« Home | Core Training » | What are you getting from your (insert any health ... » | Functional Limitations/Training Experience/Goals » | Distance Education vs. In Person Education » | Wanted: Competent High School Strength Coach » | Free Weights vs. Machines: Research Review » | Good Intention/Bad Idea » | Knuckleheads in The News! » | Strongman Contest in Garden City Long Island (NY) » | Skill Based Games vs. Technical/Tactical Training ... »

Heavy Circuit Training vs. Traditional Strength Training

Physical Performance and Cardiovascular Responses to an Acute Bout of Heavy Resistance Circuit Training versus Traditional Strength Training.

Alcaraz PE, Sánchez-Lorente J, Blazevich AJ. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Apr 15.

Purpose: Circuit training effectively reduces the time devoted to strength training while allowing an adequate training volume to be achieved. Nonetheless, circuit training has traditionally been performed using relatively low loads for a relatively high number of repetitions, which is not conducive to maximal muscle size and strength gain. This investigation compared physical performance parameters and cardiovascular load during heavy-resistance circuit (HRC) training to the responses during a traditional, passive rest strength training set (TS).

Methods: Ten healthy subjects (age, 26 +/- 1.6 years; weight, 80.2 +/- 8.78 kg) with strength training experience volunteered for the study. Testing was performed once weekly for 3 weeks. On day 1, subjects were familiarized with the test and training exercises. On the subsequent 2 test days, subjects performed 1 of 2 strength training programs: HRC (5 sets x (bench press + leg extensions + ankle extensions); 35-second interset rest; 6 repetition maximum [6RM] loads) or TS (5 sets x bench press; 3-minute interset rest, 6RM loads).

Results: The data confirm that the maximum and average bar velocity and power and the number of repetitions performed of the bench press in the 2 conditions was the same; however, the average heart rate was significantly greater in the HRC compared to the TS condition (HRC = 129 +/- 15.6 beats.min, approximately 71% maximum heart rate (HRmax), TS = 113 +/- 13.1 beats.min, approximately 62% HRmax; P < 0.05).

Conclusion: Thus, HRC sets are quantitatively similar to traditional strength training sets, but the cardiovascular load is substantially greater. HRC may be an effective training strategy for the promotion of both strength and cardiovascular adaptations.

My Thoughts: Okay, so when the subjects performed the circuit training routine, it placed a greater amount of cardiovascular stress on them, forcing that adaptation. This is really the whole point of cardiovascular training, right? The interesting thing was that when the circuit training was performed, there was no difference in bar velocity, power and number of repetitions in the bench press. It should be noted that the exercises that they chose for the circuit training session, aside form the bench press, were single joint exercises (a knee extension and a calf raise) which would have be much less fatiguing than if the subjects performed the bench press, rested 35 seconds, performed a set of squats, rested 35 seconds and performed a set of chin ups. If this were the case, perhaps the results, with regard to bar velocity and power and the number of repetitions achieved per set would have been totally different; and, perhaps the cardiovascular system would have seen an even great adaptation.
There is something we can take away from this study. Now, I am not going to shun performing 1 heavy set, resting 3-5min. and then performing it again. If your sport is centered around a single maximum effort, than this is the way you NEED to train! However, for those in other sports and those of us who just train to be healthy, I really feel that we waste a lot of time in the gym. If we look at the results from this study, we can make a case for performing our strength exercise (say bench press) and then instead of sitting around for 2 minutes doing nothing, we could perhaps use our time efficiently and do some less fatiguing exercises, mobility exercises or stretches for things that are tight or may have been trained the day prior. This is when the super-sets, tri-sets and quad-sets can really come into play. If we properly plan, we can get the best of both worlds when it comes to strengthening ourselves and raising our work capacity.

If you are short on time, need to be more efficient, or not seeing the results you would like. Take a look at your training program and see if there may be a way that you can better plan your workouts and increase your level of fitness.