Home Workouts – The Power of Circuits

Obviously with a title like Time Poor Training, this site values the efficient use of time above all else which is why we place such an emphasis on circuits for our home workouts. Often, but not exclusively, our programs structure the workouts in a circuit structure. They ask you to go through exercises in such a sequence as to continue to constantly work the overall system (at a safe level) while giving the individual muscles time to rest.

We believe this optimizes toning or muscle gain (whichever you are after) while keeping the workouts to a reasonable length. Many people will say circuits are only good for cardio-vascular development. They’ll argue that 90% of all weight workouts follow a straight set structure and, that, therefore is the best design to follow.

But is this true?

We’re not aware of any studies that test circuits against straight sets in terms of hypertrophy (the process of building muscle). Particularly circuits like ours where we advise the person to move comfortably between exercises. So, we ask if the notion that circuits are sub-optimal for hypertrophy is really just something taken to be true because it’s been repeated so.

Some proponents of straights sets will cite studies/meta-analysis that say you need to rest completely between sets, sometimes up to 4 minutes or at most do a superset of antagonist muscles. But conclusions like this are simply varying the time between straight sets, not evaluating straight sets against circuits.

Then, some of the most advanced muscle building techniques advocated by top trainers actually require minimal rest between straight sets e.g. myo-reps and rest-pause sets.

One of the most respected bodybuilding experts of the golden age, Vince Gironda, advocated moving quickly through sets, sometimes with as little as 10 to 15 seconds between sets of the same exercise.

So, faced with these conflicting theories, who is to say that a properly structured circuit within your home workout which gives you a decent amount of rest between 2 sets for the same muscle group but keeps you moving overall isn’t optimal.

To support our argument we’d point to athletes who play field sports such as rugby, soccer and Australian rules – yes some of these athletes spend time in the weight room but even in past decades, these aerobic and anaerobic (depending on position) sports usually produced toned/muscular athletes.  For an even more direct comparison, look at a lot of recreational Crossfit athletes who often utilize circuit style workouts and have superior physiques.

As we said at the outset, time is of the essence for most people. If we don’t figure out a way to be efficient with time then we just won’t bother exercising at all. Circuit-oriented home workouts deliver this requirement and besides being good for your schedule they also deliver a cardiovascular conditioning benefit. Cardiovascular health and muscular strength are two of the most important physical qualities, particularly after our twenties.

So, feel confident pursuing a home workout circuit-based  training program knowing that it will deliver for you.