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Circuit training: advantages, disadvantages and exercises

Circuit training is a method that has been used by people for many decades to get fitter. The method was developed by researchers at the University of Leeds and has since been adopted by athletes around the world.

In this blog, we explain what circuit training actually is, why you should or shouldn't do it and which exercises you could do. With the examples, we give you can get started right away.

What is circuit training?

Circuit training is a fairly simple method of training. You go through a circuit of different exercises at a fairly fast pace. It is a combination of endurance training and resistance training, where you will mainly improve your condition. It is also suitable to some extent for building muscle strength and muscle mass. However, this mainly applies to novice athletes.

The intent of circuit training is that after completing one exercise, you immediately move on to the next exercise without resting. Only after performing one complete round should you take a break. It is customary to then go through the circuit several times. This, for example, resembles the way CrossFit workouts are performed. The duration of both the exercises and the rest period can vary depending on your personal goals and fitness.

Circuit training

Circuit training benefits

Conducting circuit training has quite a few advantages. Below are the top benefits of circuit training, so you can determine if and why you should give it a try.

It's time-saving

Circuit training is enormously time-saving if you compare it with regular training, such as in the gym. Since you don't rest between exercises, you'll complete around pretty quickly. Also, the rest period between the different rounds of the circuit is often short, allowing you to complete a full workout at a fast pace. With a regular workout in the gym, this is not possible given the amount of equipment and weights that you have to keep occupied.

Do a circuit training at home, without equipment

If you opt for circuit training, you are not tied to a location or material. It is therefore certainly possible to do circuit training at home. You can choose all kinds of exercises that you can do with bodyweight, so you are not tied to one location.

Do you have dumbbells or other accessories at home that you can use? Then you can easily add it to your training. Keep in mind that it will of course be a lot harder to maintain a whole circuit training when you use weights.

Complete freedom in composing workouts

You have complete freedom in how challenging you make the training. You can choose which exercises you do, for how many repetitions and how much rest you take. For example, do you want to focus on a certain exercise or muscle group? Then you let these come to the fore in your training. Do you have less time? Then you leave out certain exercises for that one time. You can decide where, when, how, and how often you train.

Improve your fitness

Circuit training is a good method to improve your fitness. Because of the high level of intensity, you not only train your muscles but also your condition. This way you actually kill two birds with one stone. This improvement in your condition can also help you in practicing other sports. Is the main goal of your training to improve your fitness? Be sure to read our blog building fitness with useful tips on how to do this as efficiently as possible.

Burn a lot of calories

Another advantage of circuit training is that you can burn a lot of calories with it. This makes it a very suitable form of training if you want to lose weight. With about 10 minutes of training, you can usually burn around 100 calories. For example, do you train for half an hour each time, and do you do this 4 times a week? Then you can burn around 1200 extra calories per week.

Disadvantages of circuit training

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to doing circuit training, otherwise, everyone would be doing it. Below we have detailed the main disadvantages of circuit training.

It is not very suitable for building muscle mass

Circuit training may have many benefits, but for muscle building, these benefits are only there to a certain extent. As a novice athlete, you can build muscle mass with this way of training, but you will soon run into a ceiling. This is partly because the limited rest between exercises is not ideal for getting the most out of your training when it comes to muscle load against the highest possible resistance.

Do you want to stimulate your muscles as much as possible to build muscle mass? Then it is much more efficient to give your muscles rest between sets so that you can handle more resistance. Be sure to read our blogs in the muscle mass category. Here you will find more useful information and tips.

It is not very suitable for building muscle strength

The same applies to muscle strength. You can improve it to a certain extent through circuit training, but the amount will be quite limited. The resistance that you can use during the exercises remains quite limited. Let more resistance be just what you need to build more muscle strength. Is your goal to build more strength? Then it is advisable to add a lot of resistance to your workouts, often in low volumes. For this, you quickly need to train with barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.

Would you like to build more strength? Then read our blog getting stronger with useful tips and take a look at the strength training category. Here you will find even more blogs that may help you with your goal.

13 Circuit Training Exercises

There are plenty of exercises you can do in a circuit workout. This also keeps it interesting and fun, since you can continue to vary a lot. Below we have elaborated 13 exercises that are very suitable for circuit training. There are many more options in addition to these exercises, but in our opinion, these are the most suitable exercises that you can use as a basis for your training.

squat

The most famous exercise for your thighs is without a doubt the squat. You can perform the exercise with a barbell, but in the case of circuit training, this can also be done just with body weight. The squat is very easy to incorporate into a circuit training schedule and is ideal for stronger and more toned legs.

To perform the squat, first place your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and extend your arms forward. You should tighten your abs and push your chest forward. Slowly lower yourself while pushing your hips back. Make sure your knees reach at least 90 degrees before you can back up.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are very popular in circuit training and therefore a great way to get fitter and improve your fitness. In addition, the exercise is very easy to learn, so this exercise is also very suitable for beginners.

Stand up straight and keep your arms neutral at your sides. Then, jump in the air and, when landing, place your legs a little wider apart, preferably slightly wider than shoulder-width. As you do this, raise your arms up. You make an X with your body, as it were. Then jump back to your starting position and repeat as many times as necessary.

push-ups

The most famous bodyweight exercise to train your chest muscles is without a doubt the push-up. The ease and effectiveness of the exercise make it such a popular choice for circuit training. The exercise is also easy to make lighter or heavier, making it a good exercise for both beginners and advanced athletes.

When performing a push-up, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and put your feet back. Tighten your abs well so that your whole body is straight. Lower down by bending your elbows and pushing your shoulder blades in. Lower yourself until your elbows are level with your back. Then push yourself back up until your arms are fully extended again.

dips

For this exercise, you will need a chair, (fitness) bench, or another type of elevation. Fortunately, almost everyone has this at their disposal. The exercise primarily targets your triceps but also trains your chest muscles to a certain extent.

Sit in front of a sofa or chair and place your hands about shoulder-width apart. Place your legs straight out in front of you on the floor and make sure your buttocks are just above the floor. Your arms should be bent about 90 degrees. Push yourself up from your triceps until your arms are fully extended. Then lower back down until you are back in the starting position.

walking lunges

With walking lunges, you train the leg muscles and the glutes. This exercise is very easy to increase by using dumbbells. Don't have dumbbells? Then you can, for example, also hold filled water bottles or put on a backpack with some books in it.

Stand up straight with your feet together. Take one step forward, then lower yourself by bending the knee of your front leg. Your legs should now both be at a 90-degree angle. Try to keep your upper body as straight as possible during this movement. Push yourself back up from your front leg while taking a step forward with your back leg. Do the same movement again to complete one rep.

planks

This exercise is one of the most well-known bodyweight exercises to strengthen your core. When performing a plank, you use both your abs and your lower back muscles to maintain a straight stance. The ease and effectiveness of this exercise make it a perfect addition to your circuit training.

Place your forearms on the floor, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and make sure your shoulders are positioned directly over your elbows. Stretch your entire body with only your forearms and feet touching the floor. Tighten your waist and hold it now. Do this for 30 seconds, 1 minute, or if you can, longer. Do you want a little more challenge? Then you can, for example, put on a backpack with some books.

Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are a good and simple exercise for your glutes. This exercise works your hamstring, glutes, back, and abs. All you need is a mat to lie on so that your shoulders don't hurt.

Lie flat on your back with your hands at your sides. Move your feet towards your body and place them flat on the floor. So your legs are bent. Now lift your hips up, keeping your feet, shoulders, and arms on the floor. Tighten your abs and push your hips up as far as possible. Then lower your hips back to the floor and repeat as many times as desired.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers fit perfectly into circuit training. The exercise is not only suitable for improving your condition but also ensures a stronger core and stronger arms. This exercise can be a little more challenging for beginners.

Place your hands on the floor directly below your shoulders and extend your arms fully. Place your legs behind you so that your body forms a straight line. This is your starting position. Now move your right knee towards your right chest, after which you move this leg again to the starting position. Once your right foot is back on the floor, move your left knee toward your left chest. Repeat this as often as you want. Make sure to tighten your abs throughout the entire exercise.

burpee

The burpee is an exercise that actually combines several exercises. This is how you do a squat, a push-up, and a jump, all in one repetition. This makes it a challenging exercise for your circuit training, especially in terms of explosiveness and endurance.

First, you do a squat, after which you immediately place your hands on the floor. You then jump your legs back and do a push-up. Then jump your legs back forward, squat up, and immediately after that jump in the air with your arms up.

pistol squat

This exercise is quite difficult to learn, but once you can do it it is very effective. For beginners, it may be difficult to keep your balance or to exert enough power with one leg. Does it not work for you initially? Then hold on to, for example, a table or other object to make the movement easier, or stick to the regular squat for a while.

Extend one leg straight out in front of you as you lower the other leg. Lower completely until you can't go any further, then come back up again. Extend your arms to better maintain your balance.

Jumping rope

An exercise that is perfect for a variety in your circuit training and will ensure that your heart rate goes up a lot. Jumping rope is a great exercise for better fitness. It just takes some practice to run it flawlessly. So make sure you have some experience with a skipping rope before adding it to your circuit training. If you jump too low, the rope will hit your legs. If you jump too high, you won't last long. So the trick is to jump just high enough.

wall sit

The wall sit is a static form of a squat, where you use the wall as a resting point. The exercise can get tough even for advanced exercisers, as holding the squat position requires a lot of stamina.

Stand with your back to the wall. Then lower into a squat position, propped up with your back against the wall. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle while you stand still with your back against the wall. Then hold it for as long as possible. You will soon begin to feel the acidity in your legs.

leg raises

Leg raises can be performed by most beginners without any problems, making them a great exercise for the novice exerciser. You train your abs with this exercise and you only need a fitness mat or other soft surface.

Lie flat on the floor with your hands at your sides. You can choose to place your hands under your buttocks if you find this more comfortable. Then move your legs up while your buttocks stay on the floor. Do this until your legs are almost 90 degrees to the floor. Then move your legs back down in a controlled manner, until they just don't touch the floor. This way you keep tension on your abs. Then repeat for the desired number of times.

Examples of circuit training

To conclude this blog, we have made a few more examples of circuit training that you can perform. Of course, you are completely free to omit or add exercises. For the sake of convenience, we only use the exercises that we have worked out above.

Circuit training example 1

This is a fairly simple circuit workout suitable for beginners. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. You should keep track of this yourself with, for example, a sports watch, stopwatch, or an application on your phone. After performing one full round, rest for one minute. Try to complete at least three rounds. Can you complete more rounds? Then you can choose to add more exercises or try another more challenging circuit training. Of course, you can always choose to make your training heavier with, for example, dumbbells or kettlebells.

  1. squats
  2. Push-Ups
  3. Glute Bridges
  4. dips
  5. planks

Circuit training example 2

This circuit training offers a lot of variation, but can of course always be adjusted as desired. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. After performing one round, rest for one minute and then start again. How many rounds can you complete?

  1. Jumping Jacks
  2. Walking Lunges
  3. burpees
  4. planks
  5. Jumping rope
  6. Leg Raises
  7. Mountain Climbers
  8. wall sit

Circuit training example 3

The last example of circuit training we cover is slightly different from the previous two. In this case, you must perform each round three times before you can take a rest. The rounds last 30 seconds and the rest you can take afterward is again one minute,

  1. pistol squat
  2. Push-Ups
  3. Mountain Climbers
  4. burpees

Try out for yourself which exercises work for you. In order to keep up, you also have to enjoy your training. Experiment, vary and challenge yourself. Good luck with your circuit training and feel free to ask your questions below!

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