Closing the circuit: achieve your fitness objectives in 30 minutes or less

You may have heard about circuit training before, or even took part in one already, but if you’re not sure whether the advantages of these programmes apply to you then it’s time to dig into the matter.
Circuit routines, at the most basic level, consist of a series of exercises that need to be performed quickly one after the other, with short rest times, if any at all. The circuit closes when all its stations, typically 5 to 10, have been touched once, and can then begin again. This rather abstract essence of circuits translates to a wide spectrum of real-life possibilities, with workouts including only resistance or cardio exercises, combinations of both, while others target specific athletic skills, including power, agility and endurance in the mix.

Circuit routines, at the most basic level, consist of a series of exercises that need to be performed quickly one after the other, with short rest times, if any at all. 

The circuit closes when all its stations, typically 5 to 10, have been touched once, and can then begin again. This rather abstract essence of circuits translates to a wide spectrum of real-life possibilities, with workouts including only resistance or cardio exercises, combinations of both, while others target specific athletic skills, including power, agility and endurance in the mix.
Whichever form it takes, the constant here is efficiency: leaving little if no interval at all between stations allows to keep your heart rate constantly high while improving muscle response at the same time, and does it in sessions that may be as quick as 30 minutes each, or even less. No wonder they have been generating so much traction, with proven advantages that make them attractive to many.

The perks of circuit routines

Here’s a few of the many benefits that determined the success of this formula:

  1. Blazing fast. In a hectic-paced world where the authentic luxury is the ownership of our time, having the possibility to contain the duration of our workout is surely a big plus for a lot of busy people who couldn’t spend hours at the gym. A circuit program can in fact easily fit the timeframe of a lunch break.
  2. Defeats the ordinary. If you’re not new to the gym, you may have faced boredom and loss of motivation at some point. Circuit training makes it easy to drop the routine as you quickly move from one exercise to the other, challenging your body in more ways than you thought were possible and bringing the fun back into physical activity.
  3. Burns calories after exercise. Reducing wait times between exercises rapidly depletes your body’s energy system, so the body will need to spend extra calories later on to recreate balance (this is often referred to as the after-burn effect, or EPOC: Excess Post-workout Oxygen Consumption). Depending on your training level and physical condition, the effect could last up to 48 hours, continuing to burn extra calories even while you rest.
  4. Muscle strength. These non-stop workouts are very effective for beginners who want to build a muscular base quickly, they can help athletes achieve a better muscle tone and endurance, and also fight muscle tissue decrease in the aging. Weightlifters can also perform targeted circuit programmes for body conditioning.
  5. Cardiovascular endurance. Increase in aerobic consumption, stamina and the ability to withstand physical effort for longer times are proven effects of a consistent commitment to this type of programmes.
  6. Body composition. Circuits are proven ways to decrease fat mass to the advantage of lean mass, therefore delivering results that will make you feel better and last longer in time.
Circuit programmes aren’t anything new, in fact they have been used for decades now - which makes it a tested and proven idea with an endless number of applications. With the advantages above, it should come to no surprise they’re conquering larger shares of fans every day. Should you become one of them too? Let’s forget popularity for a minute, and read on to discover if these benefits match your needs.

Is circuit training good for you?

A better question: why are you signing up at the gym or looking for a fitness studio close to you? Our aspirations define what we ideally wish to obtain from exercise, whether it’s more strength, flexibility, athletic performance for sports or even just improving our mood through physical activity. Simply put – different motivations need different approaches. Here’s a few examples to make the point.

Meet Tatiana:

she’s in her middle thirties, happily working for a firm downtown for 2 years now, commuting every day from a small town that’s 50 miles away. Luckily, or quite the opposite to say the truth, the office is just a couple of steps away from the bus station, which translates into very little movement and not much time to go to the gym. To her disappointment, she’s discovered the curves of her hips are not really like the used to be a few years ago… time to do something about it and lose some weight. But how?

Now here’s Paul:

he’s quite new to exercising as well, ok, but with a slightly different story. One day he went out for a run, and that made him feel so good, releasing tensions and improving his mood. Now running isn’t enough anymore, physical exercise keeps him happy and got him craving for a complete workout. He wants to start moving as soon as possible to step up with his fitness game.

Joanna’s case is a little different:

she’s always been quite active in life, doing sports when she was younger, and now riding her bike to work whenever she could. That’s no longer enough: she’s looking for something more comprehensive to tone up her whole body, helping retain her flexibility and postural muscle through time.

Rose has just celebrated her 60th birthday:

an important mark in her life, but she started noticing a slight decline in her mobility lately. It turns out she feels tired a little more easily than it used to, and sometimes even doing the stairs seems challenging. The certainty that physical activity will help her all along the future years has cemented in her mind, which is why she turned to her younger niece – a true zealot for the matter - for advice on how to keep more active.

Hi Stephen, we were just missing you.

Stephen sticks to a typical 3 days intermediate weightlifting schedule, because… well, is there anything else really? It’s the tennis matches on Thursdays that fire him up though (he’s beaten quite a few friends during the last tournament, by the way). Stephen also works quite hard and sometimes needs to skip the gym, but nonetheless wishes he could improve athletic performance and hit some unstoppable aces.
So, now we have the whole picture: 5 completely different individuals looking for a solution to achieve their most disparate objectives. Can circuit training be the answer for any of them?
If you have followed us thoroughly up until now, you already know the answer: yes, all of them will enjoy the benefits of circuit training. Tatiana starts torching calories right away, and with the correct dietary approach she’ll be enjoying a leaner body that’s also more efficient in burning fat, even while resting. Paul feels so empowered he’s to become addicted to physical exercise in no time, Joanna gets more and more confident in her body, Rose is happy to preserve her mobility and flexibility, while Stephen is stronger than ever on the tennis court. Last but not least, a bonus for all of them: lots of precious spare time to dedicate to themselves, as compared as to other forms of training, which they surely will appreciate.
Chances are you probably noticed a little affinity with at least one of them: if so, tailored circuit training could answer your demand for an improved physical condition. Now that you have the full picture of the benefits and how they apply to virtually anyone, it’s easy to understand why these programmes are nowadays so widespread, but that doesn’t come without caveats.

The drawbacks

Before we go into them, let us answer the most common question: is circuit training good for building muscles? The short answer is: it can be, but there’s better options if that’s your only goal. Weightlifters will probably choose other methods to increase their strength, but they should bear in mind the circuit can become a Swiss army knife for them too, especially when it comes to improving body composition. Few other types of programmes allow to burn fat while retaining or even building new muscle fibre.
Back to practical now, and let’s point out the aspects that can make circuit training difficult.
Issue number one: exercise form. As a novice you may be puzzled about the correct execution and pace of the exercises, while having no time in between to rest or think may lead to confusion. To avoid mistakes and ensure safety, you’ll probably have to stick to a trainer full-time during circuit workouts. Not many fitness clubs can afford letting you monopolize their staff, can they? Let alone opting for the safer machines, which may sound a sensible move at first, but then think about how quickly the seconds go when you need to set them up manually from station to station.
Issue number two: equipment availability. In fact, think about what would happen if a bunch of circuit fans started their workouts at the same time, with obvious clashes when it comes to using the same equipment. How could you possibly harmonize the different sequences? But that’s not the only obstacle: coexistence with “regular” gym members could also be easier said than done. Your next station is occupied, somebody grabbed your dumbbells? By the time you figured out how to replace that, your 15 seconds rest is long gone, and so the corresponding benefits. Fitness clubs could find themselves in need for a traffic light on peak hours if a good number of its members adopted circuit programmes.
Getting around these obstacles is not impossible. If you want to learn new moves, group sessions can provide the answer. Classes at the fitness club or concept studios can provide supervised circuit workouts in interesting, different flavours: functional, high intensity, cross training, there’s a broad range of choices that can satisfy your aspirations and stimulate your curiosity with something different every time. Not only the constant presence of a trainer helps users of all levels participate, but also acts as a coordinator so they don’t come to a fight for the possession of their next station. If you’re intimidated by some types of exercises, watching your experienced mates around will help you sort that out.
All of these reasons make group training a great option, but we reckon that’s not for all, especially when your busy lifestyle doesn’t allow you to join that specific class at that precise time. If that’s the case, be aware that other options such as the BIOCIRCUIT can provide an intense, seamlessly guided training experience, with no need for anybody to tell you what the next move should be. Oh, and the wonder when you see equipment adapting automatically to your own posture: it looks just like science fiction made real.

Did we tickle your curiosity? Then give circuit training a try: look for new classes or ask your trainer, and embrace a fitter, stronger and healthier you.

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