7

I know that there have been studies that show that more rest between sets, given the same volume, leads to significantly more gains, at the expense of more time in the gym, so circuit training would seem like the logical thing to explore.

By circuit training, I mean doing exercises in the order of

A B C D A B C D A B C D

instead of

A A A B B B C C C D D D

Two variants of the question:

Is circuit training superior (for hypertrophy / strength / muscle endurance) given

(a) the same time in the gym and the same volume (so the same rest between sets)

or

(b) the same volume, but less time?

Have there been studies done on this?

  • That's an interesting question. But bear in mind "Circuit training" is a less generic word than the thing you're describing, it usually means alternating between cardio and weights. The thing you're describing could be just alternating between two strength exercises. – Nathan Cooper Sep 19 at 14:37
  • I'm very curious about this myself. A bunch of internet sleuthing has turned up no conclusive answer, many swear by straight sets for maximizing strength gains. OTOH circuit-training works well, and studies I have seen (e.g.: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21659889) indicate that it is likely more time-efficient, which would match my intuition, because the interleaving allows muscle groups to recover in parallel. – John K Sep 19 at 15:20
7

I found these two studies:


(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21659889

finds that circuit training (given the same volume, but less time), is indeed superior: same strength gains, more fat loss, and less gym time


(2) https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2014/09000/Effects_of_Traditional_vs__Alternating_Whole_Body.21.aspx

studied men doing upper-body training during their rest periods between squats and found that they were more fatigued in their last squat sets this way (performed fewer reps, as I understood it)

  • 2
    If I'm understanding correctly, if you take a squat routine and add in upper body between the sets, while changing nothing else, you will fatigue on squats faster. If so then.. duh? But what we really care about is if doing a circuit (ABAB) is overall better than doing them in serial (AABB), not just if AA > ABAB for excercise A. – John K Sep 19 at 15:01
  • @JohnK I agree (but I only skimmed thru the paper) – MaxB Sep 19 at 15:12
  • @JohnK but do the upper body sets replace resting, or do they space out the sets of squats? In the first case you'd naively expect extra fatigue; in the 2nd it's not so clear-cut – Chris H Sep 19 at 15:34
  • 1
    @ChrisH the spacing between the squats is kept the same (upper body replaces some of the rest time, but not all) – MaxB Sep 19 at 18:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.