Interval Training or Circuit Training?
I've been in the fitness industry for over 20 years and every few years a new "it" term comes along. Interval training has been around longer than me, yet it has become the "it" word of the fitness industry for the last decade or so. The problem is many use the term incorrectly. I will often see workouts labeled as interval workouts that are actually circuit workouts. What is the difference?
Interval training does not have to include anaerobic intervals. Some people simply aren't fit enough to safely get their heart rates into the anaerobic training zone, or the high impact moves used in many interval workouts make be too jarring to the body for some, even on a rebounder. You can still have a great heart pumping, interval sweat-fest without anaerobic work. Your workout might look like this:
5 Warm Up then alternate:
5 Min of moderate intensity cardio, meaning you are breathing deeply but you can still hold a very breathy conversation, with 3 min of high intensity aerobic cardio. You are still working aerobically but you can only string together short sentences instead of a breathy conversation. You are at the high end of your aerobic threshold and just below your anaerobic threshold.
Since you don't go anaerobic in this case, I wouldn't do an actual recovery period, I would move directly to the next 5 minutes of moderate cardio letting the lower intensity act as my recovery time.
Also please understand that exercises like burpees or push-up are often used to help raise the heart rate in interval workouts. Using strength or toning exercise to not only strengthen and tone but to get the heart rate up is referred to as metabolic interval training.
Circuit workouts are workouts that vary in mode of exercise throughout the workout. Circuit workouts can be all cardio, all strength and toning or a combination of both. The most popular example of circuit training would be after warming up, doing 5 minutes of cardio followed by 2 minutes of weight work alternating throughout the routine.
During weight training specifically, circuit refer to a group of exercises done in a certain order, a certain amount of reps and repeated a certain number of times. For example:
12 Barbel Curls
12 Hammer Curls
12 Revers Curls
is one set for biceps. Repeating this one set 2-3 times is a circuit. You don't have to focus on one body part when doing weight training circuit. You could easily have a circuit that looks like this:
12 Barbell Squats
12 Barbell Bench Press
As you can see there is an endless variety of exercises you can combine to create fun, effective, fat torching circuit workouts.
Many people will add other modes of exercise into the mix like Pilates for toning or yoga for flexibility. Workouts that combine different modes of exercise in this fashion are sometimes referred to as fusion workouts.