If you’re looking to switch things up at the gym, you may want to give circuit training a try.

This form of exercise is growing in popularity because it combines cardio and strength training exercises for a quick, efficient workout. With most workouts lasting less than 30 minutes, many people are ditching their traditional workouts for circuit training and are seeing major results.

What kind of results, you ask? Well, read on to find out.

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Circuit training is a type of training that involves rotating between several exercises that target different muscle groups with minimal rest in between. It’s ideal for those looking for a quick, effective, full-body workout.

Usually, circuits range from 8–10 exercises, but that varies based on the goal of the class, time available, and experience levels of the participants. Once all exercises have been completed, you may rest for 1–2 minutes, then repeat the exercises. Most circuits are completed 1–3 times.

No two circuit training classes will necessarily look the same. The types of exercises included in circuit training vary considerably depending on a person’s performance and health goals, experience, mobility, and other factors.

For example, circuits may be designed for professional soccer players to promote speed and agility or beginners looking to improve their cardiovascular fitness.

Most circuits are either time-based or rep-based. If it’s time-based, usually you’ll perform an exercise for 30–60 seconds. For rep-based circuits, your goal is to complete a certain number of reps — usually up to 20 — before moving onto the next exercise.

Summary

Circuit training is a form of training that involves rotating through a set number of exercises with little rest in between. It usually includes all major muscle groups for a quick, yet highly effective, full-body workout.

Circuit training provides many positive benefits.

1. Improves muscular endurance

Muscular endurance is the body’s ability to sustain exercise for a period of time (1).

With circuit training, you usually perform a high number of reps for each exercise. This involves the recruitment of slow-twitch muscle fibers to help you sustain the exercise longer (1).

Over time, you’ll be able to perform the exercise longer without feeling fatigued. Not only will this help you perform better in the circuit itself, but it can help with other activities in fitness and daily life by allowing you to use your muscles longer and more effectively.

2. Increases strength and muscle growth

Depending on the exercises you perform during the circuit, you may be able to build stronger and larger muscles.

Muscle growth (hypertrophy) requires a person to lift moderate to heavy weights or perform a high number of reps just before failure, a point at which you can’t do another rep, to stimulate muscle growth (1, 2).

Since circuit training puts your muscles under ongoing tension, this can stimulate neuromuscular adaptations and muscle growth to build larger and stronger muscles (1, 2).

3. Improves heart health

Circuit training is a favorite for many because it combines strength training and cardiorespiratory training.

Since there is little rest between exercises, your heart rate stays elevated throughout the circuit. This helps strengthen and decrease stress on your heart, allowing it to push more blood into the body with less effort (3, 4, 5).

It also helps increase lung capacity, allowing you to breathe more efficiently as you exercise. As you build your lung capacity, you’ll fatigue less easily during each circuit (6).

4. Offers a full-body workout

Instead of splitting your workouts throughout the week to target specific muscle groups, circuit training includes a variety of exercises to give you a full-body workout.

As you move from exercise to exercise, you’re usually alternating between different muscle groups. For example, as you perform an upper body exercise, such as pullups, your lower body can rest.

Ultimately, this can help you get the most out of your workouts, especially if you don’t have time to exercise most days of the week.

5. Is time efficient

If you’re short on time, you can still get in a high quality workout with circuit training.

Since there are minimal breaks during a session, you can complete your workout in a short time frame. In fact, most circuit training sessions are only 20–30 minutes.

Even with such a short time frame, several studies have shown that you can still improve both your cardiorespiratory fitness and strength with circuit training (7, 8, 9, 10).

6. Improves exercise adherence

People are less likely to stick to a workout program if they get bored easily. Fortunately, circuit training may be the solution you’re looking for (11).

Since you’re constantly going from one exercise to the next, you have little time to become bored. Furthermore, circuit training classes provide a fun, entertaining environment that can keep you connected with others.

If you’re designing your own circuit, you can mix it up each session with different workouts. This keeps things fun and increases your chances of sticking to it long-term (12).

7. May promote weight loss

You can burn a lot of calories with circuit training, which may help you lose weight.

Since your heart rate stays elevated the entire workout, you’re burning a high volume of calories. Plus, since you’re also performing strength training, your metabolism can stay elevated hours after your workout (13, 14, 15, 16).

In fact, one review of nine studies in 837 participants found that circuit training was effective in reducing body weight and body mass index (BMI) in those with overweight or obesity (17).

Other studies have also shown circuit training to be an effective exercise for weight and fat loss (18, 19, 20, 21).

That said, results may vary depending on the exercises included in the circuit along with other factors such as diet, stress management, sleep, and more.

8. May improve your mood

Circuit training may help lift your mood and improve your mental health by combining the mood-boosting benefits of both cardio and strength training exercise.

Both forms of exercise found in circuit training help improve your mood by releasing feel-good endorphins and increasing one’s self-efficacy — defined as a person’s belief that they can accomplish a task (22, 23, 24, 25).

Along with this, circuit training classes offer a friendly social environment that can contribute to a positive mood.

9. Perfect for all levels

Circuit training is highly versatile, making it suitable for almost everyone.

Circuits can be designed for all difficulty levels. For example, if you’re looking to increase difficulty, try shorter breaks, higher reps, or increasing the duration. To lower the difficulty level, you can allow longer breaks in between exercises or stick with fewer rounds.

Fortunately, many gyms offer a variety of circuit training classes to suit people of all fitness levels. If you’re working with a personal trainer, they’ll also design a circuit based on your needs.

If you’re planning on doing it solo, experiment with different circuits — many are available online — until you find what works best for you.

Summary

Circuit training provides many benefits, such as increased strength and muscular endurance, and better heart health and mood. It may also promote weight loss, and it’s very time efficient and versatile, increasing the odds that you’ll stick with it long-term.

Circuit training has gained popularity due to its long list of benefits. It’s a form of full-body training that involves rotating through different exercises with limited to no rest in between.

By combining both cardio and strength training, it can help improve muscular strength and endurance, promote heart health, and support weight loss.

It’s also a great workout for those who get bored easily or are short on time but still want to fit in a high quality workout.

Whether you’re an avid athlete, the average gym-goer, or working out in your basement, circuit training can benefit you.