Circuit training provides the benefits of cardiovascular training and strength training, burning more calories per hour than traditional weightlifting. People who perform high-intensity circuit training lose more weight and body fat -- and gain more strength -- than those who perform low-intensity circuit training or endurance exercise.
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Calories Burned During Circuit Training
Performing strength training exercises with minimal rest in a circuit training routine increases the rate of calorie burning, more than regular weightlifting or moderate cardio. It takes a calorie deficit of 3,500 to lose 1 pound, meaning that you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you consume. Circuit training can help you burn calories efficiently. With high-intensity circuit training, you can burn twice as many calories as you'd burn with certain other common exercises. A 150-pound person burns an estimated 756 calories in one hour of circuit training, according to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
Although some gyms provide machines for circuit training, you can create your own circuit training workout at home. For example, perform a circuit of body weight exercises including squats, lunges, pushups, pullups, crunches, side lunges, triceps dips and the plank, and begin and end the circuit by jogging in place for 10 minutes. Free weights work well for home circuit training. With a barbell and sets of dumbbells of varying weights, you can move quickly from one exercise to the next. High-intensity circuit training requires a fast pace and minimal rest, such as 30 seconds, between sets. This technique challenges your muscles and keeps your heart rate elevated. Perform repetitions at a steady, brisk tempo.
Variables in Calorie Burning
Performing weightlifting exercises with a challenging weight -- a weight you can lift in proper form for only 10 repetitions -- increases intensity. Performing cardio, such as stair stepping, at high intensity in your circuit also helps to maximize your calorie-burn. The number of calories you burn per hour depends on your weight as well as exercise intensity. If you're heavier, you burn more calories. If you don't maintain a high intensity during the exercise, defined as 80 percent of maximum effort, you burn fewer calories.
High Intensity Exercise Warnings
High intensity exercise isn't suitable for everyone. Talk to your doctor before beginning a high-intensity exercise program. Work your way up to high intensity circuit training if you're new to lifting weights. Learning to lift weights in proper form and paying attention to your alignment helps to reduce the risk of injury. Warm up before circuit training by performing five to 10 minutes of cardio, such as stair stepping, a brisk walk or marching in place. A warm-up increases blood flow to your muscles and prepares them for exertion. Cool down at the end of your circuit by walking or cycling at a slow pace for five minutes.
- The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness; Effects of Three Distinct Protocols of Fitness Training on Body Composition, Strength and Blood Lactate; A. Paoli, et al.
- The American Council on Exercise: Circuit Training Basics
- The American Council on Exercise: Physical Activity Calculator
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Weight Control and Diet