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Does Circuit Training Fitness Equipment Help Men's Health Too?

Aug 17, 2007
It's no secret that circuit training workouts have skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade. Continuing the trend started by Curves for Women, health clubs nationwide have been helping women lose weight and tone up by offering circuit training exercise and by encouraging them to maintain a healthy diet.

Of the estimated 30,000 health clubs in the United States, approximately one-third feature a circuit training routine as their core workout. The vast majority of these gyms are geared towards women only, often boasting in their advertising that 'men are not allowed'.

But can this exercise equipment work for men, too? Can men, who traditionally shun weight loss diet pills and other gimmicks, benefit from this exercise program as well? The answer to that question depends on your personal goals. Men of all ages have different goals, from burning fat to building huge muscles to developing strength. Most men fall somewhere in between, desiring a combination of the three.

How To Lift Weights (Resistance Train) To Achieve Your Goals:

To help illustrate this point, let's consider the three different ways to resistance train (lift weights), which correspond directly to your own personal fitness goals.

If your goal is to have lean, toned muscle without a lot of size, then you should be doing high repetitions with a relatively low amount of weight (resistance). You can lift this way all day long and you will not develop huge muscles. This approach to resistance training will accomplish two things: burn fat and tone muscle. That's it. This is the method of resistance training offered by most circuit training health clubs. Let's call it the 'Burn & Tone' goal.

If your goal is to increase muscle size, then you should be lifting relatively heavy weights (resistance) about 6-8 times per set. The weight selected should be about 80% of your 1RM (one rep maximum). For example, if the most you could ever bench press once is 100 lbs. (your 1RM), then to gain size you would want to be bench pressing about 80 lbs. 6-8 times per set. Compare this to the training of someone who wants to burn fat and tone muscle; the person who wants to gain muscle size keeps the weight much higher and does fewer repetitions. Let's call this the 'Pump You Up' goal.

Finally, perhaps your goal is to gain extreme strength. An example of this would be a powerlifter. Resistance training to gain strength would require you to lift as much weight as possible, but only one time (one repetition). Obviously, this method will not burn as much fat. It will also not create gigantic muscles, but it will result in some significant muscle growth. Let's call this one the 'Freakish Strength' goal.

Can Circuit Training Gym Equipment Help You Achieve Your Goals?

Assuming that you're like most men, your personal fitness goals are probably to reach your ideal weight by burning some fat, while at the same time gaining some muscle and strength. You don't need to look like Arnold in the first Predator movie, but then again you definitely don't want to resemble Pee-Wee Herman either! Will circuit training help you?

To answer this question, it's important to first examine and understand exactly what circuit training exercise machines will and will not do. Much of the circuit training fitness equipment available today will only help you with your 'Burn & Tone' goal. Why?

First and foremost, the reason why much of the circuit training exercise equipment on the market today will not help you with your 'Pump You Up' or 'Freakish Strength' goals is that these strength machines simply do not provide enough resistance. Many have just one resistance setting, which is usually set too low for you to get anywhere close to 80% of your 1RM (remember, that's required for real muscle growth).

To accomplish those goals of substantial muscle growth and strength gains in a circuit training environment, it's necessary to utilize equipment that has more than one resistance setting. In other words, you need to have the ability to increase the resistance (weight) so that you are able to remain close to your 1RM. This becomes even more true as you continue to exercise and become more fit, thus able to lift more and more weight.

Sports scientists actually have a phrase for this, and it's called the Principle of Progressive Overload.

The 'Principle of Progressive Overload' maintains that once the body has adapted to the stress put upon it, no further progress will be made until 1) resistance is increased or 2) repetitions are increased. In other words, if you start exercising on circuit training equipment that has only one resistance level, you will probably see decent results for a time. However, once your body has adjusted to that level of resistance, and it's no longer a challenge to you, your progress will come to a screeching halt. You won't add any additional muscle, or strength, until you add more weight.

This puts a gym without adjustable resistance in the uncomfortable position of having their members 'plateau' once they have mastered the equipment. Depending on their age and prior fitness level, their members soon find that their progress has ceased. Many circuit gyms are unable to adjust their resistance settings, so by definition they cannot promise life-long progress.

For the best results, seek out a fitness center that has adjustable resistance circuit training equipment. By providing many different levels of resistance, they will help you achieve not just the 'Burn & Tone' goal, but also the 'Pump You Up' and 'Freakish Strength' goals. What if your goal is just to 'Burn & Tone', though? Simple. Just don't increase the resistance, so if your goal isn't to increase muscle size then you can simply work out on a strength setting of 1. It's up to you.

The answer, then, to the question "Does Circuit Training Fitness Equipment Help Men's Health Too?" is a resounding YES, assuming that you're exercising on circuit training equipment that has more than one resistance setting.

Additional Weight Lifting Equipment Is Also Important:

Circuit training is popular because it works. Using the right exercise machines, men will have no problems meeting their health and fitness goals in a circuit training fitness center. However, there is another critical component to consider when seeking a workout routine that's right for you: free weights.

While it's true that circuit training is the fat burner you've been looking for all these years, and it's also true that the right circuit training exercise equipment can help you build a significant amount of muscle and strength, it's important to realize that free weights are especially important for men who want to pack on pounds of serious eye-popping muscle.

Why? For the answer, we need to dissect a weight lifting movement.

Positive vs. Negative:

There are two movements in any resistance training (weight lifting) exercise. These are called the concentric and the eccentric parts of the exercise, also commonly referred to as the 'positive' and 'negative'.

The concentric (positive) part of the resistance training movement is defined as "Muscle action in which the muscle is shortening under its own power" (Source: Fitness, The Complete Guide; ISSA 2001). Examples would be pushing the bar away from you on a bench press, or lifting the bar towards your chin on a biceps curl.

The eccentric (negative) part of the resistance training movement is defined as "Muscle action in which the muscle resists while it is forced to lengthen" (Source: Fitness, The Complete Guide; ISSA 2001). Examples would be lowering the bar on a bench press, or lowering the bar away from your chin on a biceps curl.

The point to be made here is that the eccentric part of the resistance training movement is the component that will lead to hyper-extensive muscle growth. When you work out you cause microscopic tears in the muscle, the fibers repair and regenerate and are able to handle future bouts of similar work while experiencing significantly less damage. Eccentric contractions cause greater muscle damage and thus provide the stimulus to make your muscles grow and strengthen. This may be due to eccentric contractions allowing greater force production in addition to less fiber recruitment, which means the fibers are stressed more and more damage occurs.

Circuit training equipment is double-concentric, meaning that it works opposing muscle groups at the same time. There is no eccentric movement. What this means for you as a man is that circuit training exercise equipment will help you burn fat, build muscle and increase strength in about half the time it takes in a 'regular' free weight gym. However, if your goal is to add a massive amount of muscle size, then you will need to incorporate some free weight exercises into your fitness workout.

In other words, while adjustable-resistance circuit training fitness equipment will help you build moderate to serious amounts of muscle, only free weights (with their eccentric movement) can turn you into a 900-pound gorilla. If that's not your goal, then by all means stick with the circuit training. It's safe, effective, and proven to get results.

But if you do want to go beyond moderate to serious muscle growth and create a shirt-busting body, then you'll need free weights. That's why it's important to choose a circuit training health club that offers additional weight lifting equipment.

Conclusion: Does Circuit Training Fitness Equipment Help Men's Health Too?

The short answer? Absolutely.

If your goal is to 'Burn & Tone', then circuit training is virtually custom made for you. This is what circuit training was designed to do, and it accomplishes that goal better, faster and more efficiently than any other workout.

If you share the 'Pump You Up' goal, where you want to add a moderate to serious amount of muscle to your frame, then circuit training can help you if (and only if) you choose a gym that offers adjustable resistance circuit training equipment.

If your goal is to attain 'Freakish Strength', then circuit training can help you, too. Again, however, it's important to find a fitness center that offers adjustable resistance circuit training equipment.

Finally, when looking for a circuit training health club to join, it's a good idea to find one that also provides a full array of free weights. Whether you're a regular guy who just wants to augment his workout, or an up-and-coming muscle-head who wants to manufacture a gargantuan body, it's convenient to have free weights as an option.

Circuit training is popular because it works. Circuit training is quick, efficient, and has made health and fitness dreams come true for thousands of men. Now it's your turn.
About the Author
This article is brought to you by Pick Up The Pace For Men , a gym specializing in weight loss exercise, healthy diet products, great fitness workouts and overall men's health. Please visit http://www.pickupthepaceformen.com/ for more information.
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