What is Circuit training?

I was walking along the boardwalk in Shoreham-by-Sea last week, and it felt like I was in the Mediterranean. People were swimming, paddle boarding, and having BBQs.

As I approached beach green, I noticed two outdoor circuit classes. I watched for a bit and saw how much fun the class had whilst working their socks off and getting some Vitamin D.

It reminded me that the best group exercise session you can do has to be circuit training. It just so happens it is the oldest form of group exercise too.

The ancient Greeks trained their warriors using a form of circuit training, and it has been used ever since for militaries all over the world. It wasn’t until 1953 that it was given the name Circuit Training!

Why is Circuit Training so beneficial?

Because it works.

Circuit training is a method of training where you perform different exercises in succession with minimal rest. It is also my favourite group exercise class to teach and take part in. 

It’s great for clients, and it is excellent for us trainers.

Benefits of circuit training for the client

  • No choreography.
  • You don’t get bored with so much exercise variation.
  • Great social interaction.
  • Motivational.
  • Easy to push yourself harder in short bursts.
  • You can work as hard or as easy as you feel able.
  • Exercises change quickly so you won’t get stuck doing exercises you hate.
  • Exercising outdoors gives you an additional dose of fresh air and Vit D.
  • Suitable for all levels of fitness.
  • Can train multiple components of fitness (strength, endurance, cardio, speed, flexibility).

Benefits of circuit training for the trainer

  • Easy to plan, and you can keep your plans for future classes.
  • You don’t have to participate (saves on wear and tear on your own body).
  • It can be adapted for large or small groups.
  • It can be taken inside or out (think about having a banner for free advertising).
  • It can be easily adapted for unforeseen circumstances, i.e weather, injuries, pregnancy.
  • It can be put together with little or no equipment.
  • Easy to interact and engage with each participant.
  • Infinite ways to plan a class.
  • You can make it sports-specific.

The History

Although knowing the history of circuit training isn’t necessarily going to make you a better instructor, in our experience, clients love to ask us those little questions that challenge our general fitness knowledge from time to time. Here’s a little bit about the recent history of circuit training so you can show off your expertise 😜. 

It is widely accredited to ​R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson in 1953 at the University of Leeds. Their design allowed participants to work at their own pace when training with others. They created a format that included the following:

  • A series of 9 – 12 exercise stations.
  • Participants moved from one station to the next with either little or no rest.
  • Each station could be either timed (i.e. 30-60 secs) or for a specified number of repetitions (i.e. 10 – 12 reps per exercise).

Each station would focus on any of the following

  • a different muscle or muscle group i.e chest, back, lower body
  • a different movement pattern i.e. push, pull, squat, hip hinge
  • a different component i.e resistance, cardio, mobility, balance

Circuits for personal training

You don’t have to use circuit training just for groups. It is an excellent workout for your one-to-one clients too. Check out this simple example in the video below.


If you want to learn more about planning and delivering fun and effective circuit training classes, jump onto our circuit training instruction workshop.

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