Cardio is a word that can invoke similar responses to camping, Justin Bieber and Marmite. Love it or hate it, you need to do it for cardiovascular health, a metabolism boost and to accelerate active recovery from other workouts, while also improving your hormonal health and stress levels.
So why the bad rap? Well, it used to be something done while locked to bulky machines in the name of logging hours. Fortunately, there are plenty of non-traditional ways to do cardio without setting a foot set on a treadmill.
1. Long walks and hikes
Long walks deliver a much-needed breather from intense training. Long rucks, done carrying a weighted backpack, offer the same benefits. Try just 30-45 minutes of activity for this type of cardio.
2. Jump rope
For just $5 you can get a quality rope you can take anywhere. It improves coordination and conditioning and will have your heart pumping in just minutes. You can intermix jumping rope with other exercises, or just use the jump rope by doing something like one minute on and 30 seconds’ recovery for 10-20 minutes.
3. Hill sprints
They’re a challenge but fun. Plus, they target the glutes while being far easier on the knees than flat sprints. Simply find a hill and run up it as fast as you can. Jog back down. Rest briefly and then repeat until you feel your form deteriorate.
4. Lift odd objects
It’s fun to play with things you don’t normally lift, like sandbags or tires. It forces you to transfer your strength towards efficiently moving objects that aren’t neat like dumbbells. Doing tire flips for time or sandbag runs are great ways to condition the legs, core and lungs.
5. Battling ropes
Expect these to humble you. They’ll develop power, explosiveness, and anaerobic and aerobic endurance. Plus, they’re low-impact and balance out side-to-side muscular imperfections.
It can be pushed, pulled or even dragged to increase strength and work capacity. By varying the load or distance, you have endless possibilities. If the sled is light, you can sprint as hard as you can with it for short distances and timed recoveries.
If it’s heavy, you can push it for longer distances and tax your muscular endurance. One simple workout is to load the sled with your bodyweight and sprint with it for a set distance. Rest the amount of time it took you to sprint, then repeat.
7. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings burn 20 calories per minute, which gives you total-body strength and power. They’re hip dominant, but you do use nearly every muscle in your body, so the exercise elevates heart rate and boost overall functional strength.
8. Barbell Complexes
This is several exercises performed back to back using only one weight. You can’t set the bar down until all reps of all exercises are complete. That counts as one set. You’ll take a brief rest and repeat for the desired number of sets.
Try the bear complex which involves:
1) Power clean
2) Front squat
3) Push press
4) Back squat
5) Push jerk
Completion of all five lifts is one rep. Choose between five sets of five reps, or five sets of seven reps, and rest for five minutes between each set.
9. Wall Balls
These are simple and need no gym. They challenge coordination and explosive strength as well as muscular strength in the hips, glutes, legs, core, arms and shoulders.
One of the easiest wall-ball-based workouts is a Crossfit WOD called ‘Karen’, which is 150 wall balls for time. You can use any weight you want and it’ll leave you breathless.
You’ll do one exercise after another with no rest. You can easily transition almost any workout into a circuit by stringing exercises back to back. It’s time efficient and elevates your heart rate by improving conditioning and muscular endurance using any exercises.
One really basic example of a total body circuit workout with an aerobic component would be:
Military press x10
Bent-over row x10
You could do as many sets as you want and rest as little or as long as desired. Kiss that treadmill goodbye for good.
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