Group fitness classes are an enjoyable way to get active and socialize, whether you’re into spin, yoga, barre, pilates or a boot camp-style workout. Generally you will find two types of strength workouts – circuit training and high intensity interval training (HIIT).
So, what’s the difference between circuit training vs. HIIT?
Both circuit training and HIIT are intervals of activity and movement interspersed with periods of rest. However, they differ in duration, intensity, and type of exercise performed.
A major difference between circuit training vs. interval training is the length of each exercise and the workout as a whole. Let’s dive deeper into how each workout is structured:
- HIIT – HIIT Do short bursts of high-intensity exercise with longer periods of rest or active recovery to get your heart rate up and kick-start your metabolism—think walking or jogging for a minute followed by a minute of running.
- Circuit training – Circuit training Usually an exercise is performed where each major muscle group is targeted by including separate stations.1 Each station has a different type of movement, with the goal being to complete a certain number of repetitions before moving on to the next station or work for a certain amount of time (usually a few minutes), with a short rest period in between. .
Although HIIT features a circuit structure where you switch between different movements, it is compressed into much shorter periods of time, often between 10 and 30 minutes.2 This can make HIIT classes a great option if you want to get a quality workout in a short amount of time.
A circuit workout, on the other hand, is performed at a less intense pace, making these full-body workouts last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Another way to differentiate between HIIT vs. circuit training is to focus on the intensity of each workout.
Just as the name implies, HIIT classes can be pretty intense! What do we mean when we say high intensity? “High intensity” is generally defined as reaching at least 80% of your heart rate’s maximum capacity during exercise.3 That said, HIIT aims to hit that benchmark during active recovery or active intervals with rest periods in between.
The intensity of a HIIT workout provides several benefits including:
- Burns calories and fat faster
- Improving your muscles’ ability to use oxygen
- Increase your aerobic and anaerobic performance
- Possible lowering of blood pressure and blood sugar
Circuit training workouts are typically performed at low or moderate intensity for long periods of time, making it a great option for someone who wants to get a comprehensive full-body workout without putting too much stress on their body. It’s also easy to increase or decrease the intensity of circuit training, allowing you to adjust to your own preferences.
That said, circuit training can help:
- Improve muscular endurance
- Increase muscle strength
- Jumpstart your metabolism
- Promote weight loss4
#3 Type of exercise
While you may find many of the same movements in a HIIT or circuit training workout, the way you perform each exercise is different since each type of exercise aims to achieve a different result – circuit training aims to improve cardiovascular and muscular fitness levels, while a HIIT session Aim to burn fat and carbohydrates.
That being said, HIIT focuses on high-intensity movements that get your heart rate up along with cardio and body weight routines. This type of workout can include:5:
- Mountain climbers
- Plank jumping jack
- Star jumps
Circuit training classes usually aim to work all your major muscle groups, giving you a great head-to-toe sweat session. Since circuit training usually includes a variety of stations, you’ll also perform a variety of movements. A typical circuit training class will consist of high-volume, low-resistance exercises:
- Bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges or push-ups
- A cardio workout such as jumping rope, jogging or jumping jacks
- Curls or squats using light weights, kettlebells or medicine balls
- Active recovery movements where you stretch or walk
It’s a fun way to get a full body workout while keeping the movement fresh and interesting! It also offers the benefits of both strength training and aerobic activity, both of which can have mood-boosting and heart-supporting benefits.4
Diving into circuit training or HIIT routines without preparing your body can have results. So it’s natural to have questions before exercising, such as, “Should I exercise when I’m in pain?” or “What to eat before a workout?” These are fair questions to ask, especially when you’re considering other exercises like the Stairmaster workout, barre workout, or yoga vs. Pilates workouts.
Circuit Training and HIIT at Choose Fitness
Whether you’re a circuit training superstar or a HIIT fanatic, you’ll find a workout you love Choose Fitness. We want to keep fitness fun and friendly with a variety of team training, yoga and Zumba Fitness class. While working out, you can even listen to our Spotify workouts Playlist. “Be sure to search forgym near me” to find your local Choose Fitness location to join our classes.
Find one of our super-clean, super-affordable locations near you And join the fun today.
Ani is Vice President of Fitness at Chuz Fitness and oversees the Group Fitness and Team Training departments. He had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Annie lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and son and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Hospital for Special Surgery. What is the difference between circuit and HIIT? https://www.hss.edu/playbook/whats-the-difference-between-circuit-training-and-hiit/
- Healthline. Benefits of HIIT https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit#what-it-is
- Vox. How to get the most out of your exercise time, according to science. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/10/18148463/high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-orangetheory
- Healthline. Benefits of circuit training. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/benefits-of-circuit-training#benefits
- shape HIIT workout exercises. https://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/hiit-workout-exercises
- Healthline. Benefits of circuit training include relieving boredom and getting fitter faster. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/benefits-of-circuit-training