Circuit Training Vs. Interval Training and the Benefits of Both

Disclaimer: Before starting any exercise plan, you should consult with a healthcare provider.

Do you know the difference between circuit training and interval training? You might already be doing one or the other on a regular basis. Both are effective, time-efficient workouts that can take your fitness to the next level. But since both terms are often used interchangeably and they are not the same workout, let’s look at the differences between the two and how they can help you build a more effective exercise plan.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is primarily a resistance-based workout that runs you through a group of strength exercises targeting different muscle groups. With circuit training, you don’t get much rest in between movements because you cycle through them quickly. This gives it a quick pace and a constantly-changing nature to keep things interesting. Working different muscle groups in the same workout also helps prevent burnout and muscle fatigue. Circuit training keeps your heart working at a steady pace, so it has some aerobic benefits in addition to strength benefits.

Here is an example of a circuit training workout:

  1. Squats for 60 seconds
  2. Push-ups for 60 seconds
  3. Jumping jacks for 30 seconds
  4. Lunges on each side for 45 seconds
  5. Plank for 30 seconds
  6. Side lifts on each side for 30 seconds

Because it has strength-based components, circuit training builds lean muscle mass and improves body composition. Increasing lean muscle mass has been shown to reduce fat mass and improve metabolism, making it an important part of any weight management plan.

Interval Training

In contrast to circuit training, interval training is a cardio workout where you alternate short, high-intensity bursts of activity (running, jogging, swimming, cycling, rowing, etc.) with periods of rest and recovery in between. You might have heard the term before as it’s used in HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Interval training lets you do more with your workout in a short period of time, and it’s much more comfortable than spending an entire workout at a high intensity.

Here is an example of an interval training workout:

  • Jog or walk at a comfortable pace for 3-4 minutes, then sprint for 60 seconds. Return to the slower pace for another 3-4 minutes and repeat this pattern.
  • Swim a length of the pool at top-speed, followed by a lap or two at a more leisurely pace. Repeat this for the duration of your swimming workout.
  • Cycle uphill or at a quick pace for 3-5 minutes, then slow it down to a leisurely cycle for 2 minutes. Repeat this for a couple of miles during your cycling workout.

Since interval training is primarily about cardio exercise, it is especially effective at burning fat. While exercising, the heart gets an all-out workout and stays beating at a fast pace for a good portion of time. Interval training is a great way to increase your endurance and stamina since it forces your lungs and heart to adapt to the increasing load of high-intensity exercise.


Both interval training and circuit training are workouts that can take your fitness to the next level. While circuit training focuses more on strength-based exercise, interval training focuses more on cardio exercise. However, both workouts are extremely time-efficient because of their added bursts of high-intensity activity that challenge your body to work harder in a shorter period of time. They can both be combined in your exercise plan, but talk to a healthcare provider before starting one. They can help you build a plan that is safe and tailored to your health goals.

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