The benefits of circuit training have been a subject of much discussion over the years. The main reason for this is that the training method was initially developed as a way of training two distinctly different components of fitness, simultaneously! On the one hand you have the challenge of developing aerobic fitness and on the other you have the task of improving muscular strength. However as everyone knows the development of endurance and strength together are incompatible aren’t they – or are they?
There are a number of established benefits to participating in an exercise regime where circuit training is the methodology. So, let’s look at the facts.
Circuit training is an extremely time efficient way of getting fit. Training sessions are organised in exercise bouts of about 30 seconds duration, with between 6-12 exercises in a circuit. There are rest periods of around 30 seconds between each exercise – sometimes no rest at all. Between 2 and 5 sets can be completed in a single workout. With this type of arrangement a full training session would normally take between 15 and 45 minutes. When you are strapped for time, you can see how circuit training can help to support your exercise goals.
Circuit training is an effective way for the initial improvements and the maintenance thereafter of aerobic fitness. Circuits are organised so that different muscle groups are targeted as you move from one station to the next. There are only 30 seconds or no rest between each station and due to this, your heart rate, which can be as high as 80% of you maximum heart rate, is maintained for the full duration of the exercise session. It has been established that maintaining your heart rate at this level for 15 to 30 minutes is a good stimulus for the improvement of VO2max.
Another of the benefits of circuit training is that it is an effective way of eliciting moderate improvement in muscular strength. Circuits were first designed to be used with barbells as the resistance with loads of between 40% and 60%. The combination of the load and the duration of the exercise period together, ensured the muscular system is sufficiently stressed to promote an adaptation. Research has shown that over an 8-12 week period of training, there can be gains of 2-3 kilos in lean body mass.
Circuits are an excellent way to elicit a positive change in body composition. It has been suggested that a circuit training session can burn anything between 6-9 calories a minute. And while circuits can promote an improvement in lean body mass, it has also been shown to reduce body fat. The net effect of this is no change in weight, but certainly a change in the overall composition of the body. A gain in muscle mass also burns more calories, so with your improvements in lean body mass, you can expect your basal metabolic rate to increase also.
So, in summary, circuit training includes weight training exercises of moderate loads performed in 30 seconds bursts with no or short periods of rests. Among the benefits of circuit training are gains in aerobic fitness, gains in moderate strength and a reduction in body fat along with an increase in lean body mass.