Cardio Workouts for People Who Hate Cardio

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When it comes to cardio, most people, even avid runners, have at least a love-hate relationship with that side of the fitness spectrum. We totally get it: Hitting the hamster wheel for 30 redundant minutes is the worst part of any workout, and finding ways to spice it up might actually make you look forward to cardio work. So we’re here with some real alternatives that won’t bore you to death.

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MORE: 18 Great Cardio Workouts That Don't Require Running

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Turkish Get-Ups for Time

An interval-style training method is great to promote a high work, low rest ratio during moderate-intensity exercise. The Turkish get-up is the perfect exercise to cover your bases since it hits your entire body. If you’re unfamiliar with the steps to the Turkish get-up, check out this handy guide.

Set your timer for five minutes and aim to do an entire repetition with both arms. Continue alternating without stopping. Once your time is up, rest for three minutes and then repeat. Five rounds of five minutes makes for a great workout. You don’t go ultra heavy: For a 200-pound man, aim for a weight between 30 and 40 pounds.

Calisthenic Circuits

Especially if you’re a bigger guy, don’t discount the power of hitting the deck and doing basic bodyweight or lightly loaded staples and their variations in order to jack the heart rate up. Arranging things into a circuit can turn into a metabolic conditioning workout that leaves you sucking wind. Try this circuit for size. All you need are a TRX and a moderately weighted dumbbell.

Rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes once you’ve completed the entire circuit. Try to see how many circuits you can fit in a 30-minute window.

To up the effort, use calisthenic exercises and arrange them into a Tabata training method. To perform a Tabata workout, simply choose an unloaded movement and perform good, quality, explosive reps for 20 seconds straight. Rest for 10 seconds, and repeat. Perform eight repeats of this work/rest combo. At the end of the exercise, three minutes and 50 seconds should have passed. Take a full rest, and move on to the next exercise. Some movements that work for this method include:

  • Push-Ups
  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Burpees
  • Stationary Lunges
  • Medicine Ball Slams
  • Glute Bridges

Barbell Complexes

There’s nothing better to one-up circuit training methods than to use the same implement for multiple exercises, and never put the weight down between them. Choosing exercises that “flow” together in a sense can definitely help execution. Another thing to be aware of is the weight lifted. Make sure it’s a weight you can comfortably handle on the weakest lift of the complex. A complex involving deadlifts, front squats, and push-presses likely can’t be loaded with your deadlift or front squat six-rep max, because then the third exercise would suffer. Check out the video below for an example of a brutal complex.

There’s no harm in getting creative, either. Some great barbell exercises to include in complexes are:

  • Conventional/Romanian Deadlifts
  • Bent-Over Rows
  • Hang Cleans
  • Front Squats
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Push Press/Strict Press
  • Overhead Squats
  • Back Squats
  • Good Mornings

You can modify rep ranges to accommodate some lifts over others. A lighter weight on your pressing exercises could mean more reps on your deadlifts.

Jump Rope

We’ll keep this short and sweet. Jumping rope is one of the most demanding forms of cardio that has become a forgotten art. It’s not for beginners or people who need to drop significant amounts of weight. In those situations it may be taxing on the joints. Otherwise, just try skipping for two straight minutes without stopping. Enough said. 

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