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Circuit Training Workout - What is it and How to Design One With Multiple Exercises

Updated on May 13, 2016

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is done with different types of exercises, and usually performed in a circle or similar clockwise rotation to make it simple to follow. Circuit training is great for building both strength and endurance because you get very little rest between each exercise and then you move on to the next exercise or station and begin again. Generally circuit class workouts have 8 to 12 exercises to target all the large muscle with 1 or 2 ancillary movements added.


Designing a Circuit Workout

As briefly mentioned above, a circuit training workout should consist of 8 to 12 exercises. This way you are sure it is a full body routine with cardio and core exercises added to it as well.

Designing a circuit is all about work to rest ratio and allowing for just enough recovery before moving to the next station. It is also a good idea to design your stations so that a single muscle group or body part does not get over worked. An example would be having the circuit setup where you perform leg press, then hamstring curls, followed by leg extension. You can see how this would not necessarily be a good idea, however this is not always true with some training situations.

Below is an example of different types of times of a work to rest ratio.

Beginner Machine Circuit Sample

Workout Time
Rest Time
Leg Curl
45 seconds
Chest Press
Run on the spot
Leg Extension
Seated Row
Workout time of 45 seconds with 15 second rest.

Some Other Workout Time Options


Advantages of Circuit Training

  • Develop muscular strength and endurance
  • Great for targeting whole body
  • Easy to plan and prepare
  • Easily adjusted for different fitness levels and age
  • Can easily be setup for more sports specific

Disadvantages of Circuit Training

  • Usually not individualized
  • Often time consuming on setup
  • Lots of equipment needed to keep it exciting
  • Depending on class size, it's often hard for instructors to watch technique of members

When it comes down to it, circuit training can be a simple effective way to help you burn calories and perform a full body workout. You can also change the circuits so it's more like a boot camp circuit or have it more specific for a particular sport.

Video of a Simple Circuit


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    • Sean Evans profile image

      Sean Evans 5 years ago from GTA

      A lot of good studies out there that relate muscle and strength gains from increased rep ranges which circuits do. However at the same time dwelburn is correct as most of the gains seen in circuit training is from initial neural adaptation in the beginning.

      Thanks for your comments DreamerMeg & dwelburn

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      The trainer in the circuit class I was doing included weights as part of the circuit. No, not the huge weights, but plenty of reps means I don't have bingo wings and I can carry a sleeping baby weighing 20lbs (about 3 large bags of potatoes) for an hour walking and still have plenty of energy.

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 5 years ago from Chesterfield, UK

      Yes; circuit training is great for fitness and burning calories. Won't do much for strength though - not after the beginner stage anyway.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      I love circuit training classes because you can work at your own pace. I am no longer as fast as the younger ones for doing shuttles (running up and down the hall) but I still have the strength and I can use heavier weights (if I choose) for some exercises.