Unconventional Cardio

When someone mentions cardio training, how do you react? Do you try to avoid it? What are you picturing in your mind? Is it the treadmill, stepmill or even the elipptical? Are you imagining long periods of time spent running outside? It is time to change your thinking.

While all of the above are conventional means for getting cardio exercise, conventional cardio isn’t the only way to get your heart pumping. If you bother to think about what you are attempting to do (ie. get your heart rate up so you burn fat) you will realize that there are other ways to approach the cardio situation.

Weight Train With Short Rest Periods

One approach is to lift heavy, but use very short (ie. 30 seconds or less) rest periods. This forces your heart rate to elevate and keeps it up there. At the same time, you get all the benefits of strength training. This is a similar approach to that used in the Turbo Program.

Use a Circuit of Compound Movements

Another approach to cardio is to string together 3 or 4 compound exercises (ie. squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.) and do them in succession with heavy weights and no rest. One I’ve tried is to put 225 lbs. on the squat bar and do 10 reps, then go to a 315 lbs. deadlift and do 10 reps, then do a 180 lbs. bench press and do 10 reps. After resting, I might repeat this circuit 4 or 5 times. Again, the heart rate rises and you get the benefits of strength training thrown in. This approach is similar to the New Rules of Lifting approach.

Tabata Training

The principle behind Tabata Training is to couple one extremely intense interval with a rest period that lasts for half the time as the intense interval. Generally, this is going to mean doing 20 seconds of intense training followed by 10 seconds of “rest” time. You can use any exercise that allows you to adjust the intensity. In keeping with today’s theme that weight training can be part of your cardio routine, allow me to explain a Tabata training I did last year. I did a five minute warm up. I then did 20 seconds of medium heavy front squats. I then racked the bar for 10 seconds. I repeated those intervals 8 times followed by a 2 minute cool down. Total time was 11 minutes, but it was intense! Beginners beware! Don’t push yourself over the top of your maximum heart rate.

Strongman Training

The final technique I am going to discuss for non-conventional cardio training is strongman training. In the video below I show a short segment of one of my recent cardio sessions. This session was a HIIT protocol using non-conventional equipment. Here is the exact workout:

Exercise 1:

270 lbs. loaded on a Prowler — push 75 yards at a sprint, turn around, push back 75 yards at a sprint.
Sprint 75 yards at full speed, touch wall, return 75 yards at full speed

Rest 30 seconds.

Repeat the above 3 times.

Exercise 2:

20 lb. medicine ball overhead toss with a partner for a total of 100 repetitions

Rest 30 seconds

Repeat the above 3 times

Exercise 3:

Farmer’s carry (90 lbs. per arm) for 75 yards one way and 75 yards the other way

Rest 30 seconds

Repeat the above 3 times

Exercise 4:

270 lbs. loaded on a Prowler — push 75 yards at a sprint, turn around, push back 75 yards at a sprint.
Sprint 75 yards at full speed, touch wall, return 75 yards at full speed

Rest 30 seconds.

Repeat the above 3 times.

The total for all 4 exercises was 45 minutes of training. Check out the video to see a portion of this workout.

Conclusion

Cardio doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t have to be conventional. In fact, it has become my belief that the more interesting you make your cardio the more likely you are to finish it. I also believe that cardio needs to be changed up regularly just like weight training does. Thus, you are going to need new tools in your cardio tool kit in order to accomplish this. What are you waiting for? Get to the gym and find a new way to do cardio!

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