Are you compromising muscle growth with high-intensity circuit training?
For sure, circuit training is suboptimal if you’re training for strength or doing Olympic lifting, but it can be effectively used for a hypertrophy/basic strength program.
Hypertrophy/basic strength is a common phase in periodized strength programs, whether they follow a linear or undulating model. An obvious benefit is that circuit training takes less time, a plus for time-stressed individuals or for those who want to either perform more exercises or spend the saved time on sport technique practice.
In addition, circuit training tends to cause metabolic stress and lactate build-up for an increase in growth hormone release, which is associated with fat loss.
In a 2008 study, both the circuit training that used no rest between sets, and the traditional training group (three minutes rest between sets) performed five sets of as many reps as possible at 85 percent of 1RM maximum.
The groups had similar values for peak power, 1RM strength, reps achieved, and load lifted. The circuit workout also resulted in a higher average heart rate throughout the session, indicating a greater cardiovascular load, which can improve conditioning.
A 2011 study comparing biomarkers between a circuit and traditional workout used a lower 1RM percentage (75 percent) with 3 sets of 10 for bench press, cable pull down, overhead press, leg extension, leg flexion, and leg press.
Blood lactate, reps completed, and RPE were similar were similar between the programs, indicating either model can be used for putting on muscle. Longtime body builders may be reluctant to try a new training scheme but the research indicates cardiovascular and hypertrophic benefits to high-intensity circuit training.
The key is to continually overload the body, using all training variables to your advantage. HIIT circuit training should produce gains, but be sure to plan your training around the proven principles of accumulation and intensification so that strength is not compromised.
Alcaraz, P., Sanchez-Lorente, J., Blazevich, A. Physical Performance and Cardiovascular Responses to an Acute Bout of Heavy Resistance Circuit Training Versus Traditional Strength Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22(3), 667-671.
Deminice, R., Sicchieri, T., Mialich, M., Francine, M., Ovidio, P., Jorao, A. Oxidative Stress Biomarker Responses to an Acute Session of Hypertrophy-Resistance Interval Training and Circuit Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(3), 798-804.