Is cardio or circuit training better?

Both are beneficial and are neither is better nor worse than the other - just different. Cardio training is any type of activity which elevates the heart rate. This can be walking at a fast pace, going up stairs, playing basketball, using a treadmill, or lifting weights at a fast tempo. Circuit training is method of weight training where one exercise is performed directly after another with minimal rest period; this type of training will also elevate the heart rate. A circuit training program can be a great way for an individual with limited time to simultaneously perform weight training and cardio to help with altering body composition. A typical circuit training program can include up to three sets of ten to fifteen repetitions.
Both are important components of a well-rounded fitness program. You can actually get a good cardio workout from a circuit training routine. Set up your circuit so you can go from one exercise to the next with no rest between exercises. Complete your entire circuit, take a 1-2 minute break, then do your complete circuit again -- 3 complete circuits. This type of training gets your heart rate up, plus is a more effective use of your time in the gym because you are not taking a break between sets, letting your heart rate drop, losing track of time and losing your momentum. Do 12/15 reps of each exercise. You will be building muscle and improving your cardiorespiratory system at the same time. A win win situation.
Bottom line both are great. You really shouldn't focus on one over the other. The best course of action is incorporating both into your routine. Each has its own benefits but in the end you want to focus on a well-rounded weight-training program along with a great cardiovascular program. Yes you can make a circuit-training program like a cardiovascular program but you don't want to sacrifice one for the other. 

Circuit training is a form of cardio. If done correctly, your heart rate should be elevated during circuit training. Circuit training is a great way to mix it up and prevent boredom. Traditional cardio can get boring. You can even perform traditional cardio in between circuits to really push yourself.

For example:

  • Perform Circuit 1
  • 5 min cardio on Arc Trainer
  • Perform Circuit 2
  • 5 min cardio on Treadmill
  • Perform Circuit 3
  • 5 min cardio on Bike

For time effectiveness, I like circuit training. Both cardio and circuit training will stress the cardiovascular system. Cardio more specifically challenges the legs, while circuit training can be designed to challenge all the muscles of the body, including the heart.

Your specific goal is the best indicator of which type of exercise you should perform.

Cardio and circuit training are both great forms of exercise. Circuit training has been shown to be just as beneficial as traditional forms of cardio training for improving, or contributing to improved fitness levels. Circuit training involves performing a series of resistance training exercises one after the other, with little to no rest between exercises. Cardio training is simply any kind of training that involves and places a stress on the cardiorespiratory system. Therefore, any kind of activity that increases your heart rate and breathing rate can be used as a form of cardio training. Some examples include: walking your dog, gardening, cycling, or weight training 

So which one is better? Since both are very beneficial forms of exercise, I'd have to say the better one is the one you enjoy doing the most.

Both cardio training and circuit training are good. However, the word cardio gets misused a lot. When you do cardio training you not only train your cardiovascular system, you train all of the energy systems in the body. Therefore, it is best to refer to cardio training as conditioning. Circuit training is a great way to incorporate all the energy systems at various intensities. Circuit training is good if you're short on time because you can combine strength training, plyometrics, conditioning, core training, and agility all into one long set. Circuit training is a great way to challenge your body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.