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What are the Different Types of Circuit Training Workouts?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Circuit training is a type of exercise program where one does a series of timed exercises at a fairly rapid pace, with a brief period of rest in between each exercise. Circuit training workouts may target the entire body or just one specific area, such as the arms, legs, or chest. In addition, circuit training workouts may focus on strength training, aerobics, or a combination of the two; the possibilities are virtually limitless. In general, there are four types of circuit training workouts, and these include a timed circuit, a competition circuit, a repetition circuit, and a sport specific/running circuit.

Each of these types of circuit training workouts can be effective and serve a different purpose depending on one's existing level of physical fitness. All of these circuit types can last as long as the exerciser chooses, but it is necessary to determine the full amount of time first. The first type of circuit training workout, a timed circuit, is the most basic. In this type, one simply sets time limits for periods of exercise and rest. For instance, one might exercise for 30 seconds, followed by a 30 second rest period, then switch to a different exercise for 30 seconds, followed by another rest period.

The second type of circuit training workout is a competition circuit. In this type of workout, the circuits are timed, but the exerciser pushes himself or herself to achieve as many repetitions as possible. For instance, if one chooses to do push-ups for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest, as in the timed circuit, he might first see how many push-ups he can do in 30 seconds. He will then try to improve that number every time he does circuit training. The first day he might do ten push-ups; the second day, 11 or 12, and so on.

In a repetition circuit, which is a less common type of circuit training method, the periods of exercise are not timed, but are instead counted by repetitions. Once again, using the push-up example, one might decide to do 20 push-ups, followed by 30 seconds of rest. This is somewhat less common because speed is often one of the main goals of circuit training, and a repetition circuit can be fairly slow.

Finally, a sport specific or running circuit also consists of timed moves that are specific to one's chosen sport. For instance, one might choose to dribble a basketball for 30 seconds. Instead of periods of rest, however, the exerciser will run in between exercises. The distance is usually fairly short, between 100 and 400 meters (109 to 437 yards) depending on speed. Circuit training workouts are an excellent way to improve overall fitness, and may be fully customized and planned for each individual's needs and preferences.

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Discussion Comments

By pleonasm — On Dec 05, 2014

@KoiwiGal - I like doing the circuit at the gym in order to get some privacy to be honest. If I was doing something similar outside I feel like I'd draw attention and that's the last thing I'd want. But if you're just anonymously doing it in a gym where everyone else is doing essentially the same thing, you're just another face in the crowd.

By KoiwiGal — On Dec 04, 2014

Well, you could just plan out your own circuit if you really want one in the outdoors. Use stairs to run up and down (although down isn't that good for you if you're doing it too much) and benches to do stretches and so forth. Most of the time the exercises provided by those stations aren't going to be that much harder to just do as body weight exercises, like push-ups and lunges anyway.

Circuit training workouts are really good for you so I wouldn't wait until I had the perfect opportunity to do one. I'd just do some research online about what kinds of exercises are suitable and then just do it on my own.

Or you can join a group at a gym, depending on whether you prefer company as motivation or not.

By MrsPramm — On Dec 03, 2014

I really love it when a park or public garden has an exercise circuit incorporated into it. They are usually fairly low tech, and sometimes nothing more than a few poles in the ground with a plaque explaining their use, but it's such a positive gesture to build something like that free for people to use for circuit training.

We had one near my house when I was a kid and I would use it all the time, although I didn't usually run in between the stations the way you're supposed to. If I had one near my house now I would probably use it.

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