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Great Ways To Get In Cardio Without Running

Whenever I’m talking to someone about the benefits of burst training, quite frequently the question comes up…”so what do you do for cardio?” It’s like they’re thinking…”well don’t you have to also get on the treadmill, elliptical, etc?” I’ll say nope, not necessarily.

That’s usually when I get a funny look like really Shane are you serious? I just smile as I know the door has been opened to explain the real beauty of burst training.

While resistance exercises certainly play a part of the equation, the beauty of burst training is you can get the best of both worlds with one workout if you want. Strength training with cardiovascular conditioning all rolled up into one.

This is why I’ve long been a proponent of short duration, high intensity workouts and follow these routines myself.

For time crunched adults I know of no more efficient way to exercise for increasing lean muscle, dropping body fat, and getting in shape with workouts that take 30 minutes or less. This isn’t to say that additional cardiovascular exercise can’t be beneficial or warranted, but depending on your goals it may not be totally necessary.

More after the jump…

To this day there’s still a big misconception that if want to see really good results from your exercise routines, you have to spend an hour or more in the gym. It’s as if one has to spend 45 minutes to an hour doing weight training and then another 30 minutes or so doing cardio on some machine.

Go into the typical health club and that’s exactly what you’ll see a lot of folks doing. Regardless of whether they’re using machines or free weights, the norm is moving from exercise to exercise doing their 3 sets of 10 reps or whatever with a good bit of rest in between sets.

Now I’m not arguing this can’t be effective if the individual pushes themselves and works to progressively increase the intensity, but it’s far from being the most efficient means to exercise from a time standpoint.

Hey look if you enjoy going into the gym for a 60-90 minutes or more, far be it from me to tell you to do otherwise. Also if you’re doing things like bodybuilding, training for triathlon, etc, you’ll need to commit the extra time for training.

I’m not talking to those people right now. I’m talking to the typical middle age adult who has to wrestle with a busy schedule, but still desires to be fit.

Burst training is one of the best ways to go if you fall into that category.

So what exactly is this “burst training?” To put it simple, it’s a way to exercise that involves short bursts of high intensity activity followed by brief (often incomplete) recovery periods, then repeating.

These movements may involve free weights, kettlebells, sandbags, cables, bands, your own bodyweight, etc. The implements you could use and variety is endless. Same thing goes for the exercises themselves. Burst training isn’t about a certain set of exercises or type of equipment used, it’s about how you do the workout.

The common denominator could be summed up as “doing movements that typically work large muscle groups and employing them in a manner that produces a metabolic disturbance.”

You go really hard with a few movements, briefly rest and repeat, or proceed on to another group of movements.

It’s the nature in how you do the exercises and the structure of the workout itself that provides for the dual benefits of strength and cardio conditioning.

Let me give you an example.

Comparing burst training to a traditional health club type workout

Let’s say you’re doing a typical health club workout of some sort and this particular workout included having you do seated leg extensions, lat pulldowns, and a seated chest press. The guy behind the front desk might tell you to do 3-4 sets of each movement, resting in between sets, and move in checklist fashion through the workout.

There’s little cardiovascular work involved here, it’s obviously primarily resistance training. Your heart rate may go up a bit during the set while you’re exerting effort, but probably not much.

Alright contrast and compare that to what a snapshot of an example block of exercises in a burst training workout might look like.

Let’s just say for discussion purposes in this burst training workout one of your circuits included barbell squats, push-up’s, and barbell bent over rows. Again, let’s not get hung up on the exercises. I just want you to see the difference in how their put together.

In this particular burst training workout you’re going to do 10 reps of barbell squats, immediately followed by 10 push-up’s, and then 10 barbell bent over rows. You move quickly from one exercise to the next and select a weight that makes you have to work hard to get all 10 reps.

At then end of all three exercises you’d rest for 30-60 seconds and then repeat or move on to another circuit.

What do you think your heart rate is going to be like after you finish the third movement?

Oh yeah, it’s going to be up there. Don’t believe me go try it for yourself. Would there be cardiovascular benefits and improvements in conditioning occurring if you repeated this type of sequence? You betcha.

Cardio you see doesn’t have to come from an elliptical machine, stationary bike, treadmill, etc. There are lots of ways to get your heart rate up and complete cardiovascular “exercise.” Heck you could go out and chop firewood and be doing cardio.

The bottom line and point of this whole discussion is that you certainly don’t have to go out and run or jog.

I know it took me a minute to get to this point, but I wanted you to see the big picture on how exercises themselves don’t have to fall into specific categories of being for “strength training” or “cardio training.”

There can be a lot of cross-over depending on how the exercises are done. Again, this goes back to the initial training goal of the individual. My objective was to simply get you to see that cardio can come in many forms.

I quite frequently consult with clients in my Charleston personal training studio who can’t run for a specific reason, or maybe they simply don’t like to. I tell everyone if they’re willing to work hard, they can get in great shape without ever having to run if need be or not desired.

What’s the trade off?

You guessed it, there must be a willingness to work hard!

You see that’s one of the main reasons you don’t see more of the masses doing burst training in the health clubs, even though they could be in and out of there in half the time.

In order for burst training to be effective, you need to exert high intensity effort. In other words it’s not going to be easy! There’s no shooting the breeze with your buddies at the water cooler between sets, gawking around looking at the girls, posing in the mirror, etc. This is about getting down to business!

Enough on my sermon about burst training. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty on ways to get in some cardio without running.

Aside from burst training itself which can be done in lot of ways with countless exercise variations, I want to give you a list of specific exercises that could be done for cardio in lieu of running.

To really break this down for you, I’ve separated the list into separate categories for plyometric (impact) and non-plyometric (non-impact) movements. I felt this was important as some individuals will want to avoid exercises that involve a decent amount of joint compression.

This could be due to a previous injury, medical issue, or simply because of the individual’s body weight. For example, it’s not a good idea for significantly overweight or obese individuals to be doing high impact exercises with a lot of joint compression.

And lastly I’ve broken the list down into a further sub-category for bodyweight exercises and those involving equipment. That way you’ve got options regardless of what’s available to you for exercise equipment.

Ok, here you go…a short list of exercises you could do for cardio that DON’T involve running.

Plyometric Based Movements (Impact)

Bodyweight – Plyometric based

Burpees
Eight Count Body Builders
Grasshoppers
Skiers
Mountain Climbers
Mountain Jumpers
Mountain Jumpers with Push-Up’s
Jump Squats
Hindu Squat Jumpers
Bulgarian Squat Jumps
Tuck Jumps
Split Squat Jumps (aka Jump Alt Lunges)
Jumping Jacks
Crossover Jumping Jacks
Rocket Jumps

Equipment Assisted – Plyometric based

Jump Rope
Band Jump Outs
Band Jump Squats
Band Mountain Climbers
Box Step Up’s
Box Jumps
Box Side Shuffles
Medicine Ball Twisters
TRX Jump Squats
TRX Split Squat Jumps
Jumping Pull-Up’s (off box)

Non-Plyometric Based Movements (Non-Impact)

Bodyweight – Non Impact

Total Body Extension (burpee without the jump at the top)
Hindu Squats
Bodyweight Squats
Bodyweight Tabata Squats

Equipment Assisted – Non Impact

Rowing Intervals or sprints
Elliptical Intervals
Tire Flipping
Tire Pulling or Dragging
Heavy Rope Exercises
Heavy Bag Work
Shadow Boxing or partner punch mit work
Dumbbell Cross Cuts – DB Punching
Dumbbell Thrusters (squat to overhead press)
Upper body ergometer
Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell Snatches
Kettlebell Cleans
Kettlebell Clean to Press
Medicine Ball Slams
Medicine Ball Wall Toss
Medicine Ball “Wall Ball” (squat to overhead toss off wall and catch)
Medicine Ball Chop Tucks
Slider Mountain Climbers
Sled Push or Pull
Sandbag Shouldering
Sandbag Cleans
Sandbag Clean to Press
Sandbag Shucking
Sandbag Bear Hug Deadlifts
Barbell Tabata Front Squats
Barbell Tabata Back Squats
Barbell Hang Cleans
Barbell Power Cleans
Barbell Squat Cleans

Bottom line…

These are just a few examples and certainly this list could be much larger. I hope it at least gives you some ideas and opens up your mind to alternative ways to get in cardio if you can’t or don’t like to run.

Regardless of the limitations (be it physical, equipment, time, etc) there’s typically always a way to be found for getting in some cardio. You may have to get a little creative and think outside the box, but there’s definitely lots of options.

Don’t let tired excuses about “why you can’t” get in shape, drop a few pounds, or change your physique get in the way of what you could be doing.

If you need some help coming up with a personalized plan, ideas for workouts, or some assistance getting started seek the guidance of a fitness professional.

At my Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studio in Charleston, SC I’ve got a great team of fitness professionals who do this for local residents on a daily basis. If I can ever be of assistance please let me know.

Hope you enjoyed this post and picked up some helpful information. Take care- Shane.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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Category: Fitness Training.