One of the top questions that we get asked as trainers is either “What should I do for cardio,” or “Should I be doing cardio?” And you’re going to hate this answer, and it’s a total cliche, but….
It depends, the answer for any question. The reason is that it is going to depend on what you are training for. Training for a marathon, yea you’re going to need some cardiovascular training. Actually you are going to need a lot of it, like 26 miles worth of it. However, cardio doesn’t have to be just running on treadmills, sitting on a bicycles, or ellipticalling (I just make up a word) on ellipticals. Cardio is really anything that gets your heart rate and respiration rate elevated above its normal resting point. For some people, walking fast gets an elevated heart rate. For others, it may take a little more work.
Here we’re going to cover some explosive exercises that are going to jack up your heart rate right away, testing your work capacity.
In no particular order, here are 5 exercises that will test your cardio limits:
Sled/Prowler– If you’ve never experienced the prowler or “prowler flu,” you are in for a treat; And by treat, I mean an incredibly difficult workout. Pushing a prowler or sled is a lot like sprinting, but against a load. Here you have two options, you can either load it super heavy and work on strength or strength/endurance, or you can lighten it and use it for acceleration, speed, and conditioning. However, what you choose is based upon you and what your programs goal is.
Here’s your workout: 50 ft. (or space available) Every Minute on the Minute x10.
If you’re feeling extra saucy and want to test your upper limits, try 1 minute of work with 2 minutes of rest.
Kettlebell Swings- What looks like a squat with a front raise is actually an explosive, hip driven exercise meant to develop full body strength and mobility. Kettlebell swings are a great posterior chain exercise that will challenge your glutes and your anaerobic capacity when done correctly. If you’re new to swings, practice and get your technique right before you add quantity to your workout. Quality beats quantity.
Your challenge: 4x 25 swings with a 20-30 second break in between sets.
Sprints– As a former sprinter, nothing beats going to the track or a turf field and cranking out a bunch of sprints. But before you jump right into sprinting, you’re going to need to do some warm-up drills and get a little mobility. Why sprinting? Spiriting helps you burn fat, increase your metabolism, and increase your bodies’ ability to do work. Plus rather than jog for a half hour, you can sprint and get a much more efficient, time saving workout.
The Workout: I use this one quite often mostly because the shorter sprints allow my muscles and nervous system to wake up before I go all out (by all out I mean 80-90% effort) for my longer sprints.
Battle Ropes- One of the great things about battle ropes is that anyone can do them. It’s all a matter of how much intensity and force you can put into them. Another awesome aspect is you can vary the waves you make with ease. As with the sprints, they will help build anaerobic and aerobic capacity. So think of the ropes as sprints for your upper body.
The Workout: 10 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest x8
Medicine Ball Slams- Pick up a ball and slam it over and over again. What’s not fun about that? In addition to getting a great conditioning workout in, you get to take out some aggression on a ball. Some med balls bounce, some don’t, but either way it requires putting a great deal of force into the ground. Make each slam as explosive as possible.
The Workout: One of my favorites is a tabata influenced interval of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest x 8 rounds.
All of these have a common theme, they are intense and require an all-out effort which almost always results in an uptick in metabolism which will help burn fat.
Cardio isn’t all about going slow and steady on a treadmill, it can equally be more explosive moves that will help develop your work capacity. Exercises like the above will provide an intense cardio session that will benefit your entire body. In addition to doing each exercise separate, you can combine some into a circuit type workout for an even bigger calorie burn.
It is important to note that none of this matters. What I mean is that none of these moves matter if you’re not putting effort into your nutrition. That’s what matters most when it comes to losing fat. Because in the end, you can’t out train a bad diet.