What’s the Difference Between Interval and Circuit Training?

What’s the Difference Between Interval and Circuit Training?

You probably do them on a fairly regular basis. But do you know the intricacies that make them unique and how they can help you achieve different goals.

Interval Training

“Interval training comprises short bouts of exercise,” says Hector BonesOpens a New Window., C.P.T., an exercise physiologist based in Philadelphia. “You go all-out for a move, rest briefly to let your body recover, and then start the same exercise again.” It can be anaerobic, meaning it’s intense enough to build up lactate and foster speed, strength, and power. Your body isn’t using oxygen as it would with endurance training.  If you’re doing a tabata, where you’re working out at maximum output for 20 seconds, then recovering for 10 before repeating it again, you’re doing interval training. Same goes for HIIT and AMRAP (as many reps as possible), where you’re seeing how many reps of an exercise you can do in a short period of time. A few more examples include “running 100 meters, then walking 100 meters, and repeating 10 times; or doing 10 burpees then resting 30 seconds and repeating five times,” says Bones.

The benefits are huge, too.

“When you apply interval training, it’s much more beneficial for your fast-twitch muscles,” he explains. You’re honing in on those muscle groups and improving your ability to work really, really fast. And since interval training is so tough, it primes the body to handle aerobic exercise easier. “If you sprint one week, then go for a long run the next, you’re able to do it with greater ease because your body was primed for tougher conditions,” Bones says.

Circuit Training

Rather than repeating the same exercise, circuit training runs you through a group of different exercises for a more prolonged amount of time, Bones explains. It’s a bit more aerobic. “Circuit training would be doing 20 walking lunges, 15 pushups, 15 rows, 20 jump squats, and 30 seconds of mountain climbers, repeating for 3 rounds,” he says. Some exercises are a bit slower or more strength-based, while others have more cardio elements. This helps prevent burnout and you can target multiple muscle groups at once.  “Circuit training applied to a workout will keep the heart rate going at a steady pace, and more muscle groups can be targeted at the same time,” Bones explains. Likewise, there are some great benefits: “Circuit training is great because it works multiple muscle groups in limited time. It’s also advantageous when a large group of people are in a confined space, and they have limited equipment,” he says.