Advantages and Disadvantages of Circuit Training

Sometimes even the best-planned fitness programmes get stale after a while. If you’re looking for a way to reenergise your time in the gym, circuit training is a great way to challenge both your mind and your body. You’ll have more fun working out, so you’ll be more inclined to keep doing it.

No matter if you’re a seasoned gym-goer or just starting on your fitness journey, circuit training can offer some real and tangible benefits. Let’s unpack what defines circuit training and how you can make the most of this amazing programming option.

What is circuit training?

Circuit training is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a workout that consists of several stations where you perform different exercises. After completing a station, you move on to the next one instead of resting.

Circuit training combines both strength and endurance and can give you a full-body workout in a short amount out time.

The variations of circuit training are endless. You could programme something to be just bodyweight and challenge your cardio skills. Or you could combine aerobic and strength circuits to give you an overall workout.

When you combine aerobic and strength, these circuits usually alternate a few resistance exercises and high-intensity cardio exercises like rowing, cycling, or skipping rope.

Advantages of Circuit Training

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, going to the gym can get boring. Even worse, there are just some days when it seems like getting in a bit of exercise is impossible. Circuit training helps to offset those challenges and gives you a simple solution. It’s creative and flexible, which means it’s ideal for the times when life gets in the way.

From a weight-loss perspective, you’re going to burn a decent number of calories during an hour-long circuit training. Remember that weight is a multi-pronged approach that includes a sensible diet along with weight training and cardio exercises.

The beauty of circuit training is that the exercises can be performed in any sequence, so you can create routines that target your weaknesses. For example, if you’re not the best at push-ups, you could include them first in a circuit to tackle when your muscles are fresh.

Circuit training can be performed anywhere there’s room to exercise. At home, you can easily set up stations both indoors and outside. Cardio components could include stair running, burpees, sprints on your street, or jumping rope.

For strength components, you could easily integrate bodyweight exercises like push-ups, mountain climbers, and pull-ups. Or, if your home gym is equipped with free weights, it’s simple to build a program with those in mind.

At the gym, you might need to double-check the rules of your facility. Most gyms offer circuit classes so you could easily take one of those. Or, if you happen to be in the gym when it’s not very busy, you could probably set up your stations using both machines and free weights. Just remember that not everyone at the gym is doing your program, so you should be mindful of not monopolising the machines and equipment.

Disadvantages of Circuit Training

Circuit training can help you burn a huge number of calories in a short amount of time, so it might seem like there aren’t any downfalls to this approach. The truth is, it might not be the most beneficial for you, depending on your goals.

If you’re trying to build big muscles to get big lifts, then circuit training as your sole focus isn’t going to get you where you need to be. That’s because one of the ways you make gains is by lifting heavier weights over shorter reps. Light weights that are used in circuit training might help you build endurance, but most likely, you’re not going to get any real strength gains. The other reason you’re not going to improve your numbers is because you’re not giving your muscles enough time to rest between sets.

Circuit training isn’t going to prepare you for long endurance events like marathons or century rides. To prepare for the appropriate cardio conditioning for those kinds of fitness goals, you need to do a lot of Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) training. Circuit training might be a good addition once a week as a cross-training option, but it absolutely won’t prepare you for a long-distance event.

Proper form can be difficult to maintain during circuit training, especially if you’re new to your fitness path. That’s because you haven’t developed enough muscle memory to perform the movements properly each time.

If you’re new to fitness, you should make sure you can properly perform the movements of a circuit before you try to do them quickly. With this in mind, beginners might also suffer from fatigue during a circuit training session, especially if it’s very fast-paced.

Workouts Can Be Both

If you’re taking a group fitness class, chances are your workout is going to include both interval and circuit training. You most likely worked through a variety of moves that concentrated on different muscle groups and also has a specific work to rest ratio. That’s great news, but what about the times when you’re working out on your own?

It’s really easy to programme circuit and interval training into the same gym session, just not at the same time. After a full-body workout, you might move through a series of strength training moves that focus on multiple muscle groups and then finish with a HIIT burpee-box jump combo. The thing to keep in mind is that you can’t overwork one specific muscle group too much with repetitive movements. Not only will you get fatigued more quickly, but overuse can put you at risk for injury.

How to Add Circuit Training Into Your Programme

To programme your own circuit, you first need to set your time limit, since circuit training is based around several stations you repeat until the time runs out. Generally, the shorter the workout, the more you’re going to have to push yourself. Aim for anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the intensity of the work you want to perform. For example, five one-minute stations repeated over six circuits will give you an effective and challenging workout.

Next, you need to determine your exercises. A good circuit consists of an upper-body exercise, a lower body exercise, and a compound exercise. Then select a cardio option to get your heart rate really soaring. You can choose to add in a minute of rest if you think you need it, or just keep moving through the circuit until your time runs out.

Making It More Challenging

When your circuits start to feel easy, it’s time to switch them up. Make them more challenging by shortening your time intervals but keep the reps the same. For example, if you routinely give yourself two minutes to do burpees and you can usually complete 10, try 1 minute 30 seconds and still try to complete 10. You’ll push harder and move faster through the circuit, which will help you complete more stations.

Because you’re designing your circuit, you’re completely in control. Vary the length, duration, and intensity of exercises to make them more challenging each time you try them. Try a backward circuit for a fun twist or increase resistance on your strength components. The options truly are endless.


Circuit training options are literally endless. One of the best things about circuit training is that you can easily incorporate whatever equipment you have available and it’s a fun way to work out with friends. The versatile adaptability of circuit training means you’re going to improve your cardio, muscle endurance, and you’re more likely to get in that workout when time is tight.

Circuits are super easy to set up and need minimal space and equipment. If circuit training isn’t a part of your fitness programme, it should be. When you incorporate this dynamic way to exercise, you’re going to encourage your metabolism to stay revved throughout the day and you’ll be less likely to be bored while exercising.

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Team MT

Team MT is the editorial team of MuscleTalk. With over 20 years experience we write quality, evidence based, articles. In addition to creating original content, we also edit and fact-check any articles we feature by external writers.

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