Circuit training

Circuit training

Circuit training is a form of conditioning combining resistance training and high-intensity aerobics. It is designed to be easy to follow and target strength building as well as muscular endurance. An exercise "circuit" is one completion of all prescribed exercises in the program. When one circuit is complete, one begins the first exercise again for another circuit. Traditionally, the time between exercises in circuit training is short, often with rapid movement to the next exercise.



A good circuit training course works the different sections in the body individually. A good example of a circuit may be[1]:


  • Press ups
  • Bench dips
  • Pull ups
  • Medicine ball chest pass
  • Bench lift
  • Inclined press up

Core & trunk

  • Sit ups (lower abdominals)
  • Stomach crunch (upper abdominals)
  • Back extension chest raise


  • Squat jumps
  • Compass jumps
  • Astride jumps
  • Step ups
  • Shuttle runs
  • Hopping shuttles
  • Bench squat


  • Burpees
  • Treadmills
  • Squat thrusts
  • Skipping

History of circuit training and fundamentals

Circuit training is an evolving training exercise program that was developed by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson in 1953 at the University of Leeds in England.[2]


Morgan and Anderson’s original circuit format included nine to 12 stations. Today, this number varies according to the design of the circuit. The program may be performed with exercise machines, hydraulic equipment, hand-held weights, elastic resistance, calisthenics or any combination. Themed circuits are possible, for example with boxing exercises (boxercise). A 15-second to three-minute aerobics station is placed between each station, allowing this method to improve cardio-respiratory and muscle endurance during the workout.

A simpler form of the exercise consists of a group running round a gym with a trainer simply calling, for example, "ten push-ups", "ten sit-ups" at intervals.

Studies at Baylor University and The Cooper Institute show that circuit training is the most time efficient way to enhance cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance. Studies show that circuit training helps women to achieve their goals and maintain them longer than other forms of exercise or diet.[3]

And research from Morgan and Anderson showed:

Perhaps a most profound finding of this study, from a health perspective, is that this investigation clearly shows that performance of this circuit of exercises, at this level of intensity elicited oxygen consumption values (39% to 51.5% of VO2max) that meet established guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for the recommended intensity (40% to 85% of VO2maxR) of exercise for developing and maintaining cardio-respiratory fitness (Pollock et al., 1998). Thus, this circuit not only provides a suitable muscular fitness stimulus but also helps to meet ACSM cardiovascular guidelines and the newly published Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 for physical activity.[2]

Advantages of circuit training

  • May be easily structured to provide a whole body workout.
  • May not require expensive gym equipment.
  • Participants normally work in small groups, allowing beginners to be guided by more experienced individuals, as well as benefiting from the supervision of the instructor.
  • Can be adapted for any size workout area.
  • Can be customized for specificity; easy to adapt to your sport.
It's the most scientifically proven exercise system. It's time efficient and incorporates strength, flexibility and cardio in the same workout. (The Cooper Institute, Dallas, TX)

Disadvantages of circuit training

Circuit training is well-suited for developing strength endurance or local muscular endurance. It is less suitable for building muscle bulk and despite some potential strength gains, circuit training is going to provide less results in the way of maximal strength than outright weight training.[citation needed].

The duration of some circuit training stations can be in the region of 45 to 60 seconds, and in some cases as long as two minutes. These circuits typically mean that the number of repetitions performed on each station is relatively high, putting each exercise further towards the endurance end of the intensity continuum.

Those wishing to optimize increases in strength or muscle bulk (hypertrophy) can reduce the number of repetitions performed and increase the weight to be lifted or increase the intensity, when hydraulics or elastics are used. On the other hand, longer station length is quite appropriate for any cardiovascular (aerobic) stations included in the circuit.

Station times can be reduced to 75 or 100 seconds when all of the participants have an adequate level of experience. Reduced station times will encourage the participants to lift heavier weights, which means they can achieve overload with a smaller number of repetitions: typically in the range of 25 to 50 depending on their training goals.[4] However, this provides little time for an instructor to ensure that the activity remains safe and effective by observing technique, posture, and form.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Kraviz, Len (1996-00-00). "New Insights into Circuit Training". University of New Mexico. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  3. ^ Heavin, Gary and Colman, Carol, C. Reprint edition (December 7, 2004). Curves: Permanent Results Without Permanent Dieting, ISBN 039952956X
  4. ^ Robert D Chetlin, Resistance Training - Contemporary Issues in Resistance Training: What Works?, Fit Society, American College of Sports Medicine, Fall 2002.
  • Kravitz, L. (1996). "The fitness professional's complete guide to circuits and intervals". IDEA Today, 14(1), 32–43.
  • "American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults". Medicine and science in sports and exercise 30 (6): 975–991. 1998. PMID 9624661.  edit

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