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Circuit Training Vs HIIT Training: What Are The Differences?

by Power Life Team | August 04, 2020

If you’re thinking of getting into a new workout routine, you might be considering circuit training vs HIIT. What’s the main difference between HIIT and circuit training? What are these types of training regimens, and which one is best for your particular exercise goals? Is one better than the other, or would you be better off combining these two approaches?

Tony Horton wants you to be as well informed as possible when it comes to your health, so here’s a look at both circuit training and HIIT. You’ll learn the advantages of each training regimen and the difference between HIIT and circuit training. Then, you can decide for yourself whether you want to pursue one or the other, or if a hybrid training regimen might be right for you.

Just remember that you should never start any sort of training routine – especially one that requires a moderate intensity or a high intensity level – before talking to your doctor. A medical professional will let you know what’s safe for you to try. That way, you can get the most out of your workout with complete confidence.

Intense Strength Training And Cardio Workouts: What Is Circuit Training?

circuit training vs hiit | My Power LifeCircuit training is a mixture of strength and cardiovascular, or cardio, training. The average circuit training workout usually involves anywhere from 8-12 different workout stations, where you work different muscle groups. You stay at each station for either a certain period of time (anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes) or a certain amount of reps.1

By targeting different muscle groups, circuit training might help reduce the risk of injury due to overuse. You might, for example, do bench presses at one circuit, and then leg presses at another. One part of your body will be resting while you’re performing weight training exercises to strengthen another.2

As long as you use proper form, you will have a great chance of avoiding an injury. Talk to a professional trainer to learn the correct technique of each exercise.

One of the biggest advantages of circuit training is that you won’t get bored, which is one reason some people quit working out. With circuit training, you have the flexibility to perform different exercises in whatever order you like. Another benefit is you can do so in a short period of time. It’s also great for weight loss. The average person can burn anywhere between 300-600 calories during a one-hour circuit training session.3

Aerobic Exercise With High Intensity Interval Training: What Is HIIT Training?

HIIT exercise | My Power LifeHIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. A major difference between HIIT and circuit training is that HIIT is primarily a cardio workout. It combines short bursts of intense activity with lower intensity workouts that give your body some time to recover.4

The high intensity portion of the HIIT workout will rate about a 7 on a scale from 1-10. During this time, your target heart rate will be about 80 percent of maximum. Running, elliptical training, cycling, and stair climbing are just a few of the exercises that are typically part of a HIIT workout program.5

Just like circuit training, HIIT cardio training also offers several advantages. This is one area where there’s a significant difference between HIIT and circuit training. You can burn a lot of calories through HIIT – not just during exercise, but also afterward. A HIIT workout can do a great job of building endurance, and it may help support your cardiovascular system as well.6

What Is The Tabata Workout?

If you’ve done any research into the difference between HIIT and circuit training, you might have seen something on Tabata training. It’s named after a Japanese researcher, Dr. Izumi Tabata, who conducted a study on the effectiveness of extremely short, extremely high intensity bursts of exercise.7

HIIT workout | My Power Life

Tabata’s team looked at a group of study subjects who worked all-out for 20 seconds on an exercise cycle and then rested for 10 seconds. The subjects did this eight times, so the total amount of time spent exercising and resting was four minutes. Dr. Tabata’s team found that just one four-minute session burned as many calories as running for an hour. This 20-10 model is now called Tabata training.8

You can do a Tabata workout when performing either circuit training or HIIT exercises. You do eight rounds of exercise, going as hard as you can for 20 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds. Whether you do it with weights or aerobic exercise equipment, it just might be four of the most challenging workout minutes you’ve ever experienced.9

Anything But High Intensity Training: A Quick Look At LISS Cardio

rowing machine | My Power LifeIf you don’t want a full-on workout but you still want to get high-quality exercise, you might want to consider low-intensity steady state cardio, or LISS cardio. This is an exercise program that only requires you to work at about 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate. You do it at a pace you can handle, but you do it for a longer time period than HIIT or circuit training.10

This type of workout does offer some significant potential benefits. When you work out for between 40-60 minutes per session a few times a week, LISS cardio helps your body do a better job of using fat for energy. It also helps prepare your body for higher intensity workouts when you’re ready.11

Circuit Training Vs HIIT: What Is The Main Difference Between Circuit And HIIT Training?

There’s no one main difference between HIIT and circuit training – there are actually quite a few. Here’s a quick look at some of the ways HIIT training and circuit training differ.

The Type Of Training Involved

The biggest difference between HIIT and circuit training involves the areas of the body you’re working. HIIT is more of a cardio workout. While you can use strength equipment during a HIIT workout, that’s not the main purpose. Circuit training is more of a strength-based exercise regimen, but you can mix in some cardio elements during a workout. You could, for example, spend a few seconds on the stationary bike before hitting the bench press.12

Energy Consumption

HIIT exercise | My Power LifeAnother big difference between HIIT and circuit training is the amount of energy you expend after your workout. According to one study, people who engage in a type of HIIT workout known as speed interval training, or SIT, consume much more oxygen after their exercise routine than those who perform circuit training. This means you keep burning calories after your workout has ended. And while circuit training helps with calorie burning, HIIT does even a better job.13

Potential Benefits

There’s also a difference between HIIT and circuit training in terms of benefits. HITT is great if you’re time crunched. You can get in an entire workout in about 20 minutes, two or three times a week. It also helps burn fat. Circuit training, on the other hand, is great for strength as well as endurance. You also work a lot more muscle groups.14

Personalized Fitness: Which Of These Workouts Is Right For You?

man at gym | My Power LifeYou might find that HIIT or circuit training is better for what you’re specifically trying to achieve through an exercise program. One approach might be more attractive than another, based on specific benefits you’re after.

Like with any workout regimen, you have to set your own goals. If you want to build muscle, circuit training would probably be the way to go. If you think you’ll get more out of aerobic exercise, you’ll probably lean toward HIIT. Now that you know the difference between HIIT and circuit training, you’re more equipped to make the best choice for you.

Whatever you choose, just make sure you speak with a doctor before you begin any sort of high intensity regimen. Also, talk to a professional trainer to make sure you’re using the right technique.

Learn More:
Try This List Of Fitness Goals For Your Active Rest Day
How To Start Putting Cardio And Weight Training Together
Fitness And Nutrition Tips: Take Health & Well-Being To The Next Level

Sources
1 https://www.hss.edu/playbook/whats-the-difference-between-circuit-training-and-hiit/
2 https://www.hss.edu/playbook/whats-the-difference-between-circuit-training-and-hiit/
3 https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6750/circuit-training-basics/
4 https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/104/what-is-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-and-what-are-the-benefits
5 https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/104/what-is-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-and-what-are-the-benefits
6 https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-interval-workouts/7-hiit-is-great-for-your-heart/
7 https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/the-real-tabata-a-brutal-circuit-from-the-protocols-inventor.html
8 https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/the-real-tabata-a-brutal-circuit-from-the-protocols-inventor.html
9 https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/what-is-tabata-training
10 https://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/liss-cardio-low-intensity-workouts/
11 https://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/liss-cardio-low-intensity-workouts/
12 https://www.issaonline.com/blog/index.cfm/2019/fitness-debate-circuit-training-vs-hiit
13 https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1918&context=ijes
14 https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/hiit-circuit-training/