Circuit training lets you to work many muscle groups quickly while also getting an aerobic working in, too. Here is how it works and how you can get started.
Circuit training means doing a series of exercises in a row. At the end of a circuit, you might repeat the circuit or you might repeat each exercise 2 or 3 times before moving on to the next one in the circuit.
This type of training can have a mix of aerobic and strength exercises. It might mean jogging, jumping rope, pushups, crunches, lunges, bench presses, and squats. The cycle can take 30 to 40 minutes to finish. You will get the best results from training 2 to 3 times per week.
Circuit training helps with muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness—all while burning calories, too.
Strength training is often a part of circuit training. With strength training, a person does 8 to 12 repetitions of a weight exercise and takes a brief rest before doing the next.
The goal of strength training is to make you stronger. It can lead to stronger bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can also increase muscle mass.
If you have never exercised or are just getting started after a break, circuit training is a good way to work on your lean body mass. As always, talk to your doctor before a program. Then see a trainer to help put together a circuit training program.
You will use all your major muscle groups when you circuit train. A good circuit has aerobic activity and exercises for each major muscle group. You can even focus on the muscles that you would like to become more defined by spending more time on a given circuit.
This training can be done using weight machines or free weights or nothing at all. Push ups, tricep dips, crunches, and lunges use only your own body.
You can do circuit training at home, at the gym, at parks, or any place you like to workout. Your city may even have fitness trails with circuit training stations.
It is best to work with a trainer when creating your circuit training program. A trainer can make sure you have a good range of exercises for all your major muscle groups. You can work with the trainer until you can do the routine the right way on your own. For a long-time exerciser, this may mean just one or two sessions.
Beginners often train twice a week for 30 minutes. Three other days should have activities like walking or hiking. After a few weeks, beginners may want to add 5 minutes to their workout. You should aim for 40 minutes, three days per week. But how often to train and how hard you will need to work depends on your goals.
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council on Exercise
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
The benefits of machine-based circuit training. American Council on Exercise website. Available at:
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Accessed June 23, 2021.
Circuit training basics. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6750/circuit-training-basics. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Strength training 101. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6695/strength-training-101. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/23/2021