Circuit Training: Everything You Need to Know  

If you are up for an intense cardio and muscle workout at the gym, circuit training might be the best option for you.

Circuit training is a fast-paced training style that combines a sequence of six or more different exercises. You and a group of people perform various workouts aimed at building muscle where you burn a lot of calories because of the continuous workouts with little to no rest in between rotations. 

In this article, we will give you a better understanding of everything you need to know about starting circuit training and why you should consider doing it. 

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is a series of exercises with various intensities that are designed to keep your heart rate up and focus on different muscle groups. By keeping your heart rate up alongside the intensity of the workouts, you will get the most out of a shorter workout. 

Circuit training offers many benefits, not only for your body but also for your mind and overall wellness. Although there are many different types of workouts and training options, such as HIIT, CrossFit, and Bootcamp, circuit training is still a top-notch choice if you want to improve your strength, endurance, resistance, and stay fit. 

Circuit training conditions your body to improve muscular endurance and strength by going through a series of high-intensity aerobics and exercises performed in a circuit. This intense workout program was developed by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson in 1953 at the University of Leeds in England, and because of its effective results—many gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts are still doing these effective training exercises up to this day. 

Besides improving muscle endurance, studies show that circuit training is an excellent way to improve your overall cardio health. And because you can do circuit training with a group of people at your gym—it is also an excellent way to make friends and improve social activities. 

How does Circuit Training Work? 

Circuit training works by grouping a variety of high-intensity exercises together that can easily be performed anywhere. By having lots of high-intensity exercises as part of a short routine, you will stay engaged and stay active, helping you work harder in a shorter time.

When circuit training, you will be doing a bunch of different workouts (it can be anywhere between 5 to 10 workouts) for 30 to 60 seconds in rotation. For example, you can start by doing bicep curls or skipping rope for a specific amount of time, then move on to a different workout without resting. 

You can switch up the sequence of exercises and switch up the number of repetitions to keep things interesting. Even without the large gym equipment, doing circuit training at home is possible. You can place dumbbells, a skipping rope, resistance bands, doing squats, pushups, or even a stationary bike or a treadmill and form a circuit at home. Just make sure you time yourself or keep count of the repetitions. 

You can also set different intensities for yourself if you are just starting. You don’t have to push yourself too hard at first, the beauty of circuit training is that you can push as hard as you want to achieve your fitness goals. Here are some ways you can boost the intensity of your circuit training, whether you are at the gym or home:

Shorten Your Intervals – At first, the intervals between the different exercises in circuit training are already short, you can turn up the heat by shortening it more. For example, you can limit each workout to 30 seconds to keep moving around the circuit faster to push your body through the limits.

Start From the End – You can always try doing the more intense exercises first to push yourself and achieve your workout goals faster. However, make sure you are all warmed up first and do at least one round around the circuit. 

Change Your Routine Regularly – Especially with exercises, it’s easy for things to start feeling stale. By mixing up the order, you’ll never know what’s coming next, and the routine will be fun and refreshing each time. 

What Type of Workout Is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is a high-intensity, flexible workout. It is an intense aerobic workout that keeps the heart rate up and focuses on muscular endurance. It is a type of cardio exercise combined with lifting and other strength workouts and is an effective way to lose weight while targeting different muscle areas.

It engages most parts of your body, but you can choose low-impact circuit training and make it more of a cardio and aerobic exercise by choosing less intense activities in your circuit. Because circuit training has different stations, it is flexible between aerobic and strength workouts, depending on which stations in the gym or workouts at home you include. 

When circuit training, you can include stations that focus on different muscle groups and more, such as:

  • Cardio workout station
  • Core station
  • Lower-body stations for both legs and single-leg
  • Upper-body station for arms, biceps, and triceps

Adding a variety of different stations around your circuit makes this type of training more versatile. You can switch it around and focus more on one or two stations if you want to lose weight, and vice versa if you want to focus on strength and muscle endurance. 

Is Circuit Training HIIT?

HIIT and circuit training may be similar because of the various workouts involved, but they are not the same. HIIT involves high-intensity exercises, but unlike circuit training, HIIT has a flexible rest period. 

There are many differences between circuit training and HIIT. The sequences of exercises with HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training do not involve a lot of gym equipment, and you can do it at home with exercises, such as running, jumping lunges, high knees, or other aerobic exercises that will increase your heart rate. You can also use equipment like a treadmill, spin bike, rowing machine if you have them at home when doing HIIT. 

What Are the Benefits of Circuit Training?

Circuit training has many benefits in terms of accessibility, benefits for your mind and body, and other significant health and recovery benefits based on studies. Here are the benefits of doing circuit training:

Circuit Training is Fun – Let’s face it, working out at the gym can be boring at times, and many training exercises can feel like a chore. However, one of the benefits of doing circuit training is that it doesn’t get stale like other fitness routines. By challenging yourself and pushing you to the limits of beating your previous record and doing different exercises under one workout—you get more excited to actually workout. 

It Is Versatile and Efficient – Circuit training is an efficient workout that allows you to work on your cardio health and your strength simultaneously. This means you don’t need to switch to different types of training exercises. All you need to do is adjust the activities and choose stations that will allow you to focus on cardio or strength more. Plus, you can get results faster.

You Don’t Have to Do It at the Gym – Although the gym can provide you with equipment and actual stations to go through when doing circuit training, you can still do it at home or anywhere else for that matter. As long as you have dumbbells, a skipping rope, and other accessible home gym equipment—you can set up various workout stations you can use for circuit training at home or the park if you want to invite a group of friends to do it with. 

It Is Ideal for All Fitness Levels – Whether you are a beginner or have been working out for a while, you can create just the right circuit training routine that fits your preference and skill level. Whether you want to start with low-intensity workouts or go straight to challenging and time-sensitive workout routines—it is completely up to you.

It can help you burn a ton of calories – 15 minutes of continuous circuit training can go a long way in burning calories. For every 1-hour training session, you can burn over 300 calories—making it an excellent option to regulate body fat and maintain fitness. Just make sure you create a weekly routine so you don’t overwork your body. 

It’s a Potential Physiotherapy Alternative – A study was conducted for ten men with complete paraplegia and had them go through 12 weeks of circuit training. The study found that circuit training has cardio and strength benefits for people with paraplegia. Because of the excellent results, chronic paraplegia survivors improved their upper body cardiorespiratory endurance and muscle strength in a short time using a modified circuit training workout. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Circuit Training? 

If there are advantages, that means there will be some disadvantages. Here are some disadvantages of doing circuit training:

Not Ideal for Mass Muscle Gain – If your goal is to bulk up and increase your muscle mass, circuit training might not be the best option. Circuit training focuses more on endurance. People tend to use lighter weights, meaning it is not ideal for bodybuilding, but definitely ideal for increasing your muscle endurance for longer resistance. 

Requires a Lot of Space – Because you will be doing a series of exercises, circuit training requires more space, especially if you are doing circuit training with friends. Plus, if you are doing it at the gym, it would be hard if people are using the equipment.

Fatigue – Pushing yourself to do vigorous circuit training can risk injury, especially if you are a beginner. Make sure you work your way up from doing less intense exercises before taking on the biggest challenges. If it is too intense for you, you will be too fatigued to continue your workout regime, and can affect your work. 

Types of Circuit Training Workout 

Because circuit training is made up of exercises that you choose, it’s extremely customisable. There are a range of circuit training templates that you can either use or build off of to get the perfect exercise regime for your goals. 

Timed circuit – A timed circuit involves setting a time period for rest and exercise intervals. You can customise the rest and workout time ratio based on your preference. The average time is 30 seconds of exercise and 30 seconds of rest, but you can always mix it up. 

Competition circuit – Competition circuits are similar to timed circuits, but this time, you want to keep track of your repetitions for each workout and how many repetitions you can do in a set time period. For example, you can push yourself to do more push ups or any activity within your set time period, which is usually 30 seconds or more. 

Repetition circuit – This type of circuit training is ideal for larger groups of people who have different fitness levels and skills. For this type, you decide on how many repetitions regardless of time. For example, you can set the circuit to have 10 push ups, 15 crunches, etc. 

Strength-focused circuit training – This type of circuit training consists of weight-bearing exercises. You can create different stations that involve body-weight exercises, free-weight, or with the use of gym equipment. Combining all of these activities is an excellent way to improve overall strength through circuit training.

Cardio circuit training – A cardio circuit is a combination of different cardio stations, such as jumping jacks, burpees, running, brisk walking, and the use of different cardio machines. It is an excellent way to lose weight and raise your heart rate in a limited amount of time. Cardio circuits are usually timed, which makes it more interesting and challenging if you want to beat your own record. 

Strength and cardio circuit – This type of circuit training is a combination of both strength and cardio. All you need to do is combine your strength activities and cardio activities. You can create stations based on your preference and mix them around to make things more exciting each time you repeat the circuit. 

Sport-specific circuit training – This type of circuit training is designed for athletes or people who want to improve on any specific sport. For example, if you are a basketball player, you can add a dribbling station, passing, shooting, or any other footwork exercise. There are also circuits designed for kickboxing, track, and any other specific sport you play and want to get better at. Sport-specific circuits are a combination of agility exercises, cardio, and strength activities. 

What activities are included in circuit training?

Here is a list of activities you can include when creating a circuit:

Full-body workouts – Full body workout exercises are a staple in circuit training and are a great place to start or finish your session. Full-body workouts are exceptionally useful for people who have limited time and want to get the most out of their workout. 

  • Treadmills
  • Jogging
  • Skipping
  • Squat thrusts
  • Burpees
  • Jump rope

Upper-body focused exercises – Upper-body exercises are one of the most common inclusions in a circuit training routine, as it’s an area most people want to tone and strengthen. These exercises are some of the most efficient ways of exercising your upper body.

  • Bench dips
  • Push-ups
  • Back extensions
  • Inclined press-up
  • Medicine ball chest pass

Core and trunk workouts – Core workouts are some of the most basic yet sought after exercises, because they target areas most people are most conscious about and want to improve the most for their own self image. Some of the best core exercises are:

  • Sit-ups
  • Crunches
  • Chest raises

Lower-body focused exercises – Although often overlooked, lower-body exercises are an important part of a balanced circuit training exercise routine. Some of the best lower body strengthening exercises include: 

  • Step-ups
  • Astride jumps
  • Compass jumps
  • Hopping shuttles
  • Bench squats
  • Squat jumps

Other Workouts – There are a range of other exercises that you can include into your circuit training regime. Any of these exercises will make an excellent addition to your overall fitness and strength. 

  • Dead bugs
  • Curtsy lunges
  • Lateral shuffle taps
  • Bicep curls
  • Glute bridges
  • Lateral lunges
  • Flutter kicks
  • Planks
  • Dumbbells
  • Barbells
  • Spin bikes

How Many Exercises Should Be In a Circuit Training Workout?

You should have at least five different exercises in your circuit training routine. The more exercises you have, the more parts of your body you will be able to target and train. Adding more exercises helps the time go faster by mixing up what you’re doing.  

The number of workouts you want to include in your circuit is up to you. You can do as little as five different exercises or as many as ten. If you are setting up stations at home, you can set as many activities depending on the equipment you have available. At the gym, you can set up more stations because it has more accessible equipment. You can choose between the activities listed above.

How Long Is a Circuit Training Workout?

The standard circuit training session can last from fifteen minutes to an hour long. Due to the types of exercises you’ll be doing, it’s very easy to build training routines that will last for as long as you like. 

The length of circuit training varies on your ability and endurance. Some people do it for 10 to 15 minutes, while other seasoned fitness enthusiasts can go as long as 45 minutes to an hour. To get longer sessions, you can repeat every cycle of exercises until you can. Note that the higher the intensity and the longer you work out increases the risk of fatigue and injury. 

Circuit Training for Beginners FAQ

Is Circuit Training Good for Beginners?

Circuit training is for all fitness levels, and it is an ideal workout for beginners because you can set the intensity of your workout based on your skills and abilities. If you have never done any circuit training before, 15-minute sessions with a range of exercises is a great way to start.

How Do I Prepare for Circuit Training?

The best way to prepare for circuit training is by warming up before starting the circuit. You want your body to be limber to avoid injuries. 

Follow these steps to create a workout tailor-made for your skill and ability:

  1. Select a time limit or set several repetitions for each exercise of your choice.
  2. Pick an upper-body, core, lower-body, and other types of activity you want to include in your circuit.
  3. Set a rest time for intervals. It is usually between 10 to 30 seconds, depending on your endurance. 

Can I Do Circuit Training at Home?

You can do circuit training anywhere, even without gym equipment. You can set different stations and select activities you can do at home. Just make sure you have enough space in the backyard, garage, living room, or anywhere in the house to avoid getting hurt. 

When choosing between home workouts and the gym for circuit training, remember that you’ll have access to more equipment and more guidance at the gym. 

How Often Should I Do Circuit Training?

Doing circuit training up to three times a week is enough to get the benefits without risking injury. The fast pace and intensity of circuit training can drain your body and put a lot of stress, meaning it is not ideal to do circuit training every day

However, you can alternate the activities included in the circuit, making it possible to endure 5 days of circuit training in a week.

Related Questions

What’s the Difference Between CrossFit and Circuit Training?

CrossFit focuses on more reps per activity, unlike circuit training which focuses on more activities with fewer repetitions and shorter times. Circuit training involves more activities than CrossFit, making it a much more versatile training experience. CrossFit also involves a lot of weightlifting techniques. 

Learn more about the differences in our comparison between CrossFit and F45 Training, a common circuit training workout style. 

What’s the Difference Between Bootcamp and Circuit Training?

Bootcamp is slower-paced than circuit training, meaning it focuses more on strength. Bootcamp is easier for beginners who are not ready to jump from station to station at a faster pace. 


This article is published for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your individual circumstances, medical conditions or abilities. Always consult a medical professional before beginning any program of exercise. A fitness industry professional can provide personalised advice to suit your needs. 

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