You work hard to stack on muscle and the thought of sweating through cardio makes you cringe—maybe because you hate clocking time on the treadmill, or because you fear your well-earned muscle will take a hit. Well, we're here to change that mindset.
Sure, if you run 80 miles a week and never touch a weight, you'll certainly drop muscle—and fast. But, a certain amount of strategic cardio is not only safe, it's smart. In fact, cardio can boost cognition and add three years to your life.
Better yet? It doesn't have to suck. We found eight ways to make cardio more "fun" (or at least not quite as mentally painful)—each with a fat-burning (and muscle building) workout routine, all designed by ACE Certified Personal Trainer and UFC Soho Fitness Coach Kenny Valentin. "The key to getting lean and sustaining your muscle mass, is by performing exercises that combine strength training and cardio," says Valentin.
From flipping tires to pushing sleds, these killer cardio workouts will build muscle, boost endurance, and shred that layer of excess fat—for good.
Directions: Attach a rope (or chain) to the end of a sled, and sprint out while pushing the sled until the length of the rope. Once you run the full length of the rope, turn around and sprint back to the end of the rope, grab tight, and pull it right back to you, then gear up for the next lap.
REPS: 10 laps
WEIGHT: Lap 1: weight of just sled Lap 2-5: increase weight each lap by 15-45lb Lap 6-9: decrease weight each lap by 15-45lb Lap 10: weight of just sled
REST: Lap 1: 15 seconds Lap 2-5: increase by 5 seconds each lap Lap 6-10: decrease by 5 seconds each lap
Directions: Stand in place with feet shoulder width apart, and jump onto a box with either a weighted vest or holding a dumbbell. Step back down to land softly and safely, but remember to focus on going as fast as you can while maintaining proper form.
REPS: 15 jumps as fast as you can in 1 minute, for 10 minutes
REST: The amount of time remaining after you completed 15 jumps in the one minute
Directions: With a sledge hammer, place one hand on the top of the handle and one on the bottom, then hit the tire (or rubber plate if no tire available). “Slide your hands together to the bottom of the hammer in mid-swing—this will generate the most power,” says Valentin. Reset your hands for each swing.
REPS: 40 seconds work
REST: 20 seconds rest
SETS: 10 minutes sledge hammer tabata
Use a timer and switch sides half way through at 5 minutes
Directions: Step fast through an agility ladder, and then go straight into suicide sprints. Sprint out 15 feet, then sprint back to the starting point. Then sprint out 30 feet, back to the start, then out 45 feet, and back to the starting line.
Directions: Set up two cones about 15 feet apart, and carry kettlebells or dumbbells with arms to your side (like carrying a suit case) and posture upright as you walk around each cone in a figure 8 pattern.
REPS: 15 laps as fast as possible.
REST: 2 minutes after each full set; rest in-between each rep only if necessary
Directions: Attach one end of a tether band to a heavy object (like a tire or sled) and tie the other end around your waist; set up three cones 10 feet away from you, each equally apart from each other. Now, lay down on the floor, and then start: explode up from the ground and sprint to each cone (but once you touch a cone go back quickly to the starting point).
Other variations: side shuffling, back peddling, and bear crawling.
“This is a good way to maintain a decent load on the posterior chain so you don't lose those gains from all of the deadlifts you have been doing,” says Valentin.
Directions: “Force a thoracic extension (chest up and back arched) to help give you a neutral spine (straight back), and then keeping that neutral spine, pick up the tire and flip to the other side,” adds Valentin.
REPS: 15 flips as fast as you can in 1 minute, for 10 minutes
REST: The amount of time remaining after you completed 15 flips in the one minute