Saying the words to a powerlifter can be like waving a red flag in front of a bull.
I know what you’re thinking. Long-limbed, lean beanpoles slogging out their guts running marathons. Gym-goers raging war against cross-trainers and treadmills. Even that young dad next door jogging with a pram full of babies. You get the picture.
What’s all the fuss about? Why can’t you just Netflix n’ chill after work instead of getting your dose of cardio?
Bear with me, and you’ll see why cardio is a fad that will never die away.
Somehow deep down, you know that it must be good for you. Why else are you reading this article?
Here’s the bad news. After reading this, you’re probably going to be finding a lot more time for cardio workouts.
The good news? This is the good news. Read on to see why cardio exercise is the real deal when it comes to your health and fitness.
- 1 The Importance Of Cardiovascular Exercise
- 2 High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- 3 Tabata Cardio
- 4 Cardio Plyometrics Workouts
- 5 Cardio Running Workouts
- 6 Skipping Rope – One of The Best Cardio Workouts Around
- 7 Landscape Feature Workouts
- 8 Cardio Workouts at Home
- 9 Guerrilla Cardio
- 10 Final Words – Make Cardio a Part of Your Life
- 11 Other Helpful Resources
The Importance Of Cardiovascular Exercise
There’s a reason everyone from nutritionists to lifestyle experts won’t shut up about the value of a good ol’ cardio workout… A damn good reason!
Exercise is broken down into two divisions: aerobic and anaerobic. To keep it brief, during aerobic fitness the body uses oxygen to work the muscles, whereas during anaerobic other processes are used.
Think of your body as a car, and your heart the engine. Cardiovascular a.k.a. aerobic exercise focuses on working that engine.Think of your body as a car, and your heart the engine. Click To Tweet
Here’s the deal:
The more oxygen in your blood, the better. The heart and lungs are a team that supply oxygen to your muscles via blood. Cardiovascular exercise improves the ability of this team to get the job done.
As your muscle mass increases your cardiovascular system will have its work cut out for it- there is more muscle to deliver oxygen to. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it.
That’s why cardio fitness is so important- you wouldn’t drive a truck with a car engine, would you?
Not only does cardio exercises turbocharge the ability of the heart to deliver oxygen, it also helps your muscles utilize the stuff more effectively.
Think you can stand on a gyrating gizmo for 20 minutes a day and cut that fat? We’ve all seen enough 80’s infomercials to know that some things are probably too good to be true.
The connection between cardiovascular activity and fat loss is widely acknowledged. The guidelines of the Australian Heart Foundation define that exercises removing fat involve “continuous moderate aerobic exercise” with at least five 30-minute sessions a week.
Give the gizmos a go. But if you want to play it safe, cardio is the tried and tested way to get rid of that spare tyre around your waist.
The Benefits Of Doing Cardio Exercises
Here are some of the widely-recognized fruits of cardio:
- Strengthening the heart muscle and improving its efficiency
- Strengthening muscles used for respiration
- Lowering the resting heart rate
- Reducing blood pressure
- Reducing risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Increasing red blood cell count to improve carriage of oxygen
- Improving circulation of blood
- Cardio Increases effect of strength training
- Improving mental health
Do you see where we’re going with this?
The list goes on, and more and more reasons to practice cardio exercise are being uncovered.
“Studies show that people who participate in regular aerobic exercise live longer than those who don’t exercise regularly.”
Reference: mayoclinic.org – Aerobic exercise: Top 10 reasons to get physical
The list of common criticisms of cardio is surprisingly brief:
- Consistent use required to achieve fat loss
- Does not build muscle effectively
- Can be prone to causing overuse injuries e.g. ‘runner’s knee’
Even on a glance of these two lists without reading the rest of this article, you get a pretty good picture. Cardio. It’s pretty good, isn’t it?
So why is it that so many people are filled with dread when they hear the word cardio? We’ve all seen the human triangles whose idea of cardio is the gym’s three steps up to the squat rack.
The traditional cardio workout is low to mid-intensity and lasts for a minimum of 20 minutes. Classic cardio workouts include: swimming, jogging, running, walking and cycling.
Exercise bikes, cross-trainers and treadmills are your cardio classics at the gym; your real bread and butter.
To get the benefits like the ones listed above requires commitment- at least three sessions a week. Annoying, isn’t it?
Good news! These aren’t your only options on the cardio menu. There’s a whole bunch of cardio workouts that are sexier than this old-school formula.
Let’s break cardio down and take a look at some of the newer cardio workouts. But before you move on, go check out your current fitness level using this sweet piece of program.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
So, What’s The Deal With This HIIT Thing?
This is the stuff to get your heart pounding like a brick in a tumble-dryer.
Hint: ‘intensity’ is a bit of a giveaway.
Yup, you guessed it. It’s intense. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or Interval Training, is all about short, intense bursts of exercise and low-intensity recovery periods. This form of exercise has been around for about 20 years, and it is gaining traction in the fitness world fast.
Owing to how hard HIIT works your cardio system, it isn’t for the faint-hearted. For real. HIIT may not be advisable to those with cardiovascular issues.
It’s serious stuff. That’s why it takes serious drive to opt for this type of cardio training.
How To Do An HIIT Workout
HIIT trainings alternate between periods of high and low-intensity exercise. Sprint on a treadmill for 20 seconds followed by walk for 40. Rinse and repeat. This is an example of a HIIT cardio workout.
There’s no standard formula for the length of an HIIT workout, but most people tend to aim for 30 minutes maximum.
Since your body is worked so hard by HIIT it needs a full 48 hours to recover. For this reason people tend not to do HIIT more than two or three times a week.
Pros Of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Presenting To You; “The Afterburn Effect”
Fat seems like a real four-letter word in the health world.
Enter: High Intensity Interval Training; fat’s kryptonite.
This training has been proven to be massively effective at burning fat stores while maintaining muscle mass.
Many studies have proved HIIT to be much more effective than endurance cardio at burning fat.
HIIT has been shown to burn calories up to 142% greater than low-intensity cardio exercise!
What’s more, the “Journal of Obesity” revealed in a 12-week study that HIIT increases muscle mass while burning body fat- primarily lost from the torso and visceral areas.
Got your attention yet?
Here’s how it works.
HIIT is like a turbocharged workout for your heart. It is so effective at challenging your heart that long after your workout your body will continue burning fat. This is known as ‘afterburn’ a.k.a. EPOC- excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
With an HIIT workout you are going so hard that your body can’t deliver all the oxygen your muscles need. Your muscles are in debt, and your metabolism is the debt collector.
And he’s one badass individual!
HIIT Workouts Are Damn Time Efficient
Maybe you’re not looking to wage war against body fat, and just fit in a time-efficient workout.
With only 30 or 40 minutes you can go hard, so Interval Training ticks another box. This type of workout has been engineered for maximum gains in the shortest timeframe possible.
Tabata is a form of HIIT developed in the 90s by Dr Izumi Tabata to train Olympic speed skaters.
A typical Tabata set is 4 minutes long, alternating between two high-intensity exercises, each lasting for 20 seconds with 10 second rest intervals. It’s pretty hardcore.
WARNING: This is no entry-level workout regime.
The short rest periods make your body go into overdrive!
“Each exercise in a given Tabata workout lasts only four minutes, but it’s likely to be one of the longest four minutes you’ve ever endured.”
Reference: active.com – What is Tabata Training?
But this is why it is even more effective at burning calories and at achieving a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Your afterburn is amplified even greater than during a regular HIIT training.
You can repeat sets until you are spent- as this is a HIIT, going beyond 30 minutes is not what we are after. Between sets rest for 1 minute.
Here’s a potential Tabata set to get you going:
Exercise 1: Burpees
Exercise 2: Squat Jumps
Really, you can follow the 20-second work/10-second rest formula and build your own Tabata workout.
Just pick and choose your exercises from some of the classics: burpees, push-ups, lunges, sprints…
Cardio Plyometrics Workouts
Plyometrics focuses on bringing you speed, agility and explosive power. Power and raw strength, the way NFL players can plow through a defensive line like a knife through butter. The way Manny Pacquaio throws a jab. The way Venus Williams launches for a volley shot.
You get the picture.
This type of training is a beautiful combination between cardio and strength training. As it is an HIIT workout, it’s a brilliant way to get big results from your workout in a small amount of time.
Your muscles are trained on reaching maximum power in the shortest time possible. Whenever you need to move mass or exert force in a sudden movement, you’re using plyometric power.
The secret? Gravity. Plyometrics make your body work against gravity, utilizing an amazingly overlooked workout resource.
Push-up claps. Jump squats. Box jumps. These are all plyometric exercises that use gravity to provide resistance, maximizing how hard your body needs to work.
Give it a go!
15-minute Plyometrics Workout
Warm up for a minute jogging. Complete each exercise for 30 seconds followed by a 30 second rest period. Repeat. 5 rounds will bring you to a 15-minute sweatstorm.
- Tuck jumps
- Jump squats
- Clap push-ups
Cardio Running Workouts
There’s a reason people think of running when they hear the word ‘cardio’. It’s pretty much the Big Mac to McDonald’s.
The Benefits Of Running
An hour of running will burn roughly 600 calories an hour- roughly DOUBLE the number of calories of a weights session at the gym.
Running is a killer cardio workout -highly effective at working your leg muscles and core.
And it makes you FEEL GOOD:
The ‘runner’s high’ is a real thing, despite the science behind it being a little hazy. Some studies claim the dopamines released by running create euphoric feelings, while others claim it’s your higher body temperature that achieves this. Bottom line is, running makes your feel good.
WebMD’s Dr Bryan states “On average, you tend to see people who are runners and habitual exercisers having better moods, suffering from less depression and less anxiety, and more general feelings of well-being.” Clearly, running’s doing something good for mental health.
Compared to those who never run, people who run consistently have half the chance of dying from heart disease. That’s pretty hard to argue with.
Is paying for a gym membership your go-to excuse not to work out? I wouldn’t blame you if that’s the case. That’s the beauty of running. No fees, and no commute to the gym.
So get yourself some running shoes and get out there!
The Hometraininghero’s Beginner’s Running Plan
It can be tough starting out. I get it.
But here’s the good news:
There are ways you can ease into running and make small, steady gains. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
This beginner’s plan is ideal for someone new to running, or perhaps has let their running shoes gather dust.
For the first 2 weeks, aim for 3 runs a week. Each run, you’re going to start out walking for 5 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of jogging/running (whatever feels comfortable). Turn around and head back the way you came, slowing to a walk when you’re about 5 minutes from your start point.
Now you’re starting to build your cardio base and are ready to train 4 times a week. Same deal as before, but this time run for 18 minutes each way. That’s a 46-minute workout with 36-minutes of running.
You get the drill- 5 minute walk, break into running, for 20 minutes before turning back. You can start to push yourself a little harder, especially during this first 20 minute portion of the run. This is a 50-minute set including the 10-minutes of warm-up and warm-down. Aim to complete 5 of these sessions each week.
Skipping Rope – One of The Best Cardio Workouts Around
Skipping is another MONSTER calorie burner. 1000 calories an hour is nothing to poke a stick at.
“Jumping rope is a great calorie-burner. You’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you’d burn jumping rope.”
Reference: webmd.com – Skipping Rope Doesn’t Skip Workout
Skipping Rope Workout
First, you’re going to want to get yourself a good rope. What’s a good rope, you say?
Plastic or beaded ropes are more hard-wearing and can be used for advanced techniques.
When you stand on the middle of your rope, the handles should reach all the way to your armpits. No further.
There are a bunch of different exercises that you can alternate between during a skipping workout.
Forward jump: the most basic method. Every turn of the rope, jump forward over it.
Side-to-side: Each turn of the rope, jump a few inches to the left, then next turn to the right.
Backward: The same as the forward jump, but jump backwards. The name is pretty self-explanatory.
Single leg: Landing softly, jump on one foot each turn.
Landscape Feature Workouts
Let’s face it. Gym gear can be expensive.
There are features of an urban landscape that you can use to boost your cardio, and all for free!
Are you too afraid to use the stair-climber at the gym? Maybe it’s because when you use it you look like an alien trying to do the Macarena?
Turns out you may have been missing out on another killer workout!
Remember seeing Rocky running up the stairs of the Washington Monument? Rocky knows something a lot of people don’t: Stair-climbing is a powerful weapon in the cardio arsenal…
It’s even more effective than those creepy-looking stair-climber machines at the gym.
Stair-climbing combines cardio and strength while burning a ton of calories.
Stair Workout Ideas
- Standard: Jog or run up, and walk back down.
- Weight-assisted: Same as standard, but carry dumbbells or wear a weight vest.
- Plyometrics: As you make to each stair landing, do a set of burpees, squats or push-ups.
WARNING: It’s a much better idea to walk rather than run back down the stairs. Not only does this reduce your risk of falling, but it is much easier on your joints.
Another classic gym gimmick is the step platform. Sure, you could pay $50 for a fancy branded one or you could just head to the nearest street or park bench.
Benches use your body-weight for resistance.
Bench Workout Ideas
- Face the bench with your arms at your sides.
- Put your right foot on the bench, raising your left arm with your hand held high and elbow at a 90 degree angle.
- As you step up, raise your left knee to the level of your hips, raising your right arm and swinging the left down. Plant your left foot before stepping back down.
- Swap legs and repeat.
- Position your hands a little further than shoulder-width apart on the bench.
- Step back and straighten your body- your head should be a little in front of your hands.
- Now perform a push-up, getting your chest as close to the bench as you can.
You see? The landscape is full of exercise equipment just waiting for you to utilize it:
You can literally use anything in the landscape to increase the intensity of your workout and get that sweat on.
Cardio Workouts at Home
Home is as good a place as any for working out.
Just because you’re not surrounded by huge guys pumping iron doesn’t mean you can’t make some gains all by yourself.
When it comes to cardio circuits at home, your imagination is the limit: burpees, mountain climbers, jumping squats, push-ups…
Pick a timeframe you know you can achieve- 25 or 30 minutes is a decent chunk.
Stuck for ideas? Here is a sample workout.
The Hometrainingheros at Home Cardio Workout Idea
Squat jumps: 60 seconds
Sit-ups: 25 seconds
Skaters: 60 seconds
Skipping rope: 60 seconds
Star-jumps: 60 seconds
Push-ups: 60 seconds
Burpees: 60 seconds
The liberator of abs.
That caught your attention, didn’t it?
Again, this one’s got a name that will send the couch potatoes dissolving into their armchairs.
While this fitness method still relatively underground, it has a big claim: guerrilla cardio cuts belly fat faster than ANY other cardio program.
4 minutes a day for 3 days a week. You can do that, can’t you?
It’s probably going to be the most gut-wrenching 4 minutes of your day.
Haven’t been scared off? Try this sample sprinting guerrilla workout.
4 minutes of warm-up jogging.
8 sets of the following:
- 20 seconds sprinting at maximum effort
- 10 seconds rest
4 minutes of warm down jogging.
Final Words – Make Cardio a Part of Your Life
Let’s wrap this up.
Cardio is all about looking after the engine that powers you- your heart. Developing a strong cardiovascular system is going to benefit both your mind and body.
“People who don’t exercise are almost twice as likely to get heart disease as people who are active.”
Reference: webmd.com – Exercise for a Healthy Heart
Want to live a longer, healthier, happier life? For the record, cardio is probably your safest bet.
Improving your mental health, improving essential body functions and increasing life expectancy; these are just some of the known benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise.
And that’s not to mention cardio as a master blaster of fat.
Our lives are busier and more complicated than ever. I get it. It can be the hardest thing in the world to make time or summon the effort for a lengthy workout.
But now you know! The myth has been debunked: you absolutely DO NOT have to spend hours slaving away on the treadmill to have an effective cardio workout.
Depending on your goals, you might even get more results with a SHORTER session. You have a bunch of new tools in your cardio toolbox to get a great cardio workout.
You don’t even have to pay membership fees or waste time commuting to the gym.
If you’re going to walk away from one thing from this article, it’s that cardio is a winner.
Other Helpful Resources
hometraininghero.com – 3 Reasons Why Your Cardio Program Sucks