How Circuit Training Works

Benefits of Circuit Training

Resistance exercises can strengthen those muscles.
Resistance exercises can strengthen those muscles.
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Now it's time to examine the benefits of circuit training and also look at potential downsides. As we touched on earlier, you can build your workout to achieve a specific goal, like increasing strength and power or shedding pounds. But each of these objectives also has additional perks, such as improving stability and preventing injuries that sideline even the most experienced runners.

In general, circuit training boosts stability and improves balance. The weight or resistance training aspect is helpful because it's known for strengthening muscle and bone tissue [source: NOF]. Also, the strength drills you use in a circuit training workout, like squats and push-ups, require the use of more than one set of joints. When this happens, your body has to work harder, burning additional calories and also increasing musculoskeletal fitness. The moderate weight training as well as range-of-motion exercises that you do with circuit training keep tendons and ligaments pliable and strong, reducing the risk of classic runner's injuries like ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or Achilles' tendon tears.

Short but powerful bursts of these resistance exercises coupled with alternating sets of running or jogging also accelerate weight loss because your body doesn't have time to get used to the variation circuit training offers. By moving quickly from one set to the next, layered between sets of running reps, your heart and lungs must also continue working, which promotes your aerobic fitness.

What also makes this dynamic workout structure a favorite is that it can help people stay interested in and excited about training, since some people may find repeating the same aerobic or resistance routine to be boring.

But any workout is only as good as you make it. Because you move quickly through each station in a circuit training workout, it can be difficult to know whether you're slacking on proper form.

Some people may need a trainer took help them do their drills correctly or to vary their circuit training routine to keep it challenging. Others may find that a workout partner brings healthy competition to stay motivated.

Another potential drawback of circuit training for runners is that it doesn't replace interval training. Although circuit training will serve you well during the off season or help you even out potential muscle imbalance that comes from specializing in one event, there's just no getting around the classic, back-to-back running sets that runners do to prepare for road races and track meets.

To learn more about circuit training and other techniques for runners, see the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Dwyer, Kelly Pate. "Circuit Training: With Video." Runner's World. June 19, 2007. (June 30, 2010).,7124,s6-238-263-266-11953-0,00.html
  • Eyestone, Ed. "How to Improve Your VO2 Max." Runner's World. Jan. 9, 2008. (July 15, 2010),7120,s6-238-244--12408-0,00.html
  • Hunt, Nicole. "Running-Specific Circuit Drills." Running Times. March 2009. (June 30, 2010).
  • Kopf, Samantha. "Circuit Training Basics and Benefits." (June 30, 2010).
  • Mayo Clinic. "Interval training: Can it boost your calorie-burning power?" Feb 6, 2010. (June 30, 2010).
  • Morris, Rick. "10K Circuit Training Workout." 2010. (June 30, 2010).
  • Morris, Rick. "5K Circuit Training." 2010. (June 30, 2010).
  • Morris, Rick. "Weight Loss Circuit Training Workout." 2010. (June 30, 2010).
  • National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). "Prevention: Exercise for Healthy Bones." (July 15, 2010)
  • O'Kelley, Ellakisha, Head Coach, Men's and Women's Track and Cross Country, Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Ga. Personal Interview Conducted on July 13, 2010.
  • Smith, Stew. "20 Minute Circuit Workout." (June 30, 2010).
  • Sorgen, Carol. "Take a Shortcut to Fitness With Circuit Training." WebMD. (June 30, 2010).
  • Stillwell, William. "The Elite Forces Manual of Mental & Physical Endurance." 2006. (June 30, 2010).
  • Williamson, Norrie. "Everyone's Guide to Distance Running." 2004. (June 30, 2010).