What is circuit training?

Posted on January 27, 2012. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , , , , |

You could say this about a lot of workout routines and diets

Some times I think much of what gets written about exercise and nutrition is made way too complicated. Either the topic at hand is complicated and made to sound like it’s very simple. Or something that is so simple, most people could ignore it completely and still benefit because through the course of exercise and nutrition they are already getting the benefit any way.


I don’t know if this is because the author carries insecurity issues, or maybe they happen to be one of those academic types who forget no one really cares about the scientific details.


Then we have the type who basically don’t care about knowledge and will post anything just to sell their product or their point.

Whoever made this ad should be ashamed of themselves

One bit of confusion I have found happens mainly because of the trade marking turf war that tends to happen. As fitness organizations try to claim something that has existed before them as their own invention (see: CrossFit)


One such thing is circuit training.


Circuit training has existed for decades. Probably longer but I can only find documented reference that goes back to the late 50’s(1). and that is limited by the name. I’m sure it existed before just was referred to under another name such as exercise or physical activity.


Now circuits although similar to what we see in MET training or complexes are usually differed from the other two by the number of exercises involved.


MET training usually will have 2-4 exercises involved, using different forms of exercise.


Complexes, such as those designed by Istvan Javorek. Will be anywhere from 4-7 exercises and will use the same piece of equipment without setting it down.


Russian complexes differ as they will vary the amount of weight, but stay within a similar movement pattern.


Circuit training usually refers to a series of 10 exercises or more, with a wide variety of exercises. An example of the idea would be a Curves gym. Although the Curves concept of circuits I strongly disagree with. It gives the right mental picture


Circuit training has been shown to be not only a beneficial way to get the most out of your workouts when operating under a short time clock. It also has shown benefits for maintaining aerobic fitness levels equal to that of jogging (2)


I don’t use circuits much in a personal coaching scenario as a client usually needs more focused attention on certain areas of strength and weakness. However I find it to be very effective in a class format. More effective, than what typically gets passed around as an example of an aerobic class.

Circuit Class example:

  • Squat
  • Push-Up
  • Step-Up
  • Pulldown
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Military Press
  • Reverse Crunch
  • Body row
  • Reverse Lunge
  • Plank
Essentially you are covering all your bases in one swoop.  Hope that helps bring some clarity.
Keep Fitness Groovy,
Coach W
  1. Morgan, R.E. and Adamson, Circuit Training, London, G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1961
  2. Gettman, LR., et al, Physiological effects on adult men of circuit strength training and jogging, Arch Phys Med Rehabil 60:115-120, March 1979

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