5 Surprising Benefits To Circuit Training

Most people have heard of circuit training, but very few understand what it is and the potential benefits it can bring.  As a result, a vast majority of people are missing out on the numerous benefits gained from adding circuit training into their everyday lives.  After reading this article, you’ll be surprised by how many ways circuit training can support your weight loss goal, improve your fitness level, give you back time in your day, and save you money.  As someone who knew about circuit training for a long time but wasn’t putting this knowledge into practice, my eyes were opened when my life circumstances changed, and I was pushed to give it a try. 

As a behavioral health doctor and clinical exercise physiologist, I know how important it is to implement a regular exercise routine of cardiovascular exercise and strength training.  However, as a new father, husband, dog owner, and full-time employee, I found it challenging to fit in the amount of strength training and cardiovascular exercise that I knew I needed into my weekly routine.  In my attempt to work a full and balanced exercise routine into my life, I began getting up at 5 am.  However, faced with sleepless nights courtesy of my newborn and ice-cold New England mornings, this turned out to be an unsustainable approach.  I knew I needed to find a way to spend less time exercising, but I wasn’t willing to give up the benefits gained from performing regular cardiovascular exercise and strength training. It turned out that the best way to accomplish this had been right in front of my face the entire time, circuit training.  

This article will help you understand what circuit training is all about and design a circuit training workout.  I’ll also share with you the 5 surprising benefits of circuit training.  These benefits associated with circuit training will allow you to: 

  1. Increase your muscle strength 
  2. Increase your cardiovascular endurance
  3. Increase your fat loss
  4. Save time 
  5. Save money 

Before learning about the benefits of circuit training, let’s make sure that you clearly understand what circuit training is all about.  

What is Circuit Training?

Habitual cardiovascular exercise and strength training help people increase their aerobic capacity and endurance, muscle strength, metabolic rate, and weight loss.  To gain these benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends performing 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise or 60 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise each week.  Additionally, ACSM recommends performing strength training exercises that target each major muscle group, 8-12 exercises, at least two days a week.  Traditionally, cardiovascular exercise and strength training are performed separately.  Although effective, completing these forms of exercise individually may not be realistic for many time-conscious adults.  

Circuit training is a type of workout that combines cardiovascular exercise and strength training.  As the name suggests, circuit training involves completing a series of exercises performed in rotation with minimal rest.  When the circuit is designed to incorporate a mix of cardiovascular and strength training exercises, it allows participants to gain the benefits of each form of exercise.  

Benefits of Circuit Training  

Benefit 1: Increase Your Muscle Strength 

A staple component of circuit training is strength training exercises.  These types of exercises cause your muscles to work against resistance.  When done repetitively, micro-tears are created within your muscles, and after these tears heal, your muscles become larger and stronger.  Strength training exercises can be incorporated into your circuit by using your body weight, free weights, or resistance tubing.  

Any type of circuit training that involves strength training exercises will help you increase your muscle strength. Still, if this is your primary focus, I would recommend designing a circuit that includes free-weights or strength training machines.  Including the use of strength training equipment in your circuit will allow you to perform fewer repetitions while using heavier resistance.  Circuit training modified to incorporate heavier resistance has been shown to enhance muscle strength.1  In addition to helping you strengthen your muscles, circuit training also increases your cardiovascular endurance.  

Benefit 2: Increase Your Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular exercise is considered any repetitive movement that increases your heart rate well above its resting rate.  Most people think of activities like walking, running, or rowing when considering cardiovascular exercise.  Of course, these exercises can be incorporated into a circuit training routine, but repetitive movements such as jumping jacks, step-ups, and high knees can also cause your heart to rise and stay elevated.  When these or more traditional types of cardiovascular exercises are built into a circuit training routine, you will likely see increases in your cardiovascular endurance.  

Research shows that whole-body aerobic circuit training improves cardiovascular fitness.2  In fact, research results reveal that circuit training can elicit a greater cardiorespiratory response with less of a time commitment when compared to traditional aerobic exercise.2  In other words, performing regular circuit training can be just as effective, if not more so, than conventional aerobic training at improving your cardiovascular endurance.  

Benefit 3: Increase Fat Loss

Circuit training is an effective and efficient way to lose body fat.3  The strength training component of the circuit is the primary driver of fat loss as it allows for lean muscle growth.  The amount of muscle you have directly influences your metabolic rate.  Therefore, by adding skeletal muscle through circuit training, you will increase your metabolism’s speed, which can lead to weight loss. 

An increase in your metabolism’s speed from adding muscle through circuit training will result in your body burning more calories while at rest.  This means that when you’re commuting, sitting at the office, watching T.V., and even sleeping, you are burning extra calories.  Although the strength training components of circuit workouts are the main catalysts for weight loss, aerobic exercises also promote fat loss. 

When performing a traditional strength training workout, you burn very few calories while exercising.  However, by circuit training, due to the aerobic exercise component, you not only gain the weight loss benefits associated with adding lean muscle mass, but you burn a significant amount of calories during the workout.  Burning calories while circuit training helps you to create a “caloric deficit” or in other words a need for additional energy.  When these surplus energy requirements are not met through eating extra calories, your body will break down fat stores to meet these needs.  This breakdown of stored fat cells is what leads to weight loss.  

So far, all of the benefits of circuit training you’ve learned about have been related to your health and fitness.  However, circuit training also helps us save time and money, which we are all interested in. 

Benefit 4: Save Time

Who doesn’t want to gain more time back into their day and week?  I know I did, which is one of the reasons why I was drawn to circuit training.  Due to circuit training’s ability to streamline cardiovascular exercise and strength training into one condensed workout, you can gain valuable hours back each week. 

To gain cardiovascular exercise benefits at a minimum, you must spend 150 minutes per week performing moderate or 60minutes per week performing vigorous cardiovascular exercise.  In regards to strength training, you need to perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 exercises twice each week, which, even if done efficiently, will take approximately 30-60 minutes each week.  In total, this amounts to upwards of 3.5 hours of exercise each week. 

For many busy adults, dedicating over 3 hours a week to exercise is challenging.  However, you can garner many of the same health and fitness benefits from performing circuit training for as little as 60 minutes a week.  Not only will implementing a circuit training program help you save time but can help you put money back into your pocket.  

Benefit 5: Save Money 

If saving time wasn’t enough to get you amped up about circuit training’s potential benefits, it might excite you to know that it can save you money.  People exercising in the traditional sense often prefer a gym’s convenience so that they can spend part of their time using cardiovascular equipment and part of their time using strength training devices.  This approach also translates into the home as many people design home gyms to include cardiovascular exercise machines and strength training apparatus or free weights.  Whether exercising using exercise equipment at the gym or home, there is a cost involved.  However, circuit training can be implemented in any environment for free.    

Of course, circuit training can be performed at a local or home gym if that is your preference,  but it doesn’t have to be.  In fact, circuit training can be implemented at home, in a hotel room, or a park, using your body weight and costing you a total of exactly $0.  By eliminating your gym membership or the need to buy expensive home exercise equipment, you could save hundreds of dollars each year.  Keep reading to learn how to create your own bodyweight circuit training workout routine.  

How to Create a Circuit Training Workout 

To reap the 5 benefits from circuit training explained in this article, you’ll need to design a circuit that strengthens each major muscle group and elevates your heart rate well above its resting rate.  I’d recommend that you perform circuit training two or three days a week, allowing yourself to take at least one day of rest in-between workouts, for ~30 minutes.  

To design a circuit training workout, choose a mix of aerobic (jumping jacks, high knees, etc.), strength training (squats, push-ups, etc.), and core stability (planks, crunches, etc.) exercises.  Choose a mix of 12 of these exercises.  Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, taking 10 seconds to rest in-between exercises.  Work your way up to being able to repeat the circuit 3-4 times to achieve a 30-minute exercise session.   

For those who exercise at a gym, feel free to use various equipment to create your circuits, such as strength training machines, dumbbells, and cardiovascular exercise machines (treadmills, elliptical, bikes, etc.).  For people working out at home and that have the equipment, you can use dumbbells, tubing, medicine balls, or a mix of these materials to create your circuit.  However, whether exercising at the gym, your home, or a hotel room, you can benefit from circuit training just by using your body weight.  

Brett Klika, a performance coach for the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, FL, created a researched-based high-intensity circuit training program using body weight.4  This circuit often referred to as the ‘7-Minute Workout,”  includes twelve-bodyweight exercises that can be completed without exercise equipment.  To see the details of the 7-Minute Workout and to view the twelve-bodyweight exercises, please refer to this slide deck: 

Summary 

Circuit training is a type of workout that combines cardiovascular exercise and strength training into a single routine.  There are many benefits of performing consistent circuit training, including; gaining muscle, improving your cardiovascular endurance, losing fat, recouping time, and saving money.  Circuit training can be conducted by using exercise machines, home exercise equipment, or your body weight.  

Now that you understand the benefits of circuit training and how to implement it, I encourage you to try it and see if it is the right fit for you.  If you have follow-up questions about circuit training or would like to share with me how you’ve successfully integrated a circuit training program, please send me an email: 

References: 

  1. Exercise Biology. “Can Circuit Training Increase Strength and Muscle?” October 2011. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):2519-27. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182023a51.
  2. Myers, T. R., Schneider, M. G., Schmale, M. S., & Hazell, T. J. (2015). Whole-body aerobic resistance training circuit improves aerobic fitness and muscle strength in sedentary young females. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 29(6), 1592-1600.
  3. Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Fruend J, Bouthcher SH. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. Int J Obes. 2008;32(4):684Y91.
  4. Klika, B., & Jordan, C. (2013). High-intensity circuit training using body weight: Maximum results with minimal investment. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 17(3), 8-13.

we want to write about what matters most to you.  Please share your questions and ideas to help us create meaningful future content.

related posts


In a perfect world, we would stay on top of our eating and excise game year-round and enter into summer feeling confident and bathing suit-ready.  But in reality, it can be challenging to remain consistent with healthy-weight-producing habits year-round.  This conundrum leaves many of us wondering how we can lose a few extra pounds in


Perimenopause is often accompanied by weight gain and is always accompanied by shifts of fat stores from the hips, thighs, and buttocks to your mid-section.  To add insult to injury during perimenopause, changes to your metabolism and your personal life can make it extremely difficult to lose weight.  This combination frequently leaves women feeling frustrated


I’m sure most of us can agree that there isn’t much better than enjoying a fresh blueberry muffin for breakfast.  Unfortunately, blueberry muffins are often high in fat, calories, and added sugars, making it a food that you probably shouldn’t eat regularly if you want to maintain your waistline and health.  This conundrum is what


Many of us have the knowledge we need to change our habits.  We often know what types of food to eat, how much sleep we should be getting, and what types of exercise we should be performing.  However, we aren’t applying our knowledge in a way that generates a lasting lifestyle change.  This discrepancy between


I’m sure most of us can agree that losing weight requires making changes to our diet and exercise routine.  However, it can be challenging to implement these changes in a way that sticks long-term.  Attempting to launch a new diet or exercise program over and over again can be physically and emotionally draining.  As a


I think we can all agree that shopping and preparing our own food is more effective at promoting weight loss than eating out.  However, even if you are grocery shopping regularly, it can be challenging to know what types of foods you should be purchasing to promote weight loss.  Clients often tell me that they