circuit training
Unusual Training

Circuit training for burning fat – the pros and cons

Circuit training is the execution of several blocks of 10-12 physical exercises (both strength and cardio), following one after the other with minimal rest time. Totally for such a training, from 3 to 10 similar exercise cycles are performed, and a break of 1-3 minutes is done exclusively between the blocks (“circuits”).

In this material, we will talk about exactly how circuit workouts affect metabolism, develop endurance and activate fat burning. A direct example of such training and a description of the exercises can be found in the “Crossfit for beginners” material – we recall that Crossfit is a typical example of circuit training.

The benefits of circuit training

Circuit training regimen
Circuit training regimen

The main advantage of a circuit workout is the rapid fat burning without loss of muscle mass, which makes this training an ideal choice for losing weight and improving muscle relief. However, when training for the purpose of muscle growth, circuit training should be minimized, since they negatively affect the recovery processes.

You also need to understand that circuit training can not be used to increase muscle and weight gain. For muscle growth requires heavy strength exercises, performed with a low number of repetitions and long pauses – in fact, circuit training is the complete opposite of training for hypertrophy.

The effect of circuit training on metabolism

In essence, circuit training exercises are performed in the pumping mode (meaning a high number of repetitions and an average weight of projectiles), which stimulates the pumping of muscles with blood and provokes an active production of lactic acid. Since lactic acid is a kind of toxin, the body spends a lot of energy on its utilization.

It is also important that the exercises in the circuit training are performed with minimal interruptions, it depletes energy stores (that is, glycogen) in the muscles – this, in turn, causes the body to use fat reserves as the main fuel, and also increases adrenaline level and fat burning hormone.

The best fat burning workouts

Initially, circuit workouts were developed precisely as a way to rebuild the metabolism for the most efficient fat burning – this is why regular cyclic training teaches the body to store energy primarily for physical activity, rather than sending excess calories consumed with food into subcutaneous fat.

Among other things, as we already mentioned above, the exercise with minimal rest breaks provokes a sharp increase in growth hormone. Despite the name, this hormone is not at all responsible for muscle growth, but for burning fat and increasing muscle relief. Thanks to this hormone, circuit training literally cuts the muscles.

Circuit training rules

Circuit workout for novice
Circuit workout for novice

Typical circuit training lasts from 15 to 60 minutes. During this time, from 3 to 10 cycles (circles) of 10-12 different physical exercises are performed. A circle implies performing exercises one after the other, in 8-15 approaches and in 1 approach for each. A break directly between the exercises is 10-20 seconds, between cycles – about 1-3 minutes.

The main rule for choosing exercises for circuit training is that they should involve as many muscle groups as possible. Most often for circuit training, polyarticular basic exercises or their variations are used. The complexity of the training depends on the choice of projectiles (barbell, dumbbells, simulators or performance with body weight).
Circuit training program

Before the start of the circuit training, a warm-up is required, consisting of both a few minutes of cardio (jumping rope, exercise bike, treadmill) and joint development, as well as performing basic program exercises with minimal weight and an emphasis on technique. At the end of the workout – a hitch and 5-10 minutes of slow cardio.

The direct choice of exercises primarily depends on the availability of sports equipment, which will minimize the transition time from one exercise to another. At the same time, circuit training can be conducted with free weights (see an example of a circuit training in the Crossfit format), as well as with simulators or with body weight.

Group circuit training
Group circuit training

Circuit training: contraindications

First, circuit training is fundamentally prohibited for those who have high blood pressure, heart problems and other chronic diseases (for example, diabetes). Secondly, such training should in no case be carried out with observance of carbohydrate-free and low-carb diets – this can cause hypoglycemia and syncope.

It is also important that excessive enthusiasm for such active physical activities can easily increase cortisol levels, cause acute overtraining and provoke chronic fatigue. Beginners are urged to practice circuit training no more than 2-3 times a week, and also to train exclusively under the supervision of an experienced trainer.


Circuit training is a strength or aerobic training performed according to the cyclic protocol. By minimizing the breaks between exercises and the overall high intensity, such training is effective for actively burning fat and drawing muscle relief. However, circuit training is not suitable for muscle growth and can easily cause chronic overtraining.

Watch the short video about circuit training!