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Friday, December 30, 2011

What is circuit training?

Contrary to the popular marketing gimmick the current boot camp and other exercise programmes alternating bouts of strength training and cardio training are not circuit training. Circuit training was developed as a form of strength training where you moved from one exercise station to the next and performed a strength training exercise. The stations were done without a break between each until all stations were completed. At this point a recovery break was taken.

Since you moved from one station to another without a break until all were done the term circuit training was used. In a standard circuit the exercises alternated between a pushing exercise and a pulling exercise to balance the muscle demands and use. The normal circuit had from 6 to 8 stations.

Developed to provide strength training to groups the concept behind this training programme was to maximize training outcomes and minimize training time. Groups trained by having a group equal to the number of stations with each member taking up a station and begining at the same time. Each trainee moved through all the stations of the circuit with all finishing the circuit at the same time. Then all took the required recovery time before beginning the circuit again. In some situations when one group finished a second group began the circuit with the recovery of the first group determined by the time it took the second group to finish.

Research of the training method found that even without any dedicated cardio a cardio benefit was obtained due to the alternating anaerobic and aerobic components, similar to interval training. Adding cardio intervals only increased the cardio benefits a matter of a few percentage points.

In the boot camp type workouts along with the majority of the current generation of DVDs strength and cardio intervals are alternated diminishing the effectiveness of both forms of exercise according to current research. The attempt to maintain an elevated heart rate for the duration of the workout defeats the paradoxical effect of interval training in which the training effect occurs during the recovery. In addition the rapid pace and high repetition sets for strength exercise requires the use of non challenging weights. The muscle fatigue experienced is the result of the endurance demands not the challenge of the weights. In effect this form of workout becomes assisted cardio and not a strength workout. The proper name for this style of workout is combination training and not circuit training.

Notwithstanding the marketing names attached claiming this or that specific result there is no research to substantiate those claims and some of them such as sculpting, toning and shredding have no meaning in real terms. Calling them circuit training is either misleading or demonstrates a lack of knowledge of proper meaning of the term.

Citations available on request.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MISSG180
    Thank you! Very interesting.
    2626 days ago
  • NWFL59
    enlightening emoticon
    2658 days ago
    another dig at Jillian and her cronies? Good job setting the record straight.
    2670 days ago
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