Getting in a full-body workout during a set amount of time can be a challenge regardless of whether you have access to a gym or are working out at home with an online fitness community like Body FX. By learning how to design and perform a full-body circuit workout, you will have access to a calorie-blasting, fat-burning workout no matter where you are or how much time you have. In order to make sure your workout is effective as possible, you’ll want to learn everything you can about what exactly circuit training is and how you can get the most out of every minute you spend sweating. If you do it right and stay consistent, circuit training will help you burn fat, build muscle, and keep your workouts from getting stale. Here are five things you need to know in order to get the most out of your full body circuit workout.
#1: Circuit Training Is Not Interval Training
Despite the fact that the terms “circuit training” and “interval training” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Interval training is a type of workout that incorporates periods of high-intensity activities, such as jumping jacks, burpees, or sprints, with periods of low-intensity activities and rests. Interval training can be incorporated into any type of movement, and it refers mostly to the intensity at which you’re working out, rather than the actual movements themselves. Unlike interval training, circuit training doesn’t have built-in rest periods, and exercises are to be completed continuously as you rotate from station to station, targeting different muscle groups. Circuit training is primarily focused on the type of exercise being done and the muscle group being targeted. Each station focuses on one specific movement, such as a bodyweight squat. There’s also a specific order in which you should cycle through a circuit workout:
- Lower body station – both legs
- Upper body station – arms
- Lower body station – single leg
- Core station
- Cardio station
Because each of the exercises targets different muscle groups and has a different purpose, you won’t need to take a break between stations. While circuit training and interval training are not the same thing, they can be combined to provide a full-body circuit workout done at varying levels of intensity – a major challenge! Bootcamp-style classes typically incorporate elements of circuit training and interval training into their workouts.
#2: Circuit Training Has Tons of Unexpected Benefits
You know that circuit training can help build muscle and burn fat when done correctly, but there are tons of other benefits to circuit training that make it an appealing workout for just about anyone, no matter what your goals are.
- It’s efficient: There’s no faster way to get in a full-body workout than through circuit training. Generally speaking, we work on either cardiovascular fitness or strength training, but they don’t usually happen at the same time. Because of the fast pace and continuous motion of circuit training, as well as the built-in cardio and strength training components, circuit training allows you to burn body fat and build muscle at the same time, all while burning calories quickly. You can expect to burn about 200-300 calories over the course of a half-hour workout, as compared to about 100 calories per mile while running.
- It can help you shed extra weight: If weight loss is one of your goals, you won’t get more bang for your buck than with a full-body circuit workout. We typically focus on cardio conditioning to lose weight, since it burns the most calories during a workout by getting our heart rates up. However, strength training builds muscle, which helps you burn more calories on a daily basis as your metabolism increases. By incorporating both strength training and cardio, you’ll get both the immediate calorie burn and the “afterburn” effect, allowing you to lose weight faster.
- You’ll never be bored: We’ve all seen those people who put in one set of reps at the gym and then pick up their phone to scroll while resting between sets. Before they know it, five minutes have gone by and they’re no closer to their fitness goals. Circuit workouts move quickly and there are no built-in rest periods, so you won’t have time to get bored – you’ll always be moving!
- It can increase athletic performance: If you’re looking to do more than just get in shape and want to focus on increasing your athletic performance, a full-body circuit workout can help. Circuit training has been shown to help increase your VO2 max, also known as the amount of oxygen your body can consume at a given time. The higher your VO2 max, the better your athletic endurance is.
#3: It Isn’t Complicated
Just because there’s a lot going on during a full-body circuit workout doesn’t mean that circuit training is complicated or that you have to understand how to do intricate and advanced exercises. Depending on how much time you have, a full-body circuit workout can consist of as little as one exercise at each station, such as ten reps of bodyweight squats at the lower body station, ten bicep curls at the upper body station, etc. However, most circuit workouts generally consist of five to ten stations for each muscle group. Completing all of the stations counts as completing one circuit. The stations can have specific rep counts or be done for a set amount of time, such as one minute, or both, depending on personal preference. You’re not likely to find any extremely advanced or intricate exercises in a full-body circuit workout, either. Simple, but extremely effective, exercises like pushups, squats, lunges, and crunches will offer plenty of results without confusing instructions, and you’re more likely to perform the exercise correctly and reduce your risk of injury.
#4: You Don’t Need a Ton of Equipment
While it might seem like you can only get the type of results we’re talking about at a gym, one of the best things about circuit workouts is that they can be done anywhere with little to no equipment. If you’re looking to take your results to the next level, you can begin to perform the movements with dumbbells or kettlebells, but you won’t need to use fancy machines to perform a full-body circuit workout unless you choose to. Many circuit workouts are focused entirely on body weight and consist of exercises you’re probably already familiar with, like the example below, completed with ten repetitions per exercise.
- Lower body: Sumo squat
- Upper body: Tricep dips
- Single leg: Alternating lateral lunges
- Core: Sit-ups
- Cardio: Burpees
#5: You Don’t Need a Lot of Time
Sometimes it feels like the only way to get big results from your workout is to spend hours each day on the treadmill or lifting weights, but circuit workouts prove that this is not the case. Circuit training is highly efficient, and because you perform exercises targeting each of the major muscle groups and your cardiovascular fitness every time you complete a circuit, you can get an effective full-body workout in a short period of time. The lack of designated rest between each station will also help you to burn more calories on a minute-by-minute basis. Your workout can be as short as five minutes or as long as an hour, but you’re still targeting every major muscle group in the body while taking care of your cardio fitness, too. The point is, no matter how little time you have, you can still do something and focus on your entire body while you do it. However, it is recommended that you spend at least 20 minutes per session in order to maximize your results. You’ll also want to warm up with light cardio for at least five minutes prior to starting your full body circuit workout.
Now that you know what a killer workout a full-body circuit workout can be, you’re probably wondering how to go about designing one of your own. While there are plenty of resources available online that can help you pick and choose exercises, online fitness communities like Body FX offer unlimited access to pre-designed full-body circuit workouts that will show you exactly how to do each exercise with proper form, helping prevent injury, and keep you moving at the right pace. The length of each workout varies, so you’re sure to find something that fits your day’s schedule. As you continue to build on your circuit training routine, you can also take advantage of individualized coaching that helps provide mindset and nutritional support to help you stay motivated. After all, starting a new fitness program is hard, and you’ll likely have questions along the way. You’ll also be able to find online community support so you can swap tips and encouragement with other people doing the same workouts you are. No matter where you workout, what equipment you have access to, or how much time you have, you’ll be able to find success with a full-body circuit workout.