Even today after years of research and application, some still persist that weight training lacks aerobic benefits. The fact is lifting weights increases blood pressure and heart rate (just to name two). This elevation from the cardiovascular system represents some aerobic stimulus. But with the existing definition that aerobics are a continuous nonstop activity performed for an extended period of time (minimum of 20 minutes), while maintaining a heart rate between 70% - 85% of maximum, and the chief energy sources being oxygen and bodyfat, conventional weight training cannot claim to offer similar aerobic benefits.
For those who are interested in obtaining the benefits from both world’s; Aerobic stamina with low percentages of bodyfat and Anaerobic strength with impressive muscular shape, the manner in which weight training workout’s are conducted is what links the two together.
Conventional methods for lifting weights recommends that each exercise set is followed by an adequate rest period before proceeding onward. During conventional means, heart rate and blood pressure elevates during each exercise but dramatically reduce during inter-set rest intervals. (Refer to Chart A). These "application-rest" cycles are followed until all exercises and sets are completed for each workout. This method enforces plenty of intentional non-active time to replenish ATP (and other anaerobic fuel) and to psyche-up for those heavy weights but prevents the aerobic system from effective participation.
Circuit Training has been around for decades and offers an unlimited matrix of applications and benefits. This system of working-out is performed differently both mentally and physically. In this method, the weight training applicant performs one set with one exercise then immediately performs another exercise in succession without rest; one-right-after-the-other. Exercises are sequenced in a variety of combinations which isolate single-muscles, regional groups of muscles, or total body training all in one workout.
Since muscles can only contract for long periods of time when sufficient amounts of oxygen are available, mental focus during circuit training becomes directed toward the proficiency of the heart and lungs; as opposed to just the muscles during conventional training. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems feed our working muscles with oxygen filled blood that is eventually fueled by bodyfat. (I say eventually because the ATP, CP and LA anaerobic fuel cycle has to become significantly depleted before the body will burn fat as workout energy).
So the obvious aerobic element missing in conventional weight training is that the cardio/respiratory system is given a rest in between exercises enabling the ATP-to-LA cycle to remain the chief energy suppliers. It’s more like an interval elevation/deceleration providing some but not optimal aerobic benefits.
By performing circuit training, you’ll never give your heart or lungs a chance to relax (refer to Chart B). In addition to the benefits of increasing heart and lung conditioning, enhancing your ability to utilize oxygen, and burning fat, impressive muscular shape and strength gains will be included from completing any aerobic resistance activity.
If you’re in a crowded facility, or at home and have to change equipment for every exercise (both time consuming factors), aerobic benefits will be sacrificed when the body becomes less or inactive. Your mission is to stay moving. Try doing situps or pushups or jump rope if you’re forced to stop.
After each circuit (which is traditionally 8-12 exercises), a 1-5 minute rest is optional to replenish your mental and physical energies. If you’re goal is to lose bodyfat, expend this time on the stair machine or stationary bike. This will recuperate your muscles from the weights while your cardio/respiratory system remains active using fat as fuel.
Even though I’m sounding like a drill-sergeant by suggesting that you move from exercise-to-exercise with little or no rest, I must encourage you take as much time as you need to adjust each apparatus for yourself, select the specific resistances for each of your exercises, and zero-in on the specific technical applications of every movement.
After completing a circuit training workout, you’ll feel refreshed and less sore. Circuit training promotes the removal of toxins which build up in the body during rigorous activity. During the deceleration periods in conventional methods, toxins become trapped within the tissues as the less active heart slows down the rate of blood flow. Circuit training’s continuous cardiovascular requirements flushes toxins out from the tissues with the forcing of blood through the tubal pathways of the CV system. Your muscles become cleaner and recuperate immediately after each workout.
Conventional methods suggest that the applicant handle heavier resistances with 6-10 rep sets. Inter-set rest periods of up to 6 minutes replenish the ability to lift more weight but, at the same time, can subject the lifter to possible injuries. Injuries can occur from extended rest periods which cool the tissues. Over-emphasization of heavy resistances can place too much stress to the muscles, tendons and ligaments instead of prioritizing muscular activity to an extended duration activity.
Since circuit training is continuous, resistances automatically become substantially lighter. The reduction in total weight lifted is compensated by eliminating any inter-set rest intervals (keeping the muscles fatigued). The higher number of repetitions suggested for each set during circuit training forces your muscles to rely on lighter poundages.
By performing more repetitions in each set (10-20), the duration required to complete each set is substantially lengthened. As the applicant remains active, the muscles can work just as hard as during conventional methods but now the added responsibilities from the heart and lungs add to the benefits.
When understood, the mission behind circuit training makes a lot of sense for plenty of reasons, some of which I’ve just explained. For those who are avid conventional applicants, I suggest using circuit training at least twice each year for 1-3 week periods to break the monotony of heavy training, condition the heart and lungs, provide a variety of mental challenges, and assist in burning some extra fat.
If you’re still skeptical, give circuit training a fair chance to prove itself. As long as you as you remain active during your workouts, you’ll accomplish everything you would normally achieve from one of your high or low-impact aerobic classes but now you’re taking advantage of specific muscle shaping movements with apparatus.