Fat Burning Circuits: Are They Effective?

The fitness industry seems to always be changing with new fads, and “guaranteed fixes,” so it can be difficult to know what is just another selling point, versus what is actually effective.

I will always stress the importance of finding a regimen that works for you, and that propels you towards your goals and ideal lifestyle.

So use this research to find out if fat burning circuits fit for you!

(And don’t forget to check out the 12-minute fat burning workout!)

Fat Burning Circuits Vs Cardio

The most substantial differences between fat burning circuits and traditional cardio exercises include:

  • Time
  • Intensity
  • Frequency
  • Type of Movement

Cardio sessions typically consist of repetitive movements of the same type of exercise at a steady intensity.

Fat burning circuits incorporate a variety of different movements, which can include cardiovascular activities. However, they are done in short bursts at high intensities.

So while fat burning circuits can be much shorter than a cardio workout, the intensity is typically much greater.

Both forms of exercise have varying benefits, but studies show that fat burning circuits do hold true to their name.

Consider a recent study by the International Journal of Obesity:

45 subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: cardio, high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) program, or a control group, and for 15 weeks participated diligently in their newly assigned exercise regimens.

Researchers had the cardio group perform 40 minutes of steady-state aerobic exercise, while the HIIT group alternated eight-second sprints with 12 seconds of recovery for 20 minutes.

By the end of 15 weeks, women in the HIIT group lost as much as 7.3 pounds, while women in the steady-state group actually gained as much as 2.7 pounds.

For both groups, there was a substantial increase in cardiovascular fitness. A decrease in overall body mass appeared most strongly in the HIIT test group though.

What Fat Burning Circuits Look Like

HIIT workouts are a common type of fat burning circuit. They focus on exhausting the energy source through bursts of maximal effort repeatedly.

This requires the body to use a variety of muscle fibers and muscle groups at a high capacity. It also forces the body to work harder to create the ATP that your muscles need for energy.

Workouts such as these require that you push yourself to the max for short periods of time, with small increments of rest throughout. This means a high caloric burn and a greater recovery demand on your body.

This kind of high intensity can be hard when you are working out by yourself, or don’t have a set workout plan.

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Why Fat Burning Circuits Work

If your goal is above all to burn fat, then these kinds of workouts can be extremely effective compared to long periods of traditional cardio.

A big reason why is that strength training is fantastic for fat loss.

While people tend to lean towards cardio and dieting to slim down, high levels of traditional cardio for an extended time shrinks down both your fat and your muscles.

Muscle is nearly 5 times more metabolically active than fat. This means that the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you are burning day to day.

That doesn’t mean you need to be a bodybuilder in order to benefit from fat burning circuits. But keep in mind that larger machines burn more fuel, or in other words, stronger muscles burn more fat and calories!

The Lasting Benefits

Another way in which fat burning circuits are extremely effective is their prolonged post-workout burn.

Traditional cardio will burn calories and fat during the workout, but strength training & fat burning circuits elevate EPOC or “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.”

EPOC indicates how active your metabolism is post-workout. This is what allows you to continue burning calories up to more than 24 hours after you exercise.

Calorie burning slows down soon after traditional cardio ends. But fat burning circuits promote a high metabolic rate allowing you to continue benefiting from your time spent exercising for a much longer time.

So not only can fat burning circuits be much quicker than regular cardio, but they continue rewarding you even after you are done.

12 Minute Fat Burning Workout

Trainer Lindsey has put together an easy-to-follow 12 Minute Fat Burning Workout that can guide you through an example of this form of exercise.

In this fat burning workout, you’ll do each of the 4 exercises for 45 seconds each, with a 15-second rest in between. This should take a total of 4 minutes.

That is 1 round. Try to do 3 rounds in a row without taking any more breaks than the 15 seconds after an exercise. That will be your 12-min fat burning workout.

If you need to take more breaks, take them between each round, for 1 to 2 mins. That will make your total workout time either 14 or 16 minutes.

Here are your exercises:


Medicine Ball Slam

Man Makers

Jump Rope

Are Fat Burning Circuits Effective for You

Fat burning circuits are quite efficient at fat burning.

Not only can the circuits be done in a shorter amount of time, but they allow you to benefit from increased calorie burning for hours after completing the workout.

If the results of fat burning circuits align with your fitness goals, then this is an extremely effective way to accomplish those.

While fat burning can be a tricky side of fitness, it is important to remember that whether or not a certain form of exercise has proven efficiency does not matter if it does not allow you to enjoy your lifestyle.

If you are dreading your workouts, and find little joy in doing them, it is time to switch things up.


Like any other workout, you will get out what you put in, so find something that you enjoy putting in the work for!

Fat burning circuits tend to be effective for certain fitness goals, but this does not make it the perfect fit for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to try new things, and fight to find those workouts that bring you a sense of accomplishment and strength.

Fat burning circuits can be an incredible opportunity to add variety to your fitness regimens and rekindle your motivation!

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Siena Becker

Siena Becker

Writer and expert

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