Circuit Training vs HIIT – The Definitive Breakdown

Jeff Baldelli
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What is the Difference Between Circuit Training and HIIT?

Circuit training and high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, are similar in many ways and have become more and more popular in recent years. Both are excellent forms of exercise, and a little of each can improve your health and fitness levels.

Obviously there are some differences between the two, but some of these differences are not quite as meaningful as you might think. In the end, it’s the methods you use to get through your workout and your enthusiasm that make all the difference.

When a group of people get together to exercise, every few minutes the entire group changes the exercise being done. Each exercise is done for a set amount of time, usually thirty seconds to a minute, and then the next exercise is introduced.

In a circuit training workout, you try to keep moving at the highest possible intensity for the entire workout. Typically, you do no more than twelve different exercises, and you do them one after another with no rest or breaks.

Which Form of Training is Best to Start Out With?

Both types of exercise are great for the health and endurance of your body. They both produce beneficial results that include weight loss, increased calorie burn, and better organ function. Before you decide which method is best for you, let’s take a look at the key differences between circuit training and HIIT, so you can choose accordingly.

HIIT

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. HIIT is also called Steady State Interval Training. It’s an intense and effective workout that involves pushing your body to its fullest capability for different periods of time.

HIIT workouts involve a mixture of sprinting, jogging, and just plain running for about 90 seconds. After that, to get your body back to normal, you need to slow down, or cool off, for at least 30 seconds. These sprints and cooldowns make up one interval.

In one high-intensity interval session, you’ll be switching between the workout and the cool down phase about 8-10 times. This quick switching between workouts and cooling off allows for increased and more effective calorie burn in the body.

If you were to do the same kind of exercising that does not use the interval method, you would burn fewer calories.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a type of workout that lasts between 10-20 minutes, and in this relatively short period of time, you will move from one exercise to the next. When you move from one exercise to the next, you also need to rest for a few minutes. This period is called an “active rest period.”

Circuit training targets different muscle groups throughout your workout, and ideally, you’ll be utilizing large muscle groups for cardiovascular benefits.

One way to make your workout more effective is to combine low-weight, high repetition exercises with high-weight, low-repetition exercises. You can do low reps with high weight or high reps with low weight…but make sure you mix it up because each combination targets your body a little differently.

If you’re new to training, start with three sets per exercise, and as you improve, work up to four sets.

Here’s an example of how a circuit workout could look:

Exercise 1: Lunge

Reps: 15

Sets: 3

Rest time: 1 minute

Exercise 2: Push-Up

Reps: 16

Sets: 3

Rest time: 1 minute

Exercise 3: Walking Lunge

HIIT Training

And Circuit Training “ What are The Differences?

While they both work to increase the amount of calories burned in a single session, they differ greatly. Let’s take a look at the two forms of training and compare each one:

The Structure of Each Workout

When you look at the structure of each workout, you can see how they both work to increase the number of calories burned.

With a HIIT workout, for example, you would have to lift heavy and run or do a series of sprints. The big difference in this type of workout is that you’ll rotate through each workout for about four minutes before switching to another one. This type of workout emphasizes speed and intensity.

The workout structure for circuit training, on the other hand, is very different. A circuit training workout focuses on the strength and endurance of the muscles.

During a circuit training session, you will repeat each exercise for two sets of 15 seconds to three sets of 90 seconds. You will repeat each exercise for each set. The goal of this workout is to continue to cool down the muscles. It’s also designed to build lean muscle. This type of workout is completed quickly and causes the heart rate to increase to a maximum.

Conclusion?

While the results in the study favor HIIT training, the benefits of HIIT are completely dependent on the proper execution of the program, just like with any type of workout routine.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen with HIIT programs is people doing them on equipment with high-repetition or low-intensity movement. You want to use enough weight and enough resistance to work your muscles.

If your goal is to get strong, you must use the proper amount of weight.

If you’re a fan of HIIT, circuit training is still a great option for building muscle and burning fat. There’s really no difference between circuit training and HIIT when it comes to results. It’s just a different way of training. Every workout plan has its pros and cons so it’s best to try them both and decide which one works better for you.

The two most important aspects of any workout are progression and consistency. While I’m not a fan of doing the same workout plan for months on end, you could follow the circuit training plan as an alternative during times when you really struggle to make it to the gym.

The Pros and Cons of Both Forms of Training

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a type of workout that lasts between 10-20 minutes, and in this relatively short period of time, you will move from one exercise to the next. When you move from one exercise to the next, you also need to rest for a few minutes. This period is called an “active rest period.”

Circuit training targets different muscle groups throughout your workout, and ideally, you’ll be utilizing large muscle groups for cardiovascular benefits.

One way to make your workout more effective is to combine low-weight, high repetition exercises with high-weight, low-repetition exercises. You can do low reps with high weight or high reps with low weight…but make sure you mix it up because each combination targets your body a little differently.

If you’re new to training, start with three sets per exercise, and as you improve, work up to four sets.

Here’s an example of how a circuit workout could look:

Exercise 1: Lunge

Reps: 15

Sets: 3

Rest time: 1 minute

Exercise 2: Push-Up

Reps: 16

Sets: 3

Rest time: 1 minute

Exercise 3: Walking Lunge

HIIT Training

And Circuit Training “ What are The Differences?

While they both work to increase the amount of calories burned in a single session, they differ greatly. Let’s take a look at the two forms of training and compare each one:

The Structure of Each Workout

When you look at the structure of each workout, you can see how they both work to increase the number of calories burned.

With a HIIT workout, for example, you would have to lift heavy and run or do a series of sprints. The big difference in this type of workout is that you’ll rotate through each workout for about four minutes before switching to another one. This type of workout emphasizes speed and intensity.

The workout structure for circuit training, on the other hand, is very different. A circuit training workout focuses on the strength and endurance of the muscles.

During a circuit training session, you will repeat each exercise for two sets of 15 seconds to three sets of 90 seconds. You will repeat each exercise for each set. The goal of this workout is to continue to cool down the muscles. It’s also designed to build lean muscle. This type of workout is completed quickly and causes the heart rate to increase to a maximum.

Conclusion?

While the results in the study favor HIIT training, the benefits of HIIT are completely dependent on the proper execution of the program, just like with any type of workout routine.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen with HIIT programs is people doing them on equipment with high-repetition or low-intensity movement. You want to use enough weight and enough resistance to work your muscles.

If your goal is to get strong, you must use the proper amount of weight.

If you’re a fan of HIIT, circuit training is still a great option for building muscle and burning fat. There’s really no difference between circuit training and HIIT when it comes to results. It’s just a different way of training. Every workout plan has its pros and cons so it’s best to try them both and decide which one works better for you.

The two most important aspects of any workout are progression and consistency. While I’m not a fan of doing the same workout plan for months on end, you could follow the circuit training plan as an alternative during times when you really struggle to make it to the gym.

Which Will Help You Burn More Calories?

We all know that doing workouts that work out more than one muscle group in the same session can help us burn more calories. But we may not all know that how we do that work out can make a big difference in those calorie-burn numbers.

Both HIIT and Circuit Training help us engage several muscle groups within the same workout but in different ways and for different durations. As a result, they affect the body differently.

You can see the great benefits of HIIT workouts for yourself in the table below. There, we have showed the calories you can burn in one hour of high-intensity exercise as compared to moderate-intensity exercise (calculations are rounded to the nearest 5).

You can benefit from the calorie-burning effects of HIIT no matter what kind of activity you do – it doesn’t need to be a sports-specific class.

The table below shows the calories you can burn in one hour of HIIT exercises, as compared to moderate-intensity exercises.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a type of workout that lasts between 10-20 minutes, and in this relatively short period of time, you will move from one exercise to the next. When you move from one exercise to the next, you also need to rest for a few minutes. This period is called an “active rest period.”

Circuit training targets different muscle groups throughout your workout, and ideally, you’ll be utilizing large muscle groups for cardiovascular benefits.

One way to make your workout more effective is to combine low-weight, high repetition exercises with high-weight, low-repetition exercises. You can do low reps with high weight or high reps with low weight…but make sure you mix it up because each combination targets your body a little differently.

If you’re new to training, start with three sets per exercise, and as you improve, work up to four sets.

Here’s an example of how a circuit workout could look:

Exercise 1: Lunge

Reps: 15

Sets: 3

Rest time: 1 minute

Exercise 2: Push-Up

Reps: 16

Sets: 3

Rest time: 1 minute

Exercise 3: Walking Lunge

HIIT Training

And Circuit Training “ What are The Differences?

While they both work to increase the amount of calories burned in a single session, they differ greatly. Let’s take a look at the two forms of training and compare each one:

The Structure of Each Workout

When you look at the structure of each workout, you can see how they both work to increase the number of calories burned.

With a HIIT workout, for example, you would have to lift heavy and run or do a series of sprints. The big difference in this type of workout is that you’ll rotate through each workout for about four minutes before switching to another one. This type of workout emphasizes speed and intensity.

The workout structure for circuit training, on the other hand, is very different. A circuit training workout focuses on the strength and endurance of the muscles.

During a circuit training session, you will repeat each exercise for two sets of 15 seconds to three sets of 90 seconds. You will repeat each exercise for each set. The goal of this workout is to continue to cool down the muscles. It’s also designed to build lean muscle. This type of workout is completed quickly and causes the heart rate to increase to a maximum.

Conclusion?

While the results in the study favor HIIT training, the benefits of HIIT are completely dependent on the proper execution of the program, just like with any type of workout routine.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen with HIIT programs is people doing them on equipment with high-repetition or low-intensity movement. You want to use enough weight and enough resistance to work your muscles.

If your goal is to get strong, you must use the proper amount of weight.

If you’re a fan of HIIT, circuit training is still a great option for building muscle and burning fat. There’s really no difference between circuit training and HIIT when it comes to results. It’s just a different way of training. Every workout plan has its pros and cons so it’s best to try them both and decide which one works better for you.

The two most important aspects of any workout are progression and consistency. While I’m not a fan of doing the same workout plan for months on end, you could follow the circuit training plan as an alternative during times when you really struggle to make it to the gym.

Summary

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a circuit training program, you may be in for a bit of a surprise. Circuit training is a modality of exercise that combines the principles of aerobic training and strength training.

Originally designed by physical fitness experts in the Soviet Union, the idea was to work the whole body in an efficient manner.

It was also designed to provide an immediate benefit through calorie expenditure during the actual workout. Because of these unique benefits, you’ve probably seen it included in a lot of different types of exercise programs through the years.

Now, ongoing research is giving us a lot more information on how this type of exercise does what it does. And it’s an important finding to know about!

What Researchers Have Discovered

Most of us are familiar with the fact that your heart rate increases when you exercise. We know that oxygen requirements increase, and the body gets a little boost. However, few people understand the process that leads to this increase.

Research has shown that, through the process of resistance training, your muscles create an imbalance at the mitochondrial level. There, the ATP levels increase because of the local density that has been created. The work is also reflected in the increase of the energy regulators. With this little boost, metabolic function becomes more efficient through a series of molecular signals and gene expression.