Circuit Training for Cardiovascular Fitness

Definition of terms:

  • Circuit – A set of selected exercises performed consecutively.
  • Cardiovascular fitness – The ability of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels to transport oxygen-rich blood to the body, as well as the body’s ability to make use of the oxygen to support physical activities.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a combination of cardiovascular fitness and resistance training. It targets gains in muscle strength and endurance as well as improvement in cardiovascular endurance. It aims to maximize the volume of activity in a short period of time. A set of selected exercises are performed consecutively with little to no rest in between. So if you can’t squeeze your workout plan on a busy day, Circuit training is the answer to your workout needs.

Horizontal vs. Vertical

Circuit training is recognized as a vertical loading system. Vertical loading means doing 1 set of an exercise then moving to the next exercise with no rest in between until all the listed exercises are performed. Horizontal loading on the other hand means you have to complete all sets of a given exercise before moving to the next one. Horizontal loading requires more rest because you’re working a specific muscle group continuously. This is the usual pattern that you’ll see in strength and hypertrophy programs.

To compare both loading systems, vertical loading is more beneficial for cardiovascular fitness. Since body parts are alternately trained from set to set, each body part has time to recover while maximizing your training time. Heart rate is also kept elevated because of the short rest periods.

Benefits of Circuit training

  1. Improves cardiovascular endurance.
  2. Improves muscle tone.
  3. Use of weights adds to strength and mass gain.
  4. Increases metabolism. You’ll definitely burn calories even after you finish your workout.
  5. Trains the whole body with minimum time. Just the perfect workout for those who can’t spend an hour or so sweating out. This also means lesser trip to the gym since you get to exercise all body parts in one session.
  6. Improves stability and coordination.
  7. Beats boredom.

In circuit training, you can perform the exercises in two ways. Either set the number of reps per exercise or set a time frame. Say I want to do squats; I can either do 20 reps or do as many as I can in 5 minutes.

When developing a circuit training routine, you can choose from a variety of equipment and exercises. You can do circuit training with a pair of dumbbells, resistance bands, physioballs or even your own bodyweight alone.

Here’s a sample of a Total body Circuit training exercises:



Squat thrusts 20 reps each knee
Dumbbell squat to press 15 reps
Push-ups 15 reps
Skipping (both feet off the ground) 20 reps
Burpees 15 reps
Weighted alternating lunges 20 reps each leg
Hanging leg raises 15 reps

Complete 5 sets of the circuit with 1 minute rest in between sets. You can also have 30 seconds rest in between each exercise or none at all depending on your fitness level. As you progress, you can add few more exercises in the circuit or increase the number of repetitions per exercise.