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I have access to a gym offering circuit training with weight machines, meaning people have to use every machine for a timed set of 1 minute and then a 15 sec break to switch to the next machine.

My goal is hypertrophy and I'm a beginner (do this for 4 months, never did anything before).

Currently I do 4 circuits of 6 machines twice a week, i.e. 8 1-minute sets for each of 6 machines per week. I aim for 8 reps per set and increase the weight whenever possible under good form. All machines are weights, no cardio.

As most advice on lifting for hypertrophy is based on the assumption that you can take arbitrary time to do a number of reps in your set and also choose how long you rest between sets, I find it hard to apply these ideas under the constraint of 1 minute timed sets with 15 sec breaks.

Generally, is my strategy for progression given above promising or will the time constraints be a problem?

Specifically, knowing that my workout given above with just 48 minutes under tension spread over 2 days is quite moderate compared to popular 3 day workouts on compounds with free weights, can I still expect some gains from this setting given that I give as much as possible and that proper sleep, nutrition, protein etc. is given?

Many thanks for any advice!

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Supersets (alternating between two exercises with minimal rest between) and giants sets (cycling though more than two exercises with minimal rest between) have been common practices in bodybuilding for a long time. You can definitely grow muscle in a circuit style workout, as long as the exercises you're doing are suitably configured for hypertrophy. (Many circuit workouts are more geared towards lower intensity endurance work, which is pretty suboptimal for hypertrophy.)

As long as you're getting close to muscular failure (not being able to perform further reps) within each 1 minute bout, you're getting a good hypertrophy stimulus. Selecting a weight that you can only do 8 reps with is a good way to go about this, though "under good form" is a strange description for machine-based exercises, since machines mostly eliminate the need to think about form at all, except to the extent that one can cheat on some machines be using whole body movements to make the exercise easier.

As most advice on lifting for hypertrophy is based on the assumption that you can take arbitrary time to do a number of reps in your set and also choose how long you rest between sets, I find it hard to apply these ideas under the constraint of 1 minute timed sets with 15 sec breaks.

Rest between sets is typically quite short for hypertrophy training, usually only a minute or two, and that's only when you're repeating the same exercise for multiple sets in a row. If you're doing one set and then changing to a different machine that works different muscle groups, your rest period is effectively from the end of the first set until the beginning of the next set that works the same muscles, which might be several machines later in the circuit.

Specifically, knowing that my workout given above with just 48 minutes under tension

Time under tension is not useful as a predictor of hypertrophic stimulus. Or as anything else, really.

spread over 2 days is quite moderate compared to popular 3 day workouts on compounds with free weights, can I still expect some gains from this setting given that I give as much as possible and that proper sleep, nutrition, protein etc. is given?

Definitely. But the most reliable way to get an answer for this is to try it. Keep doing your workouts for a couple of months and see how you've changed at the end of that period.

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  • Thanks, Your answer is very clear and helps me to relate advice on progression to the circuit setting, its good know I'm on the right track. Re "good form", I might be a bit paranoid there given that I am not a teenager but 38 years and spent a big part of that life in front of a screen with zero activity. Whenever I feel the slightest signs of pain I ask for advice and go slower or turn weights down, which did happen a couple times also on machines.
    – donde
    Jan 9 at 16:51

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