Many people dislike doing cardio on machines. The thought of jogging on a treadmill or pedaling an indoor cycle for 40 minutes or more is enough to send some people back to their easy chair. Most would rather spend their time flexing their muscles with resistance exercises where they’re less likely to get hot, sweaty and bored. Let’s face it, some types of cardio can be monotonous for some people, and other types of exercise can be more stimulating. Can you skip cardio if you work out hard in the weight room?
Circuit Training as an Alternative to Cardio
If you circuit train in the weight room, where you move rapidly between weight sets with little rest in between, you’ll burn significant calories while getting your heart rate up. Circuit training burns 30% more calories than weight lifting the conventional way where you rest between sets.
You’ll boost your heart rate and the calorie burn even more if you do 60 seconds of aerobic exercise between each set. These could include jump roping, running in place or doing jumping jacks to keep your heart rate up. You can even do just a single interval from one my new CrossFire or To the Max videos. Every interval is chaptered so selecting individual intervals is a snap. Adding short bursts of aerobics between each weight set really boosts the cardiovascular benefits of weight lifting, and it’s less tedious than working out on an elliptical machine for an hour.
If you’re trying to build significant lean body mass, circuit training with cardio segments between each set could work against you in the muscle-building department. When you’re running in place or jumping rope after every set, you won’t be able to lift as much as you normally could due to fatigue. Although circuit training with aerobic intervals will give you cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits, it’s not the best choice if your goal is to maximize strength and muscle development.
So if your goal is to build maximum strength, are you relegated to jogging on a treadmill for 30 or 40 minutes? Definitely not. You’ll get more cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits if you increase the intensity of your cardio, and cut your workout time in half. The key is to do high-intensity interval training, like in my new CrossFire and To the Max videos, where you work very hard at near maximal effort for a short period of time and then reduce the intensity long enough to recover. During the working intervals, you build up lactic acid, and during the recovery lactic acid levels drop, and you’re ready to repeat the process. My two new workouts provide a variety of timesaver premixes for those of you who are pressed for time.
When you work out at a high-intensity, it boosts levels of fat-burning hormones such as growth hormone. You also get more after-burn where you burn more calories and fat after your workout is over. Some research shows that high-intensity interval training is more effective for burning fat than steady-state cardio.
More good news. You can do a high-intensity interval training workout in as little as 15 minutes. At this level of intensity, you don’t need to do it long to get results. The after-burn stays with you for hours and even days after your workout is over. The cardiovascular effects are superior too. Make sure you’re healthy and have reached a certain level of fitness before doing interval training.
Even if you still prefer steady-state-cardio, you don’t have to work yourself into a stupor by exercising on a single machine. Do 10 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the treadmill and jump rope for 10 minutes. Move from machine to machine to keep things interesting, and keep your body guessing. Your body responds to this type of variety, and it helps you avoid an exercise plateau.
The Bottom Line?
Stop thinking of cardio as something to do for 30 or 60 minutes on a single machine. Mix it up with circuit training, high-intensity interval workouts and by varying the type of cardio you do within a single workout. It’ll make your workout go by more quickly.
Muscle Magazine Fitness. “High-Intensity Interval Training”
Metabolism. 43(7): 814-818. 1994.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 51: 153-57. 1990.
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All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Lower Body Workouts
Upper Body Workouts
HiiT and Interval DVDs
Low Impact Cardio DVDs
Beginner Workout DVDs
Fit Tower DVDs
Boot Camp DVDs
Cycle Workout DVDs
High Step DVDs