After a decadent night out in the North End of Boston which concluded with a cappuccino and cannoli, I felt the need to get moving and stay moving the next day. Monday is my typical running day and seeing as it was Thursday, I didn't feel like doing that.
As someone who identifies predominantly as a lifter, it took some convincing to get me to start running. Since then, I have spent my winters training for strength, and my summers training for 10Ks, 15Ks, and the occasional Spartan race. But I get the hatred of running. Cardiovascular exercise is good for you, but running isn't all that fun, especially if you're stuck inside on a treadmill.
When people think cardio, they often pigeonhole themselves into one of four categories: running (treadmill), elliptical, stair stepper or cycling. Well, I'm going to tell you that's not the end of your options. To broaden your horizons, I present five of my favorite non-running cardio-conditioning drills.
Each one of these are fundamentally different. If you like one, do more of it. If one's not up your alley, feel free to skip them. Each of the five will be presented with a video, description and a way to progress or modify the routine.
1. Step-Up and Cycle
For this routine, all you need is a box and an Airdyne or Assault bike. Pick the time interval and the weight of your choice. In this case, I chose a minute for each movement, and two chains as my weight for the Ste-Ups. The Step-Up portion shouldn't burn you out, but it should prime your legs for fatigue. After a minute of Step-Ups, hop on the bike. Then, ride light for 40 seconds, then as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Repeat this for 3-4 total rounds, and you just got a kickass cardio workout in under 10 minutes.
Progression: If you want to make this more challenging, you can increase the time to two minutes for each movement, add more weight to the step ups or add an extra round.
2. 10 Calories + Jump Squats
Pick any piece of cardio that tracks calories expended. In this case, I picked the ski erg. Recognizing that not every gym has one of these, you can broaden your options to a stair stepper, Jacobs ladder, row erg, Assault bike, etc. Go max effort until you reach 10 calories. Track how long it took you to hit that figure, then do Jump Squats for that exact interval (e.g., 25 seconds on the erg = 25 seconds of Jump Squats). Cap yourself at a max of 30 seconds on the Jump Squats since this will get tough.
Repeat for 4-6 rounds.
Progression: If you're feeling sadistic, you can increase the calories to 12 or 15.
3. The Loop
You're going to need a thick band and a place to anchor the band for this routine. I utilized the NT Loop, created by STACK expert Nick Tumminello. Pick any three exercises to pair together and go for 20 seconds on each one. For this, I chose Jump Squats, High Knees and Bear Crawls. There are other options out there, such as Broad Jumps, Spider Crawls or Mountain Climbers, so you can get creative with this. After 20 seconds on one exercise, make a quick transition to the next one.
Repeat for 3-5 total rounds.
Progression: Try a pyramid routine for this. Pick your three exercises. For the first set, do 10 seconds for each movement. For the next set, do 20 seconds for each movement. Then 30. Now gear that next set back to 20 seconds, then 10 seconds. That's one Pyramid set.
4. Kettlebell Complex
A complex involves a series of different resistance training movements put together without any rest. There are a lot of different routines that you can do that involve changing the movements or the modality. For example, I could have used a barbell or a sandbag for this routine. For this complex, I picked Romanian Deadlifts, Kettlebell Swings, Cleans and Squats, each done for 8 reps.
Repeat this 4-6 times to really get that heart rate up.
Progression: You can make this routine more challenging by increasing the weight or swapping out to a barbell complex. You can also change this routine by changing the exercises. Other exercises that can be used include Push Press, Front Squat (barbell only), Kettlebell Snatch, Goblet Squat, etc.
5. Jump, Split, Crawl
This one is deceptively challenging. Pick a distance to do a forward and backward Bear Crawl. Start with one Jump Squat and two Split Jumps (one on each leg), then do your Bear Crawl. Once you're back at your starting point, that's one round. The next round, perform 2 Squats and 4 Split Jumps (2 on each leg), and do the crawl again. Continue until you get to five completed rounds..
Progression: If you insist! Try going up another round if going to five isn't tough enough. You can also increase the distance for the bear crawl. If you're feeling up to it, you could also throw a weight vest on. Lastly, you could add mountain climbers to the mix.
Photo Credit: Milkos/iStock
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