Circuit training is a structured, high-intensity workout that has long been used by elite athletes to develop overall strength and endurance. It was made popular among gym-goers through the popularity of the 30-minute Curves workout, and has more recently developed into “Boot Camp”-style workouts. Incorporating circuit training into your overall fitness plan can have many benefits – physical, as well as mental.
How It Works
Circuit training classes combine 8 to 10 strength exercises with cardiovascular workouts. Each exercise station works a different muscle group of the body, and it is used for a prescribed amount of time, based on your fitness level. Beginners are advised to start with 30 seconds at each station. In between the stations, running in place or calisthenics exercises, such as jumping jacks, are performed for the cardio workout. The workout can be accomplished with weight machines, or at home using a set of light weights.
Just as with all workouts, the circuit training should be preceded by a short warm up to prevent injury to the muscles. After the workout, it is advised to gently stretch out the muscles or “cool down” to prevent muscle soreness the next day. Also, be sure that you work to your level of fitness. Lifting weights that are too heavy will only cause injury and sideline your workout. If you haven't exercised before, it is always best to get a clean bill of heath from your physician prior to beginning any new exercise program.
Benefits of Circuit Training
Circuit training is very effective in improving all areas of fitness: strength, endurance, aerobic training and flexibility. In a study done in 1982 by the Cooper Clinic, volunteers improved fitness levels by 17% when participating in a circuit training workout, versus 12% of those who did only cardiovascular or strength training.
Circuit training provides balance. Because many exercisers focus on one sport, such as running or playing basketball, circuit training is a great way to work other muscles of the body that are not involved in the primary sport, improving conditioning overall and preventing injury.
Circuit training has been shown to jump-start metabolism. Circuit training has been shown to burning up to 30% more calories than other types of exercise. Because strength training is involved, lean mass is built and maintained, which provides a longer calorie burn because the tissue is metabolically active, even at rest.
It is great for beginner exercisers, because it provides a challenging workout that can be modified for a person’s fitness level. Results can be seen quickly, because of the improvement to overall fitness, and not just one muscle group.
There are mental benefits as well. Doing the same workout time after time can be boring and may lead to skipped workouts. Circuit training can be a good way to maintain excitement during a workout.
The time-saving aspect of circuit training is very appealing to busy men and women. A full workout can be accomplished in just 30 minutes, because of the high-intensity of the workout, and because all muscle groups are worked in a pre-set sequence.