Take a Shortcut to Fitness With Circuit Training

Get strength and cardio benefits in 30 minutes a day

By Carol Sorgen
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

While her kids are at dance class, Elaine Magee goes two doors down to Curves gym and knocks out a 30-minute circuit-training workout designed to exercise every muscle in the body.

Actually, because she is a dancer and exercise devotee, Magee, -- better known as WebMD Weight Loss Clinic's "Recipe Doctor" -- is not the typical client of Curves. The 10-year-old franchise operation, which now owns one in four gyms in the United States, targets sweatsuit-wearing, overweight females in their 30s who may have never worked out before. There's little Spandex in sight. No juice bar. No hunks. And the workout? Simple. Just music, an array of circuit-training machines, and the command to "change stations."

With the popularity of Curves, circuit training has come into its own, although it's been around for decades. And though the Curves philosophy appeals to many, you don't have to join any particular gym to reap the time-saving fitness benefits of a circuit workout.

What Is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is short bursts of resistance exercise using moderate weights and frequent repetitions, followed quickly by another burst of exercise targeting a different muscle group.

Because the exerciser switches between muscle groups, no rest is needed between exercises. This gets the heart rate up, which usually doesn't happen during resistance exercise. Sometimes, to up heart rate further, aerobics are sprinkled between the resistance exercises.