How are Interval and Circuit Training Different?

When investigating interval versus circuit training, it is crucial to know how they differ from each other and what that means for your health and fitness results. What is interval and circuit training, and how do these different approaches to working out differ from one another? Here are the most important differences, pros, and cons to know about interval and circuit training fitness regimens!

Interval training increases endurance and strengthens slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles with aerobic exercising. Circuit training improves strength, joint stability, and strength with anaerobic exercises. Interval reps have rests while circuit reps have full-body moves.

What are the specific definitions for interval training and circuit training? What are some exercises that you can perform in each of these training approaches? Let’s go over in-depth what to look for in each scenario and how interval training is unique and different from circuit training.

Interval Training Defined

Interval Training is a type of fitness approach that is made up of short spurts of exercise. An athlete executing interval training will push themselves to full exertion while doing a workout move, rest for a short time to let their body recover properly, and then they will begin the same exercise again.

Exercises in interval training can be anaerobic, which means that they are difficult enough to cause a build-up of lactate and create strength, speed, and power in your body. As you work out using interval training, your body is not using oxygen the same way as it would if you were doing endurance training.

Every interval training exercise could be defined as a Tabata. A Tabata is where an athlete works out at their maximum output for about 20 seconds. After that, they recover for 10 seconds. Then they repeat the process over and over again. Essentially any interval training exercise can be broken down into this Tabata pattern.

Lots of HIIT and AMRAP training programs and exercises are similar to interval training in that they also operate on the goal of getting in as many reps as possible. As you execute interval training, try your best to execute as many reps of an exercise as possible in a short amount of time. The more repetitions you do, the stronger you’ll get!

Other people also define interval training as any time you alternate between high-energy exercises and moderate or low-energy exercises, with short rests mixed in. These recovery periods can be brief yet very active. Interval training is meant to use up a lot of oxygen and a lot of energy, so you’ll need to breathe in a lot of oxygen during the bouts of recovery.

Some people will also call interval training high-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short.

Benefits of Interval Training

One of the many benefits of interval training is how it strengthens your fast-twitch muscles. This is because as you are doing interval training, you are honing muscle groups in your body while improving your ability to work very quickly. Interval training is also pretty difficult, so it primes your body to take on aerobic exercises with increased ease as you consistently train yourself.

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Lots of scientific studies have discovered helpful side effects of interval training. Some of these positive results include how calories are burned faster, you get an increased metabolism, your endurance improves, you get reduced blood pressure, and you will improve your insulin levels! Even if you are fairly healthy from the beginning, interval training can help you maintain and improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.

A huge benefit of interval training is how it improves your cardiorespiratory function. While you are performing interval training exercises, your heart will get intermittently overloaded in a unique way that steady-state training cannot achieve.

Your muscles will get stronger and adapt thanks to the resistance training. Your heart and lungs will also adapt to handle the intense exercises that will increase in difficulty as you train. This improved heart function will help your body deliver blood more efficiently to your working muscles, which will increase their ability to work even harder and for longer periods.

Downsides of Interval Training

As with any fitness routine, interval training has some negative characteristics to watch out for. Interval training is so intensive that it may not be a suitable fit for all athletes. If you are not used to intensive exercising, you could cause unnecessary stress on your heart.

Dizziness can also result after interval training. This is because if you are switching between sitting and standing at speed, your blood pressure can drop rapidly, making you feel dizzy. When dizziness occurs, take a recovery break until you feel better and are set to move on to the next exercise.

Muscle soreness is another con of interval training. Painful muscle soreness can result after even a brief workout if the intensity level is high enough. If you overexert yourself while doing interval training, you could accidentally overexert yourself and even damage your muscles.

Finally, a higher risk of injury is built into interval training exercises since they are more difficult than other forms of exercise. When you move at a speedy pace while working out, your form can suffer and result in injury. Make sure to get your interval training exercises from a reputable source and double-check that your positioning is correct with a personal trainer or gym staff member to help avoid hurting yourself.

Examples of Interval Training Exercises

Interval training exercises include things like running 100 meters, then walking 100 meters, and repeating this 10 times. Some people will do burpees with 30 seconds of rest as a break and will repeat that 5 times as part of their interval training. Try out exercises like cardio blasters, sprint intervals, cardio-sprint pyramids, figure 8 lunges, and duck-and-punches. With interval training websites, blogs, and exercise books, the possibilities for varying your fitness are endless!

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Circuit Training Defined

Circuit training is a type of fitness approach that does not repeat exercises over and over. Instead, circuit training will make you run through a group of varied exercises that last a longer time. This way, you’ll get more aerobic exercise.

The exercises that go into circuit training are often strength-based and slower. They will usually have more cardio elements integrated into their style too. This will help prevent burnout in your body while allowing you to target multiple muscle groups at once!

These types of training plans are built to keep your heart rate going at a steady, stable pace. Circuit training will target more muscle groups at the same time than interval training can.

These circuit workout routines are unique in how they are back-to-back in a specified period. Circuit training is defined as having either no recovery periods or very little rest in between the exercises. This routine style is nonstop and demands a lot of cardiovascular fitness to be accomplished at a reasonable pace.

Remember that it is okay to take breaks if necessary, and drink plenty of water while working out.

Consider investing in various circuit training how-to books online to improve your fitness experience.

Benefits of Circuit Training

Since circuit training is more focused on multiple muscle groups. It targets a couple of muscle groups in a limited time, which makes it very beneficial for large groups of people who are exercising in a confined space. People can also perform circuit training programs with limited fitness equipment, making it a very affordable workout approach.

There are lots of benefits to using circuit training exercises. Some of these health benefits include more lean muscles, a better heart rate, and better aerobic fitness and cardiovascular fitness in general.

Lots of the benefits of circuit training will better and improve your body composition and musculoskeletal system.

This is because resistance training strengthens your bones and creates lean muscle mass. This building up of muscle mass usually leads to less fat mass in your body. Thus, circuit training also usually improves your cardiovascular fitness since your fat mass is reduced.

Circuit training benefits focus on the musculoskeletal system and body composition. Resistance training builds lean muscle mass and strengthens bones. Building lean muscle mass often leads to a reduction in fat mass. Circuit training may also slightly improve cardiovascular fitness as a result of reduced fat mass.

Interval training primarily improves cardiorespiratory function. The heart is intermittently overloaded during interval training in a way that steady-state training can’t achieve. As the muscles adapt and become stronger during resistance training, the lungs and heart adapt to handle the increasing load of high-intensity exercise. Improved heart function allows more efficient delivery of blood to working muscles, increasing their ability to work harder for longer periods.

Downsides of Circuit Training

One of the few downsides of circuit training is early strength plateauing. Circuit training exercises are not usually great for building strength and after you perform a few push-ups or bodyweight squats, you may find that the strength benefits gained unfortunately dwindle. Even though muscular endurance and hypertrophy can continue to build, total strength can’t and you may feel unsatisfied with circuit training strength results.

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Circuit training can consume a lot of space. It often takes up a lot of room since circuits usually have several bases, many of which have their own equipment. Lots of common exercises like carries, runs, walking lunges, and others will require some indoor or outdoor room to move and run around in.

If you have limited space, or are not completing your circuit exercises in an official class, the space restrictions could be problematic. This issue can be avoided if you exercise at your local gym during non-peak hours when attendance is lower and you’ll have the space you need!

Examples of Circuit Training Exercises

To do circuit training workouts, some people may do 20 walking lunges, then 15 pushups, followed by 15 rows, then 20 jump squats, and finally 30 seconds of mountain climbers. You would repeat that sequence for 3 rounds to complete a full circuit training routine.

Circuit training exercises can also include push-ups, squats, sit-ups, chin-ups, lunges, and calf raises, to name just a few.

Main Differences Between Interval Training and Circuit Training

One of the biggest differences between interval and circuit training is how interval training has more recovery and rest moments during its exercise sets and reps. On the other hand, circuit training needs to be done with little or no rest periods at all.

You will take some recovery time during your high bursts of rests in interval training. These rest periods are sometimes called active rests. While you use high bursts of energy with low-energy exercises in interval training, circuit training has an endurance mentality that will challenge your body to move from one exercise to another with no rest.

While interval training will increase your cardiovascular endurance with its aerobic exercises, it will also build your slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles depending on the length and difficulty of the exercises. Interval training burns off fat cells and glucose. It builds up muscles slowly but surely over time. Interval workouts can increase aerobic muscular capacity for exercises like plyometrics and wind sprints.

Meanwhile, circuit training increases your joint stability and strength. Circuit training will also boost your overall cardiovascular strength with its anaerobic exercises. This training will burn more fat than lifting normal weights would burn. The goal of a lot of circuit training programs is to increase your strength so you can take on tough outdoor sports and hobbies like snowboarding and rock climbing.

The biggest difference between interval and circuit training is that interval training includes more weight lifting and exercises that target specific muscles while you take long recovery periods between sets and reps. But circuit training deals with full-body movements that will help work out your major muscle groups. Circuit training will increase muscle mass and muscular definition after months of effort.

Main Similarities Between Interval Training and Circuit Training

Sometimes both interval training and circuit training can help build and strengthen your fast-twitch muscles. Interval training and circuit training carry the potential risk of injury if you don’t perform the exercises safely. Both approaches to exercising are also beneficial for your health.


Empowering minds and bodies through my fitness journey! Passionate fitness enthusiast and blogger on a mission to inspire and motivate. Transforming lives one post at a time with evidence-based workouts, nutrition tips, and a sprinkle of wellness wisdom. Join me on this sweaty adventure to unlock your full potential and cultivate a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Let's break a sweat, embrace the grind, and celebrate the victories together! ✨ #FitLife #WellnessWarrior #FitnessBlogger"

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