What is circuit training?

Phil Goulding Phil Goulding Nuffield Health Senior Personal Trainer
Nuffield Health Senior Personal Trainer Phil Goulding explains what circuit training is, what it's good for and when to use it.

Circuit training is a combination of six or more exercises performed with short rest periods between them for either a set number of repetitions or a prescribed amount of time. One circuit is when all of the chosen exercises have been completed. Multiple circuits can be performed in one training session.

Circuit training will usually involve 6-12 exercises and should be structured in a way that enables you to keep performing the exercises with good technique and very short rest intervals.

HIIT is a form of circuit training, but more cardio based – here’s a HIIT class you can try...

What is circuit training good for?

Circuit training is very time efficient which makes it a popular method of training. It is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength endurance.

Circuit training will elevate your heart rate and keep it high through the entire circuit due to the short rest periods, large muscles being worked together and a combination of upper, lower and whole body exercises.

An appropriate exercise selection and structure to the circuit will mean that you can move from one exercise to the next without undue fatigue. Circuit training has some of the benefits of cardiovascular training and weight training but will not replicate either one specifically.

When should circuit training be used?

Circuit training is best used by intermediate trainees who have already established good technique with a wide variety of exercises and a baseline level of strength and fitness.

Due to the short recovery periods and variety involved beginners may be overwhelmed, but a good personal trainer or instructor should be able to adapt exercise choices and weight selections to suit all ability levels if you do wish to participate in a circuit training class.

Circuit training is a great choice if you get easily bored, are short on time or don’t like to train alone. It can involve as much or little equipment as you like which makes it ideal for group training and those with limited space.

Example of a bodyweight circuit 

30 seconds work with 30 seconds rest between each exercise. Perform the circuit three times with three minutes rest between each circuit.

  • Jumping squat
  • Push up
  • Skydivers
  • V sits
  • High knees
  • Jumping lunge
  • Plank to push up
  • YTW
  • Side plank rotations
  • Lateral skaters

Last updated Wednesday 31 August 2022

First published on Wednesday 30 December 2016