Saturday, April 4, 2009

How to Add Cardio to Your Circuit-Training Sessions Without Doing Cardio

Let's say you've already implemented the oft-recommended strategy of doing your strength-training routine circuit-style. That is, you do all or a group of your resistance exercises back to back with no rest in between moves. (An example would be single-arm rows followed by Romanian deadlifts followed by biceps curls followed by dumbbell side crunches.) You're getting your heart rate up, breaking a sweat, getting in and out of the gym quicker than ever.

But you don't have a complete workout---not just yet. Chances are you still need to supplement your strength exercises with at least 20 minutes of cardio (right?), which can get time-consuming. The good news: you don't have to work out this way every time.

You can sneak brief bouts (30-60 seconds) of cardio into your strength routine at regular intervals to maintain an elevated heart rate for the duration of your circuit workout. This is considered high-intensity training. Let me give an example. Let's say you have ten exercises you want to complete (abs included). Divide these into two circuits of five exercises each, including a variety of muscle groups in both circuits so that you can perform the exercises back to back. Circuit 1 might include dumbbell chest flies, crunches on the bench, squats, push-ups, and a plank hold. Complete one set of each, and then immediately following your plank hold do 60 seconds of jumping rope or squat jumps. Rest for a minute or two, then repeat the circuit for a second (and, if you wish, third) set.

Here are some options for cardio intervals you might include in your workout:
  • Jumping rope
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Squat jumps (squat down, jump up, land softly in a squat, repeat)
  • Lunge jumps (drop into a lunge, jump up, switch legs and land softly in a lunge with the other foot forward, repeat)
  • Cross-country skiers (like lunge jumps but don't lower body weight toward the floor)
  • Bench step-ups
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks
  • Speed skaters (take a big jump out to one side with your right foot while crossing your left leg behind you and touching the floor or a cone with your right hand; jump back to left and repeat)
  • Up and overs (stand to one side of a bench or aerobic step; plant one foot firmly on top of the bench and step or jump sideways over the top, landing on the other side with your opposite foot planted on top; repeat)
  • Mountain climbers
  • Side-to-side shuffles

This list can go on and on. Anything that keeps you moving consistently and continuously for a period of at least 30 seconds and gets your heart rate up counts as cardio.

Note: You should still be a little winded while doing your weight exercises, and your heart rate should feel elevated. On a difficulty scale of 0 to 10, if zero is resting and 10 is sprinting for your your life, your cardio intervals should feel like at least an 8 and your lifting intervals a 6. If this is not the case, you may need to do one cardio interval every three strength exercises instead of every five.

Adding regular cardio intervals will increase the intensity of your circuit-training session and combine elements of cardio and strength for a complete workout. If you always do separate strength and cardio sessions, try substituting this workout twice a week for renewed results.

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