HIIT or Circuit Training? Differences, Benefits, and 3 Bonus Workouts

Your workout doesn’t always have to be the same old routine. You can switch things up by changing the way you do it. HIIT (= High Intensity Interval Training) and circuit training are two great ways to keep things interesting. Here you decide whether you’d rather do a time-based training (HIIT) or work out with a set number of repetitions (circuit training). 

We’ll present two workouts with different levels that you can do both ways. Plus, we’ve got a third version that will help you push yourself even harder! 

Before you get started…

You don’t need any equipment for the workouts, because the exercises use your own bodyweight. You can do these bodyweight exercises at home, in the office, at the park, or in a hotel room while you’re traveling. 

Try it with HIIT:

What is HIIT?

The basic principle behind HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is to work out at the highest possible intensity at a maximum heart rate in a relatively short time period. After this comes the recovery phase. This kind of workout originated in the field of endurance sports and has become a regular component in strength-endurance bodyweight training. Many studies have documented the success of this training method, especially when it comes to losing weight.(1) What makes HIIT different is that you do as many exercises as possible during a defined time period. 

What are the benefits of HIIT?

  • You save time with HIIT. This training is great as a quick workout with a lot of benefits when you’re short on time. In 15 to 20 minutes you can do an entire workout. Training two or three times a week is enough. Always allow yourself the time to cool down after every workout.  
  • HIIT boosts your endurance. Your body requires more oxygen and your metabolism kicks into gear when you switch from intense effort to active recovery phases. Your VO2 max increases, through which your body learns to use oxygen more effectively during exercise. 
  • HIIT boosts fat burning. Since your body continues working after the workout to return to its resting state, it still needs energy and burns calories and body fat. This afterburn effect can last a few hours. The high level of exertion during the training burns additional fat. 

How do I do a HIIT workout? 

Start with a warm-up (e.g. active stretching) followed by 20 seconds of high effort with a short recovery phase of 10 seconds. Repeat this 8 times. You can, of course, also mix things up. Increase the exercise time to 30 seconds and stretch out the breaks to 15 seconds. Keep in mind that your entire workout shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes. This is called Tabata Interval Training. You push yourself to the limit with every exercise. The number of repetitions is irrelevant here. At the end of each exercise you should have the feeling that you’ve given everything you’ve got.

  • The following exercises are included in this workout: cat-cow, jog in place, squats,  sit-ups, high knees.
  • For each exercise: 20 seconds of effort, 10 second break. Do 2 to 3 sets and take 10 second breaks after each set, too.

Try circuit training:

What is circuit training?

In traditional circuit training you move from one station to the next. You alternate between a  predefined number of repetitions and breaks, and then a longer break after each set. You can also do this without equipment in the fitness center. Circuit training often includes classic exercises like push-ups and squats that work different muscle groups through the set. 

What are the benefits of circuit training?

  • Circuit training is great for beginners and advanced athletes. As you get stronger, you can increase the number of repetitions. 
  • You don’t go to your limits in circuit training. Nevertheless, you stimulate fat burning. 
  • A sophisticated circuit training works many different muscle groups. This way you strengthen different target areas in one workout. 

How do I do circuit training?

Choose 8 to 12 exercises for circuit training. Start with 10 to 15 repetitions and 2 to 3 sets. If you are up to it, you can do up to 5 sets in this workout. Take a 10 second break after each exercise. After one set, walk around for one minute to rest. This way you can recover while keeping your circulation flowing. 

  • This workout includes the following exercises: hip openers, lunge to high knee left & right, knee commander push-ups, squatting quick feet. 
  • For each exercise: Do 15 repetitions of each exercise. Take a 10 second break between each set. Do a total of 3 sets.

Combine the two types of workouts into one

  • Alternate repetitions with duration in your workouts. This way you will challenge your body, circulation, and oxygen uptake even more. Static positions like planks or endurance exercises like high knees can be done as duration-based. Other exercises like squats or push-ups are usually done in repetitions. Mix things up: count to 25 while holding a position, or do squats for 45 seconds. Variety will make your training more fun! 
  • Take time to warm up. This will protect your tendons, muscles, and joints from injuries
  • It’s advisable to plan time to cool down. This brings your circulation and the muscles you worked back to a normal state. 
  • This workout includes the following exercises: 

Lunge to front kick left: 12 to 15 repetitions per side 

Commander push-ups: 45 seconds

Lunge to front kick right: 12 to 15 repetitions per side 

Reverse plank: 45 seconds

Prone X: 12 to 15 repetitions

Alternate between duration and number of reps and take a 10 second break after each exercise. If you want more of a challenge, skip the breaks. 


You can do any of these workouts as a HIIT training, a circuit training, or combine the two. Static positions are better suited to duration.

Have we piqued your interest? Find a great variety of workouts to do at home in the new Active & Energized Training Plan in the adidas Training app. Try it now! 


Tom Koscher As a personal trainer and running coach, Tom loves to inspire and challenge others with creative workout ideas. He simply cannot resist fitness challenges. Tom's motto is: why walk when you can run? View all posts by Tom Koscher