5 Triple-Duty Exercises that Combine Power, Strength, and Cardio

A young woman doing Triple-Duty Exercises

Who doesn’t appreciate exercises that offer multiple fitness benefits at the same time? You have to love movements that build strength and power while getting your heart rate up enough to offer cardiovascular benefits. Are there exercises that meet these criteria? Yes, and chances are you’re already doing some of them. These triple-duty exercises are ideal for helping you meet your fitness goals when you’re short on time.

How can you take advantage of this strength-building, heart pumping exercises? Add a few to your current routine or build an entire sweat session around them. Either way, you’ll make your training more efficient. These exercises are time expedient for days where you have to pack a lot of training into a short time period. Let’s look at some of these time-saving moves and why you should do them.

Triple-Duty Exercises: The Burpee

Burpees – we love to hate them. We’re reluctant to do them but fall in love when we see the results they offer. Appropriately enough, the burpee was developed by a Royal H. Burpee, an executive director of a YMCA in New York City back in 1939. He was looking for a simple way to measure a person’s fitness level. So, he designed the ultimate test of fitness ability – the burpee. So, think of (or silently curse) Mr. Burpee when you do your next set.

Burpees are a total body exercise. When you add a push-up, you work your upper body and core and when you include a jump you add a power and cardio component. Even with a basic burpee where you don’t include a push-up or jump, you work your lower body, particularly your hamstrings and glutes.

Think burpees aren’t a cardiovascular exercise? Just check your heart rate after doing ten of them. And, if you do them in quick succession, you also tap into anaerobic energy pathways. This allows you to enjoy an after-burn where you burn more calories after your workout, as your body fights to recover, and can make you a better sprinter.

So, learn to love burpees – or at least tolerate them. As an exercise, they’re too powerful and time efficient to ignore.

Triple-Duty Exercises: Kettlebell Swings

There are lots of exercises you can do with a kettlebell, but a kettlebell swing is a move that combines strength, power, and cardio. It jacks up your nervous system as well. Plus, depending on how heavy of a kettlebell you use, you can build considerable strength and power in your upper body by swinging kettlebells since you’re moving a heavy resistance quickly through space.

When you hurl a kettlebell into the air, think about all the muscles you’re activating – muscles in your shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, and even your glutes. Working so many muscle groups simultaneously burns more calories and gets your heart rate up. In fact, a study published on the American Council on Exercise site (ACE) showed that kettlebell training can enhance aerobic capacity by 13.8%. With kettlebells, you can boost your aerobic fitness without running, pedaling, or jumping. Who says you need traditional cardio to enhance aerobic fitness? Like burpees, kettlebells tap into and can improve your anaerobic energy capacity as well.

If you don’t have a kettlebell, a dumbbell is a suitable substitute. Start light with a 10 or 12-pound dumbbell, hold it at one end, like you would a kettlebell, and swing using good form. Once you’ve mastered the hip hinge movement, gradually increase the weight of the dumbbell or kettlebell you use.

Triple-Duty Exercises: Squat Jumps

Squat jumps are a “do anywhere” exercise as you need no special equipment, just your own bodyweight. It’s a move that builds power and, if you hold dumbbells when you jump to increase resistance, this move can enhance strength.  But, if you use no weights or light weights. it’s predominantly a power move and one that gets your heart rate up at the same time. Hold heavier dumbbells and you’ll improve power capabilities but also add a strength component to the exercise.

If your primary goal is to boost your aerobic capacity, choose lighter weights and increase the tempo of the exercise so you aren’t pausing at the bottom of the squat. In other words, squat jump faster. To add to the strength component of the exercise, slow the pace down and hold a dumbbell in each hand or place a barbell on your shoulders. Prepare to feel winded when you finish!

Triple-Duty Exercises: Plyometric Push-Ups

Plyo push-ups are an ideal exercise for targeting your upper body and core and adding a power component that also elevates your heart rate. Any time you’re in a plank position, you work your core, and when you push up you hit your upper body, particularly your triceps and chest. Then, when you add a plyo component by thrusting your chest and upper body up quickly until your hands leave the floor, you build power and boost your heart rate. If plyometric push-ups on your toes are too challenging, do them on your knees.

Triple-Duty Exercises: Lunge Jumps

Lunge jumps are a dynamic move that elevates your heart rate and builds power and muscular endurance in your lower body. To do one, position yourself in a low lunge with your right foot in front of your left and both knees bent. While holding your core tight, shift your weight forward and jump up as you switch your left foot forward in mid-air and land in a lunge with your left foot in front. Keep repeating this movement by switching your feet back and forth and landing in a lunge.

Focus on speed when you lunge jump. Check your heart rate after doing a set, you’ll notice it’s higher. Your cardiovascular system is getting a workout too!  While lunge jumps are most effective for building power and muscle endurance, you can add a strength component by holding dumbbells when you do the exercise.

The Bottom Line

When you’re short on time and you need to pack cardio, strength, and power training into a single session, include these triple-duty exercises in your workout. They’ll add an explosive component to your workouts and keep things varied and interesting as well.



American Council on Exercise. “Squat Jumps”
American Council on Exercise. “ACE Sponsored Research Study: Kettlebells Kick Butt”
Men’s Journal. “The Badass History of the Burpee and the Legendary Man Who Created It”


Related Articles By Cathe:

5 Time Expedient Exercises That Will Power Up Your Fitness Routine

3 Ways to Power Up Your Training and Get Better Results


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