of people performing press-ups, burpees, and all manner of other bodyweight exercises.

At the end of the workout, the sea of participants was soaked in sweat and huffing and puffing from the near-constant exertion.

This anecdote illustrates that with ‘efficient organisation,’ you can craft a circuit for a large gathering of people that will provide them with an engaging workout. Here’s an example of a kit-free circuit that’s perfect for group training.

A group of circuit trainers.


The final lap

Throughout this article, we’ve reviewed four key benefits of circuit training. We’ve seen that circuits promote a broad range of fitness components. In a single circuit, you can engage the entire spectrum of your physicality – strength, power, endurance, cardio capacity, and many skill-related components.

In addition, keen sports practitioners can incorporate relevant exercises, movements, and drills into their circuits. While augmenting your fitness, you will be able to develop your skill set to boot.

Our travels also took us on a tour of the social side of circuits. We saw that, so long as a circuit is efficiently organised, even with minimal equipment you can create an engaging workout for large numbers of participants.

But you might be amazed to learn that the benefits of circuit training exceed those outlined above. In the book The Complete Guide to Circuit Training, fitness authors Lawrence and Hope identify many more benefits. They include:

Cardio fitness
Muscular strength and endurance
Increased flexibility
Enhanced motor fitness (better agility, balance, and coordination)
Complete physical fitness
Social fitness
Mental fitness
Emotional fitness


Ready to start circuit training?

Get your hands on 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 3.

Benefits of circuit training blog concludes with the The Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits and Workouts Vol. 3.


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