I have a love/hate relationship with cardio. I used to enjoy running, but its become something I don’t enjoy anymore – Im pretty sure cardio is something that most of us avoid, some of us hate, and very few of us love. Bottom line, is cardio will improve health, push you towards your fat loss result faster, (if thats one of your goals) and it will actually help you look more muscular if you’re pushing for hypertrophy (muscle gain), and it will absolutely improve your strength training in the gym.
Here are the favorite and most recommended:
If have never pushed a prowler in or at the end of a workout… YOU ARE MISSING OUT!!!! Prowlers are number one because they’re the best all around tool, that anyone can use safely while getting an insane metabolic workout in.
You can load it up and build strength without harming the knees and hips. You can keep it light and use it for injury free sprints. You can push it fast for short explosive bursts or you can push it slower for long steady pace durations.
So when we want to add cardio in without getting sore, this is perfect! Here’s an awesome Prowler finisher that never fails.
Set Out 3 Cones (10 Yards, 15 Yards, 20 Yards)
– Prowler Push (Sprint Pace) To Each Cone and Back For Time x3-6 Rounds
Sled pulls are also a good choice, for almost all the same reasons as the prowler. It’s joint friendly, can be light and fast or heavy and slow, can be used by almost anyone, and has multiple purposes or benefits behind it. The difference here, that makes it truly great, is that you can pull it in so many different ways – depending on what you’re going after.
You can row it, you can sprint forward with it, you can drag it backwards, you can bear crawl with it, you can walk laterally with it… the list goes on, it’s a great piece of equipment. Try this for sled pulls –
Distance Sled Drags
3 Minutes On / 1.5 Minutes Rest x6-8 Rounds
– Pull Forward x20-25 Yards & Drag Backwards x20-25 Yards
The Rower, is one of my favorite cardio go to – but not because it’s the ultimate fat burner (although it’s great for that).
I love the rower because it also trains your back musculature and can promote better posture. Too many people in the gym are stuck on their anterior chain (front side) for 75% of their training volume. Squats, sit-ups, bench presses, and curls. All things that promote shortened hip flexors and protracted shoulder blades.
We should to row 2x more than we push, in order to combat bad posture. In other words, let’s work our back side more than our front side. Well with rowing, we accomplish that. In fact it’s one of the only cardio methods that is repetitive posterior chain movements – which makes it a top dog for the average American gym goer.
But let’s add to that for the sake of burning fat and increase aerobic capacity. It is a movement that builds aerobic capacity and can seriously crank up your metabolic rate during a session. This will allow you to maintain and build some muscle, promotes quality movement patterns, and can burn some calories if you program it properly.
Here’s 4 ways to program your rowing for cardio, depending on your goals:
Intervals of 90 Seconds work / 60-90 Seconds Rest
Last Call Finisher
1,000 Meters / As Fast As Possible, 1 Round At The End Of A Strength Workout
250 Meters For Time / 45-60 Seconds Rest, 5-10 Rounds
500 Meters / 60 Second Rest
400 Meters / 60 Second Rest
300 Meters / 60 Second Rest
200 Meters / 60 Second Rest
100 Meters / DONE
The assault bike is a mental battle for me – you HAVE to be mentally strong to push through your time, distance, or calorie burn allotment on the assault bike.
Assault bikes are great because again, they’re super joint friendly. As you can see, that’s my number 1 priority with prescribing cardio. Cardio should NOT interfere with our lifting/workout goals, it should enhance it, and it should never negatively impact our movement capabilities.
But another thing I love about the assault bike is that it actually improves our squat form. They did a study that showed people who chose the bike for their cardio vs. walking or running, actually improved their squat. This is probably because of the movement of the hip and knees, moving together in unison.
But if we’re referring to aerobic capacity, building muscle, or fat loss – again it’s one of the best forms of cardio you can possibly choose.
Because it actually works the muscles in your legs. This means the assault bike can actually help BUILD muscle when not in a serious caloric deficit. This is HUGE because more cardio is known to be catabolic (aka – anti-muscle building).
Racing For Calories….
– 10 Calories For Time / 60-120 Seconds Rest x10 Rounds
Hill sprints have less hip extension, because the hill gets in the way. So although flat ground sprints may develop better hamstrings (probably splitting hairs with that statement), it takes down the injury risk of any lower back, hip, or hamstring injuries occurring. And again, if you cannot do it consistently then there’s no point in doing it at all.
Sprints in general, though, are fantastic because they build explosive speed and power, work on fast twitch muscle fibers, and create a very short burst high intensity stimulus – which we know is fantastic for increasing metabolic rate and burning body fat.
So for anyone who is or wants to become an athlete, or just look and perform like one, hill sprints are a definite suggestion of mine. The beauty of them, too, is that the protocols are so simple you really can’t mess them up:
3-4 Rounds Of Each Distance, For Time / Rest 60-120 Sec Between Rounds
– 10 Yards, 20 Yards, 30 Yards, 40 Yards
Walking can help lower cortisol, in fact, studies show that it’s literally the only type of cardio that can possibly lower our cortisol levels.
The best part about walking, though, is that it’s almost impossible to over do it and create a state of under-recovery. Walking is great because we can plan walks, count steps, or even hit the treadmill ALL while easily fitting it into your lifestyle plan.
Walking predominantly burns fat for fuel, can help burn a lot of extra calories, can help reduce stress if approached properly, and is extremely safe on joints and muscle mass. So if you’re looking to cut some calories but at a very low stress/demand approach – this is your go to.
Just walk more. Don’t overthink it.
For metcons, you are training bodyweight strength movements, in a high intensity fashion. Your heart rate is cranked, metabolism jumps up, and you can possibly even build some muscle. It is a great fat loss cardio method; it just works.
The benefits are that you’re promoting full body movement patterns in a way that can apply to and benefit much more than just cardio alone.