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Circuit Training vs. HIIT Workouts

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Circuit Training vs. HIIT Workouts

Is one better than the other? If so, which one? It's a question that fitness fanatics, personal trainers, and physios have been debating since HIIT workouts began to take the fitness world by storm in recent years.

Circuit training has always been a gym classic, offering a mixture of cardio and strength training exercises to be completed in just half an hour. HIIT - or High-Intensity Interval Training - is a new phenomenon that takes the idea of a quick and efficient workout to the extreme, offering gym-goers a super-intense exercise session that can last as little as 7 minutes at a time!

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Circuit training is better for building strength, while HIIT is often better used for cardio development. The thing is, though, you can incorporate both types of activity into your weekly schedule - especially armed with a variety of booty training bands and pull up assist resistance bands in taking your workouts to the next level!

In this article, we'll take a detailed look at the differences and similarities between HIIT vs. circuit training.

What is circuit training?

Let's start by looking at what circuit training is before we delve into the more fashionable world of HIIT.

Circuit training has been a staple of trainers for decades, and in its modern form, traces back to the 1950s when it was first popularised.

Circuit training is quite simple in concept. Select several different exercises, and perform each one, one after the other, for a set number of repetitions. The circuit is finished when you've completed each exercise. Each exercise is performed with only a short break (or no break at all), then break for longer after finishing the circuit. You will then complete the course again, for a set number of attempts.

Circuit definition can be broadened to include strength training, stretches, and cardio exercise. The possibility of variation is fantastic.

Focus just on upper or lower body workouts, solely on cardio, or put together a circuit that targets both strength and cardio. Opt to use free weights or resistance bands, or you can work out against your bodyweight.

Circuit training usually lasts for half an hour, making this a quick yet effective way to work out your entire body.

What is HIIT?

HIIT is the newer, somewhat cooler cousin of circuit training. They are very similar, but there are a few fundamental differences, as well.

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, and it's all about maxing out and hitting the highest intensity that you can. Because you're maxing out each time, you only perform each exercise for a short time.

For example, an interval training definition could be running in place as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds; then you run as fast you can for another 30 seconds. You repeat this schedule, attempting to max out and exert yourself as much as you can during each interval.

Because it's focused on maximum exertion, high-intensity interval training is geared more towards cardio workouts. Like circuit training, you could pick different exercises and perform them at intervals, or you could pick one exercise and continually max out on it.

HIIT sessions are typically short, as you burn through your energy extremely fast!

Circuit training vs. HIIT: which is better?

Circuit training is the most variable type of training you can perform in a short space of time. You can easily incorporate free weights or even weight machines into the circuits, alongside cardio and resistance band training. HIIT is varied, too, but because of the high intensity of the exercises, these workouts are usually performed against body weight or with resistance bands - it can be dangerous using free weights at a fast pace!

HIIT is, in many ways, a form of circuit training, but it has to be done at high intensity. For this reason, it's excellent for burning calories. Not only will you burn calories during the exercise itself but throughout the whole day, too, as HIIT raises your metabolism to an extreme level.

Circuit training is often performed at a more relaxed pace, as you have many more exercises to go through. For this reason, it's often more focused on strength training rather than calorie burning - although, of course, it's still optimal for burning off fat!

Circuit workout ideas with resistance bands

Create fantastic variations or circuit workouts tailored to your body's needs. You can build up circuits exactly how you want or need them to be! Focus on your legs, your arms, your shoulders, or cardio. Then, change it up the next day!

If you're at home, then we recommend using resistance bands to create a workout circuit that helps to build strength, burn fat, and tone muscles.

Perform each exercise for 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, then move on to the next exercise.

Once you've completed the circuit, rest for one minute, then complete a second and third circuit to complete the workout. If the exercises are too easy, don't be afraid to pick up a stronger resistance band.

Here's a full-body circuit workout with resistance bands to get you started:

#1 One arm bicep curls

#2 Resistance band fly

#3 Front squat

#4 Side-lying hip abduction

#5 Glute bridge

#6 Splitter

#7 Lateral walk

#8 Press-up

Perform exercises for 45 seconds on, 15 seconds rest. 

Repeat for 3 circuits.

HIIT workout examples with resistance bands

HIIT workouts can also be useful when incorporating resistance bands. You'll again be targeting both strength and cardio, although as with all HIIT workouts, the focus is heavy on the cardiovascular system. This is an intense workout, so remember to stretch before and after you attempt it.

Remember to hit each exercise with as much energy and intensity as you can. You'll work out for 60 seconds each movement, then rest for 30 seconds. Max out again for another 60 seconds on the next exercise. Repeat until you've completed all the movements in the circuit.

As it's high intensity, you only perform one circuit.

Here's a full-body, HIIT workout with resistance bands:

#1 Resistance band split squat

#2 Resistance band bicep curls

#3 Resistance band squats

#4 Resistance band shoulder press

#5 Resistance band squat hold

#6 Banded push-ups

#7 Resistance band archer pulls

#8 Resistance band overhead tricep extension

#9 Crunches

60 seconds on, 30 seconds rest.

Circuit training vs. HIIT: is there a winner?

There's not exactly a clear winner when it comes down to the benefits of HIIT training vs. the benefits of circuit training. Both are suited for different people, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

If you're looking for a workout that can focus more on strength training, then a varied circuit training workout will be perfect. If you're trying to lose weight fast and work out in the shortest possible space of time, then HIIT is the clear winner.

Why not try both, though, and see what results you can bring to your training regime?

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Katherine is a CrossFit expert with humble origins. Starting out on a ranch, ever since she was nine, she spent most of her life roping and competing in team roping. After finding bodyweight exercises interesting she sought after a career in CrossFit and dedicated her life towards achieving the body of her dreams. Today Katherine is a personal trainer that loves to travel the world and change the lives of her clients.

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