There seems to be a lot of debate as to whether circuit training is superior to cardio for weight loss. In fact, when I go to the gym, I see more and more people doing circuits.
“You have to do cardio to lose weight.” That’s what this middle aged meathead at the gym used to tell me. “Go get on the treadmill and just walk. If you run, you’ll lose your muscle.”
Now, if my meathead friend was ripped, I’d probably listen. But he wasn’t – and he didn’t really do cardio anyway.
However, I listened. I would walk for an hour after already lifting for an hour…And what happened? I lost some weight, but I spent all friggin’ night in the gym. Who wants to do that?
Well, if you’re there to gab with your friends, or the gym is where you find dates, you may want to be there all night. But, I got things to do…Really important things, like watch “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” for the 11th time.
What Is Circuit Training?
Circuit training is nothing more than doing many different exercises one right after the other. Some people, like the Curves franchise, tend to do series of resistance exercises. While others will often add traditional cardio to the mix.
In this case, the workout might look like this:
Squat -> Lat Pull Down -> Push Up -> 400 meter run
The cool thing about circuits are that they offer you an almost endless variety of workouts. This helps keep you interested, and it’s much more fun than just plodding along at a slow jog.
To get a few sample workouts, keep reading.
Will Circuits burn more calories than Cardio?
The simple answer is yes. But that’s only because I like to keep things simple. However, I only say this because what I normally see with circuit training is that people work harder than they do on the treadmill or jogging. For whatever reason, it would seem that people who do circuit training prefer to push themselves,while the average person doing cardio in the gym goes into “fat burning” mode and plods away on the treadmill without any reasonable calorie burn.
So, while circuit training doesn’t really burn more calories, it can when done with a bit of intensity and focus.
The real benefit to circuit training is that it’s more time efficient. You can exercise many muscles and even build a bit of strength, if you are a novice strength trainer. After all, why lift and then do cardio, if you can lift and do cardio at the same time.
Take a Shortcut to Fitness With Circuit Training
One case study showed that the group that didn’t train saw no improvement in its cardiovascular fitness. The weights group improved cardio fitness by 12%. And the weights-and-jogging group improved 17%. (The weights group also improved strength by 17% and the weights-and-jogging group improved strength by 22%.)
A recent study examined how circuit training benefits the cardiovascular system. After all, isn’t that why most runners hate on circuit training? Here’s the study reference Gotshalk, L.A., Berger, R.A., and Kraemer, W.J. (2004). Cardiovascular responses to a high-volume continuous circuit resistance training protocol. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(4), 760-764. Here’s a quote from the researchers… “This evidence-based research demonstrates that when properly performed and sequenced, a continuous circuit training protocol at a low intensity (40% 1RM) and without aerobics stations, can evoke a satisfactory cardio respiratory response.”
When you have limited time, but want maximum affect from your workout then circuit training exercises are the way to go. That’s because when you do circuit training, you are working your both aerobic system and your muscles at the same time.
In fact, you get a weight loss boost because you move through exercises so quickly and you keep your heart rate up. And, because you are challenging your muscles with circuit training, you build muscle at the same time. Not bodybuilder type muscle, but good solid muscle that pumps up your metabolism and help you burn more calories throughout the day.
20 Minutes Circuit Workout (*choose light weights for max reps)
1) Bench press* or pushups – max in 1:00
2) Squats – max in 1:00
3) Pullups or pulldowns – 1:00
4) Bike or jog – 3:00
5) Military press* – 1:00
6) Lunges – 1:00 each leg
7) Bicep curls – 1:00
8)Bike or jog – 3:00
9) Tricep extensions.- 1:00
10) Leg ext – 1:00 (requires leg machines – or repeat squats with weights)
11) Leg curls – 1:00 (requires leg machines – or repeat lunges with weights)
12) Situps – 2:00
13) Crunches – 2:00