Circuits- Greatest Training Tool Ever?

In the fitness world, just like in fashion, things come in waves and get recycled. Kettle bells made a comeback, now we have circuits showing up in boot camp classes and the like.


What is a Circuit?

Usually, a sequence of anywhere from 6 to 10 exercises that are performed quickly one after another.

It is certainly exhausting, the question is should you do it?

Let’s go to the video tape. People have usually one of two goals when they enter into a gym:

1. get bigger aka more muscular or
2. get leaner meaning lose body fat.

For option 1, circuit training is not optimal for two reasons:

1. Most people do not get a lot out of the first set since their nervous system is not ready to lift heavy yet. The reason for that is that we are not NFL or Olympic athletes and need a “feel” set to get the body ready for the exercises. It’s usually the second and third set where the growth happens.

2. Due to the nature of the circuit, one cannot lift as heavy as it would be needed for hypertrophy (80% of 1 RM).


What about Fat Loss?

Here we have a classic example of confusing activity with productivity. An athlete performing a circuit will be out of breath and sweaty, so surely a lot of fat must have been burned!

Not quite. The role of training during a diet is to lose the fat but keep the muscle on so the athlete does not experience a diminished basic metabolic rate. The only way the body will keep tissue that consumes energy (muscle) during times of restricted caloric intake is when it has a good reason. The reason is heavy training, which signals the body that the muscle is still needed to move weight around.

So no for fat loss also.

The one time circuits can work well is as a finisher for a certain muscle group. An example for a shoulder circuit would be:

-10 rear delt flyes
-10 side raises
-10 clean and presses
-10 shoulder presses

If you need some more training ideas, be sure to swing by the Facebook site and watch the videos!

Till next time!