October 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm EDT | by Kevin M. Norris
Keep moving?

Is your workout routine stale? Have your results diminished substantially? Looking to increase results, but spend less time in the gym? Look no further than either circuit training or interval training.

Both circuit training and interval training can do the following:

Burn more calories — The more vigorous the exercise routine the more calories you exhaust.

Improve aerobic capacity – And as a result you will be able to exercise longer.

Stave off boredom — Variety is the spice of an exercise routine.  Your body will diminish in return over time if you do the same thing every time.

No expensive equipment required – Free weights, resist-a-bands and a bench press will do the trick.

Shorten your workout – Both are time efficient and target all your major muscles.

These two training methodologies have been integrated into exercise programs for decades and seem to have had a bigger boost of late. They are however, often confused and considered the same methodology. But in fact circuit training and interval training are in fact two different training techniques and each holds its own merit.

Let’s start with interval training, which was the brainchild of Dr. Woldemer Gerschler of Germany in 1930. His main discovery was that athletes could receive added benefit if they exercised with greater intensity followed by periods of “rest” or relief that would allow them to recover from the intensity. And once recovered they could engage in the higher intensity once again.

Essentially interval training alternates periods of high intensity exercise, called the work interval, followed with periods of lower intensity, called the rest or relief interval. There are generally eight to 12 cycles in one workout session. And given that interval training is quite demanding, particularly when starting anew, it should be done on alternating days.

The high-intensity periods are at or close to maximum exertion and the recovery period usually requires complete rest or low intensity exercises. This time-efficient routine works both the anaerobic and aerobic systems. The aerobic system requires a constant and continuous work load, whereas the anaerobic system is much shorter and quicker bursts of power and speed. For example, a 50-mile-paced bike ride is aerobic while a one-mile bike sprint is anaerobic.

Just what does an interval workout look like?

First, the recovery is generally three times that of the work, for instance a 30-second sprint followed by a 90-second walk. This is the more scientific approach. However, you may vary your intensity and rest periods by how you feel on any given day.

Interval training, once exclusive to athletes, is now being used by trainers and the general population alike.

Now what is circuit training? Does it involve electricity? Is it a fad or a complex form of exercise? Can anyone benefit from circuit training? The pat answer is that circuit training like interval training is not a fad and anyone can benefit.

The concept of circuit training was developed in 1953 by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson at the University of Leeds in England.  Circuit training was originally established as an efficient and time-saving way for coaches to train several athletes at a time and with a limited amount of time and without the use of much equipment.

Circuit training professes to increase muscular strength and endurance by moving from one resistance(weight)-bearing exercise to the next and a different body part. You can also integrate a weight-bearing exercise with a quick callisthenic exercise such as jumping jacks. This routine is a fast-paced routine with little or no rest in between exercises particularly since you are alternating body parts; one body part rests while another performs. Circuit training is also an efficient way to burn calories and lots of them.

The great thing about a circuit is that you can use free weights, elastic bands or any type of resistance machine.

While I certainly endorse both of these training methodologies, I would start with one or the other for a period of six to eight weeks.  Remember to perform either routine on alternating days as recovery is crucial and it is during rest you will receive the most benefit.

Remember to have fun with both of these workout strategies. Bring on a workout partner to “compete” with and keep an exercise journal so you can track your progress.

Both circuit training and interval training, like any form of exercise is not without risks. If you have a chronic health condition or have not been exercising regularly it is always wise to check with your physician before beginning any form of exercise.

And while both methodologies can be simple to learn, they may also be a bit confusing at first. To get you started, check with someone in your gym, preferably an experienced trainer.

Kevin Norris trains at Body Smith in Washington and is accepting new clients and offering discounted rates.


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