An Introduction to Circuit Training
Perhaps one of the most common reasons people give for being unable to get in shape is the issue of time. They simply cannot commit the hour or two a day to spend in the gym. It is reasonable enough, amidst hectic work schedules and the demands of daily life, who has the time to get dressed merely to stand on a treadmill or lift weights. Well it is fortunate for these people that this is not always necessary. There exists a method of exercise that reduces the necessary workout time by more than half, while not always even requiring a trip to the gym. In addition to saving time, it has also proven to be far superior to standard forms of exercise for losing weight and toning muscles. This unique style is known as circuit training.
Circuit training is in effect a combination of the two primary forms of training – aerobic activity and resistance training. Aerobic activity is any form of exercise for which the body requires the use of oxygen to produce energy. This is witnessed in activities like running, swimming, or biking that are typically associated with losing weight for the immediate burning of calories. By contrast, resistance training is an anaerobic form of exercise that works particular muscles to the point of fatigue, which burns calories in the gradual process of repairing these muscles. By combining the two into a single routine, not only does one achieve a far greater expenditure of calories, but they achieve the benefits of both types of exercise, most notably the positive effects on the heart and lungs of cardiovascular/aerobics, as well as the increases in strength, muscle definition, and balance of weight training.
Although circuit training involves both aerobic activity and resistance training, there is no defined location or equipment with which to perform the motions. They can be done in a gym, utilizing free weights and machines, or at home with merely a jumprope and your own bodyweight. This is the effectiveness of the routine. It can be performed virtually anywhere, on any budget, and any timeframe. The only catch is the intensity- the quicker one completes the routine, the more calories that are burned, but this also requires much more effort.
Essentially circuit training is more than just adding some light cardio to the end of a lift. It has to utilize both forms of exercise in such a manner that it elevates the heart rate and keeps it at such a state throughout the workout. This means that in order to successfully complete this process, one may be working at a much higher intensity than they are accustomed to, but this is the very aspect of circuits that lead to their success. In fact, the harder one works, the faster the workout is completed, and this energy expenditure in such a short period of time translates to a higher calorie expenditure; ie more weight lost.
The basic routine of a typical circuit is a short period of high-intensity aerobic activity followed immediately by a set of resistance exercises (a predetermined number of both repetitions and weights). A true circuit does not stop here, however, as the goal is to hit every body part before resting. After completing the first exercise, one must then repeat the aerobics/cardio and move on to the next exercise. This is performed for as many exercises as are needed to complete the routine and target every muscle.
There are many variables in this routine and while this may take some time to develop initiailly, it allows for a more customized routine for any individual. In addition, it allows one to continue increasing exercises, weights, resistance, cardio, and intensity indefinately in order to keep progressing as their body adapts and their abilities increase.
Seibert, Richard J. American Council on Exercise- Manual for Fitness Professionals.