Your essential guide to High-Intensity Circuit Training


By Martin Ebner

High-intensity training is all the rage and it’s not at all surprising given the potential health benefits associated with it. By combining both cardiovascular and strength training into one heart-pounding circuit-based workout, you can get Superman fit, burn fat and build muscle all at the same time.

Just like with High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and Tabata training, High-intensity circuit training (HICT) has shown to be extremely effective in aiding weight loss. Asides from burning a ton of calories during your workout, HICT promotes an after-burn effect or Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC promotes a continued calorie burn as your body consumes more oxygen to recover from a tough workout. Studies show that this effect can last for hours and in some cases even days following your workout! Bye, bye belly...

Which exercises are included in a HICT workout?

The great thing about High Intensity Circuit Training workouts is that you can tailor the workouts to your specific fitness goals. If your focus is to build new muscle, you would centre your workouts around compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, push-ups, dips and pull-ups. If your goal is weight loss, you would prioritise high-intensity cardiovascular exercises like box jumps, skipping and sprints.


How long are HICT workouts?

The length of any given HICT workout is very much dependant on the goals, fitness level and time restraints of the individual. Aim for a minimum of 20 minutes and a maximum of 60 minutes. If you’re new to exercise and more specifically to HICT, start slowly and gradually build up the length and intensity of your workouts as your confidence and fitness level improves.

Do I rest in-between exercises and rounds?

Try to rest as little as possible between exercises and rounds. The reason HICT is so beneficial is that you maximise exercise volume in less time by resting as little as possible in-between exercises and rounds.

Again, if you're new to high-intensity exercise, take your time, start slowly focusing on form and technique and by all means take rest when needed. 

    What are the benefits of high-intensity circuit training?

    There are loads of benefits associated with high-intensity circuit training. Some of which include:

    • Easily personalised workouts to meet your fitness level and goals.
    • Burn up to a fat sizzling 15 calories per minute.
    • Boost anaerobic, aerobic and sports performance.
    • Great for those short on time.
    • It's a great full body workout.
    • Activates excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or after-burn allowing you to continue burning calories in the hours following a workout.
    • Improves glucose metabolism allowing you to utilise fat as energy during and after workouts.

    Are there any downsides to HICT?

    There aren’t many downsides to HICT. However, before diving into a tough high-intensity circuit training workout, there are a few things you should first consider:

    • HICT can lead to injury if not careful. It’s vital to warm up properly before your workout and make sure to cool down afterwards. It’s also very important to maintain strict form through the entire workout. Something which can be very difficult when you’re working at such a high tempo. If you’re unsure of how to perform a specific exercise, ask a personal trainer at your gym to give you a few tips on how to correctly perform any exercise you’re unsure of.

    • Despite being shorter than conventional weight training and cardio workouts, HICT workouts are much more intense, forcing your body to perform at a high level with little time for recovery between exercises and rounds. Within a few minutes your heart will be pounding and you’ll likely be in pain (the good kind). If you’re the sort of person that struggles to keep going when the tough get’s going, HICT probably isn’t your best bet.


    Sample HICT workout

    • Skipping
    • Squats
    • Skipping
    • Walking lunges
    • Box Jumps
    • Kettlebell swings
    • Push-ups
    • Plank

    Workout instructions:
    Perform one exercise after the next with minimal rest.
    Complete 10 reps of each exercise / 30 seconds of skipping and plank.
    Rest for 30-60 seconds between rounds.
    Complete as many rounds as possible within 35 minutes.
    Good luck and have fun!!!