Circuit Training vs. HIIT: Which Should You Do?


Circuit training and high-intensity interval training are two common training methods you’ll find when you look for group fitness classes. 

Both involve intervals of exercise and periods of rest, and both can have aerobic and anaerobic elements. However, their intensity and duration are different, and the one you choose to do depends on your fitness goals.

But before comparing circuit training vs. HIIT, you need to understand each workout method and its benefits separately.

 What’s HIIT?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, and it’s a workout method in which you cycle through several rounds that consist of short bursts of high-intensity exercise at a maximum effort and periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. 

The work/rest ratios can vary depending on your goals or the type of class you’re attending–however, the exercise periods should never exceed 60 seconds, because it’ll make it harder to maintain the high intensity. For instance, you can do 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest, or 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest.

Although it was initially designed to do aerobic workouts, HIIT isn’t just a cardio workout–it can also be used for resistance training, strength training, and other types of anaerobic workouts

What’s circuit training?

Circuit training consists of moving from one exercise to the next, spending a specific amount of time on each exercise or station, or doing a specific number of repetitions. The number of exercises in a circuit can vary, and depending on the length of the workout, you may complete just one circuit or multiple rounds. In circuit training, you’re able to adjust the intensity of the session depending on your goals.

This type of training can also involve both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. For instance, you can alternate between cardio and strength exercises within the same circuit. 

Similarities and differences between circuit training and HIIT

How are they similar?

    • They are versatile: Both HIIT and circuit training allow for customization when it comes to exercise duration and type. 
    • They can boost aerobic and anaerobic performance: Both allow you to combine cardio and strength or resistance exercises, depending on your goals and preferences.
    • Both can help lose weight: If performed correctly and complemented with overall healthy habits, both HIIT and circuit training are effective for weight loss.
    • Both can make you fitter and contribute to your health: Moving your body is beneficial to your health no matter the type of workout you choose to do, and both of these workout methods can help you improve your fitness level. 

    How are they different?

    • HIIT has been shown to provide a higher post-exercise oxygen consumption, and therefore a higher calorie burn. It raises your metabolic rate both during and after training. 
    • HIIT can help build more cardiovascular fitness (while still working your strength and maintaining muscle mass!)
    • HIIT uses time intervals, while circuit training can be either time-based or repetition-based.
    • HIIT workouts should be performed at your maximum effort, while circuit training workouts can be scaled up or down in intensity, depending on your individual preferences (they’re typically performed at moderate intensity over a longer period).
    Sweat440 HIIT Workout

    Circuit training vs. HIIT: which is better?

    In general, exercise is full of benefits for your body and mind. When it comes to choosing between circuit training vs. HIIT, it depends on your goals, motivations, and limitations. 

    HIIT is a time-based, more intense workout, but it’s also more efficient–it burns more calories in less time. On the other hand, circuit training is a bit more customizable when it comes to intensity, and it can be time-based or repetition-based.

    If you’re looking for a fast, efficient, all-in-one workout that torches calories, HIIT might be your best shot. At SWEAT440, we offer fun HIIT classes that combine cardio and strength exercises and get your heart rate way up in just 40 minutes. Get your first class for free at our studio in Austin, Texas!

     The best 40-minute HIIT workout in Austin, Texas

    Yep, 40 minutes a day is all you need! If you feel like you don’t have enough time to go to the gym every day, SWEAT440 is for you. Our 40-minute full-body HIIT workouts consist of four 10-minute stations, and they are continuous, so you can arrive whenever you want and join the next circuit!

    SWEAT440 has studios all over the United States. If you’re located in or near Austin, Texas, you’ll find our studio near the Jacob Fontaine Plaza Park and the Austin Community College: Highland Campus. Your first class is on us, so come visit and let’s sweat together!

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    Circuit training vs. HIIT

    Circuit training

    • It allows you to adjust the type, intensity, and duration of the exercises.
    • It can be either time-based or repetition-based.
    • It involves going through circuits of several exercises, either spending a specific amount of time on each exercise or doing a specific number of repetitions.
    • It helps improve muscle endurance.
    • It focuses more on building strength.

    High-intensity interval training

    • It burns calories more efficiently, both during and after training.
    • It increases your post-exercise oxygen consumption, raising your metabolic rate and improving your muscles’ ability to use oxygen.
    • It helps improve cardiovascular fitness, but can also work your strength and resistance depending on the exercises included.
    • It works with time intervals, alternating short bursts of maximum-effort exercise and brief periods of rest.