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Circuit Training Definition
Circuit training is the “musical chairs” of the exercise world. Although it may look chaotic to a casual observer, there is method to the madness that constitutes this intense form of exercise. While its pace may leave your heart beating hard and your body sweaty, because you can adapt exercises to your current level of fitness, as long as you take the right health and safety precautions, circuit training is appropriate for almost everyone.
The core objectives of circuit training are to increase muscle strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination. Whether you accomplish one or all of these objectives depends on how you structure your training. Each training session usually includes a combination of both aerobic exercise and strength training. However, circuit training can include whatever type of exercise you want, in whatever combination helps you accomplish your exercise goals. This could mean your circuit training routine includes only aerobics or only strength training.
How It Works
Each circuit training session, according to the American Council on Exercise, includes about eight to 10 exercise stations, each offering a different type of exercise such as a stationary bike, weight machine or a jump rope. Over the course of the workout, you stop at each station, perform the appropriate exercise for anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes, rest for about 30 seconds to one minute and then move on to another station.
Athletes in competitive sports commonly use circuit training as a form of off- or early-season training. It is a good way for athletes to stay in shape during the off-season and get ready for the intensity of training camps. The exercise combinations also make it a popular training method for endurance events such as the triathlon or soccer. Circuit training can be beneficial to fitness buffs as well. If you become bored with your usual workout routine, if you like intense, fast-paced workouts or if time is a factor in completing exercises, circuit training is also for you.
A two to four times per week sample plan for general fitness can include completing a full circuit of eight to 12 exercises, one to three times with a one to three minute rest between each full circuit. You perform each specific exercise for 30 to 90 seconds each, with a 30 to 90 second rest period between each station. In contrast, a two or three times per week sample plan focusing on muscle endurance can include completing a full circuit of four to eight exercises, two to four times with a two to three minute rest between each full circuit. You perform each specific exercise for 30 to 60 seconds each, with a 60 to 90 second rest period between each station.
Circuit training is an intense form of exercise. Talk to your doctor before starting circuit training to make sure this type of exercise is right for you. In addition, if you participate in general fitness circuit training, you also perform an additional 20 minutes of aerobics-only exercise about three days a week.
Explore In Depth
- ACE Fitness: Circuit Training Basics
- ACE Fitness: Circuit Training
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- Feito Y, Heinrich KM, Butcher SJ, Poston WSC. High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): Definition and Research Implications for Improved Fitness. Sports (Basel). 2018;6(3):76. doi:10.3390/sports6030076
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Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.