Let’s cut right to it. Circuit training is good for anyone that wants to improve complete fitness conditioning. If your goal is to develop a CrossFit-type fitness profile, one characterised by equal measures of strength, muscle endurance, and aerobic stamina, then you need to get more Vitamin C into your training diet.
The reason is that circuit training is the only exercise method that combines all components of fitness. For example, weightlifting is typically used to develop strength, and size, and sculpt a defined physique. Conventional weightlifting, which commonly involves a few lifts on a few exercises to engage a couple of muscle groups, does not burn fat or develop functional fitness.
Cardio, by contrast, can help to burn body fat, improve heart health, and enhance muscular definition. But as the author of Exercised notes cardio is not an effective method of increasing strength or forging physical robustness.
Circuit training incorporates the benefits of both cardio and weightlifting. Watson reminds us that ‘Circuit training is … a way of developing all-round fitness.’ He goes on to say that circuits are one of the most effective exercise methods for decreasing body fat, increasing strength, improving muscular tonality, and enhancing aerobic capacity (Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance).
Who is circuit training good for
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the question of who is circuit training good for. To help clarify the answer, I’ve identified specific exercise and sporting aims that could be achieved through circuit training.
Furthermore, I have briefly outlined the chief benefits of circuits. That way the who is balanced by the why. So, without further ado, who is circuit training good for . . .
Those that want all round fitness
Because circuit training is ‘the best one-off method available to develop endurance, stamina and strength,’ it is ideal for those that want to improve all-round fitness (Royal Marines Fitness Manual). Above we considered that circuits are an amalgamation of multiple exercise modalities – cardio and resistance. A consequence of this quality is that they can simultaneously engage a range of components of fitness.
Related: 30 Minute Circuit
People preparing for military basic training
Circuits are good for people that are preparing for the rigours of military basic training. The author of the Royal Marines Fitness Manual, who happens to be a Physical Training Instructor (PTI), identifies circuits as a ‘highly effective’ and ‘time-efficient’ form of training.
In addition to enabling you to cram more fitness in a short space of time, circuits promote the type of physicality suited to military training. That is, high-octane workouts that involve a chaotic mix of exercise methods.
Related: What are the best circuit training exercises?
Fighters of all striped
Individuals who practice and/or compete in the combative arts need an abundance of strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. If a Mixed Martial Artist, for example, is lacking in one of these areas they are sure to be exposed at some point during their fight career.
Relying on one component of fitness is a recipe for disaster. Using circuit training as pre-fight/competition training can help fighters get in top shape before a contest. Thus, even if they’re forced to go the distance, they’ll have the fitness to do so.
Essential reading: The Complete Guide to Circuit Training
People who have lost training motivation
Every exercise enthusiast experiences a loss of motivation from time to time. This problem is more acutely felt by exercisers that stick to one training method – just cardio or just resistance – or rarely change their routine. That’s not surprising, there’s only so long that cardio can remain interesting. Which for most people is about a week. Granted, weightlifting offers a bit more variation. But week in and week out of the same routine will eventually wither motivation while stifling physical progression.
Circuit training is a surefire way to fan the fading flames of exercise motivation. One of the chief attributes of circuits is their bewildering versatility. Because they are not confined to a single component of fitness, you have carte blanche on design creativity. What I mean to say is that circuit training is the ultimate no-holds-barred exercise arena where anything goes. If you want to put a powerlifting movement next to a bodyweight exercise, do it. If you want to throw in a cardio HIIT series after a set of kettlebell swings, who’s stopping you?
The wilder (and weirder) you get with your circuit designs, the more dynamic and functional your fitness will become.
Related: Need exercise ideas?
If you’re a keen sports practitioner, you might be surprised to learn that circuit training can be used to improve your sporting performance. This is one of the key attributes Watson identifies when he states that it is possible to 'construct circuits which emphasise different aspects of fitness such as strength muscular endurance, speed, flexibility or even skill,' (Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance).
Because ‘circuit training is extremely adaptable,’ sports-specific movements, drills, or techniques can be integrated into the design. For example, a rugby player could tailor a circuit to promote power and strength while also working on agility. Exercises that would support the former outcome include deadlifts and power cleans. Activities and movements that support the latter outcome include agility drills and even ball-handling techniques.
These methods could be applied to all manner of different sports. (See this Boxing Circuit as an example.)
Why start circuit training?
Now that I’ve answered the question who is circuit training good for? I will focus the final part of our discussion on the benefits or advantages of circuit training. You might be questioning why the subject matter has shifted. Why when the central concern is who circuit training is good for, are we talking about the benefits? Outlining the benefits serves two purposes that are consistent with the aim of this article.
First, it can provide a source of motivation for those that are undecided about whether they are going to start circuit training. Discovering that circuit training promotes more health and fitness benefits than most other forms of exercise can provide a powerful incentive to start incorporating more circuits into your routine.
Second, by listing the benefits of circuit training, I will no doubt indirectly add to the stock of answers that justify the overarching question of the article. For example, circuit training has been proven to be an effective exercise method for reducing total body fat. Thus, though it wasn’t explicitly stated above, circuit training is also good for people that want to lose weight.
Benefits of circuit training
They can be tailored to a specific sport, increasing the individual’s fitness, and sharpening their skill set at the same time.
Circuits can provide a means of testing fitness or be used for competition among multiple trainers.
They are bewilderingly versatile; the number of layouts and exercises that can be included should ensure that the trainer has a new and different workout every week for life.
Circuits allow the trainer to shoehorn a lot of exercise into a short space of time. This attribute makes them perfect for the person with a predilection for productivity.
They enable the trainer to target multiple components of fitness simultaneously in the same workout. Circuits can be constructed to ‘emphasise different aspects of fitness such as strength, muscular endurance, speed, [and even] flexibility’ (Watson, 1995).
And finally, as already stated, circuits are an excellent exercise modality for burning fat and sculpting a lean, defined physique.
Who is circuit training good for key takeaways
Circuit training is suitable for those that want to improve whole-body fitness conditioning.
People preparing for the rigours of military training would be wise to integrate circuits into their training regime. Circuits closely simulate the type of training methods that recruits must endure during basic training.
The adaptability of circuits allows you to tailor them to target a specific fitness goal. For example, this circuit aims to promote aerobic fitness.
Circuits are ideal for fighters of all stripes. Irrespective of your combat sport of choice – boxing, MMA, or Muay Thai – circuits can help you get combat-ready.
In extension of the previous takeaway, circuits can also be used to hone a specific sporting technique. We saw how rugby players can incorporate agility and ball-handling drills into their circuits.
Need more circuit training inspiration?
Get your hands on 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 3.