How Often Should I Do a Circuit Workout?

Close-up of a Woman Lifting a Dumbbell
Circuit training can contribute to weight loss and body composition improvements. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Strength training all major muscle groups for a full-body program provides an efficient way to gain muscular strength and endurance benefits. This type of circuit training sequences four to 10 exercises with brief rest intervals between. Your muscle strength benefits will only be as great as your adherence to sound exercise principles. Consider your intensity, your level of training and the required rest to determine your optimal frequency.

Features

Circuit training primarily uses low-weight and high-repetition exercises to enhance muscular endurance. Exercises can be performed using free weights, machine weights, body weight or other forms of resistance training. Your status as a beginner or experienced weightlifter will play a part in determining how frequently you should circuit-train for best results.

Function

Muscle endurance is the primary fitness component enhanced with low-weight, high-repetition routines. Cardiovascular benefits and muscle strength gains are also possible depending on your rate of exercise performance and the amount of weight you’re lifting. Lift at a tempo of one count to lift, one count to lower and rest only enough to move to the next exercise for cardiovascular benefit.

Progression

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends resistance training two to three times a week. A minimum of 48 hours' rest between circuit training is required for adequate recovery. You should perform one set of eight to 12 repetitions two times a week if you're just beginning. Increase to three days a week or to two sets, or both.

Variables

Your age and your circuit training goals will change your optimal frequency. If you’re over 50, 10 to 15 repetitions are the recommended range and two days a week is adequate. If your goal is strength, you'll progress to heavier weights with a low repetition range and continue to keep the rest between exercises relatively brief. This type of higher intensity resistance training requires more rest for adequate recovery. Maintain twice-a-week frequency and consider resting 72 hours between circuit training.

Aerobic Circuits

Aerobic circuit training programs are often used for cardiovascular training. According to the American Council on Exercise, aerobic circuits use between four and eight stations with one to five minutes per station and brief rest between each. Cardiovascular exercise is recommended three to five days a week and can be performed on consecutive days.

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