Circuit Training for Fitness and Endurance – The Pros and Cons
Circuit training has been popular with gym devotees and elite athletes for years. So what is this sports training method, and how effective is it at boosting fitness and endurance levels?
What is Circuit Training?
Circuit training involves performing a range of different exercises, one after the other. By completing each of the set exercises, you complete a “circuit”.
A typical circuit may include anything from five to ten “stations”. You perform a different exercise at each station, either for a stipulated amount of time or for a specified number of repetitions. Sessions usually include a warm-up, up to five or six circuits, and a warm-down.
Frequently featured exercises include sit ups, burpees, press ups, squats, shuttle runs and jumping jacks. Some sessions also include moves using weights, medicine balls and other equipment.
Many gyms and leisure centres provide group sessions, but you can also do this type of sports training at home. There are even ultra-fast, high intensity versions that you can squeeze into your lunch break, such as the 7 Minute Workout, which was created by experts at Orlando’s Human Performance Institute.
What Benefits Can It Have?
Circuit training has a number of advantages for anyone looking to improve their fitness and endurance levels:
If the circuits that you’re completing have been well designed, you can target every part of your body, and ensure that you’ve achieved a balance of cardio, strength and flexibility training, in less than an hour.
It Has Proven Physical Benefits
Scientific studies have indicated that taking part in this type of training – particularly high intensity versions – can help you to:
- Improve your endurance level;
- Increase your aerobic fitness;
- Burn fat and lose weight;
- Increase muscle strength;
- Improve your cardiopulmonary health;
- Decrease your insulin resistance (helping you to reduce your chances of developing Type II diabetes).
Let’s face it, doing the same workout or using the same machines every time you go to the gym can be boring. When we’re bored, we’re less likely to stay motivated enough to stick to a workout programme.
That’s where this sports training method really comes into its own. You only repeat each exercise for a limited amount of time before moving on to the next one. The exercises included can also be varied each session to maintain everyone’s interest.
It’s Suitable for People of All Abilities
Whether you want to boost your fitness level, lose weight, or ensure that you’re in peak condition so that you can take home more medals from your next sporting event, this type of training could work for you.
Some gyms run beginners, intermediate and advanced level classes and, if you are designing your own circuits, you only need to include exercises that you feel confident about doing.
The Disadvantages of Circuit Training
Like most sports training methods, however, circuit training also has some disadvantages:
It’s Not Suitable for Everyone
If you have any health issues, talk to your GP and make sure that this form of training is suitable for you before you get started. It may not be the ideal option if you have a heart condition, for example. You may also need to avoid doing high-impact movements if you have arthritis or other joint problems.
It Has Limited Strength & Endurance Benefits
If you’re a long-distance runner or cyclist, you won’t be able to boost your endurance to the level that you need to by doing this sort of training alone (although it can be a handy cross training option). Likewise, you’d be better to focus on traditional weight training sessions if building muscle is your main goal.
It Requires a Certain Amount of Space
If you aren’t attending an organised session at a gym, finding the space to set up circuits can be difficult. If you’re training at home, you can exclude elements that need plenty of room, like shuttle runs, but this will make it harder to get a balanced workout.
It Can Be Difficult to Get It Right if You’re Training at Home
Planning a well-balanced circuit can be difficult if you’re a beginner. It’s also important to make sure that you perform each element properly if you want to ensure that injuries don’t stop you from reaching your fitness goals, and this can be tricky without the input of a qualified instructor.
Do you participate in circuit training sessions? Tell us which exercises you think are most effective in the comments section, on Twitter or on Facebook.