Apparently many people despise, loathe, and hate cardio.  There are many reasons for this opinion.  People state it’s boring, it makes their back or knees hurt, or even that they simply cannot get motivated to do cardiovascular work on a machine or outside.  Fear not, there are solutions.

Circuit Training

Circuit Training is a great way to reap the benefits of cardiovascular training while skipping what most would refer to as “cardio” work.  The idea of circuit training is to move through a series of exercises without resting.  This elevates heart rate and allows for a person to maintain an elevated heart rate for the duration of the exercise session.

A circuit can be constructed in many ways.  It could be an upper body circuit, a lower body circuit, or a fully body circuit. The more muscle groups that are incorporated in the circuit, the more cardiovascular intensive the work out becomes.   Compound movements are great to add into this type of routine because they allow for the most muscle contraction and incorporate both upper and lower body resistance training into one exercise.  Talk about getting the most bang for your buck.  Examples of these types of exercises would be: lunge to side raise, stiff leg dead lifts to upright row, squat to row with cables, squat to over head press, or even squat thrusts.


CrossFit has what seems to be a cult like following and it is for good reason.  It takes a lot of old school movements, new school movements, and sport specific movements, while adding an element of competition and ever changing variables to motivate people all across the world to become active and functional.

The WOD, or work out of the day, is posted on the CrossFit web site.  Each day millions of people complete these work outs and post their numbers and times of completion.  They then can then compare their numbers with other individuals in the CrossFit community.

Usually these WODs are filled with big movements that stress not only the neuromuscular system but also the cardiovascular system.  Exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups are done in bunches and often under time constraints.  If your goals are gaining a moderate amount of muscle, dropping excess fat, strengthening your heart and increasing your functional power CrossFit might just be for you.  To read more on this and to get a better idea if CrossFit is for you, reference here.

High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training(HIIT) is a great way to circumvent standard steady state cardiovascular work.  HIIT uses smaller bursts of highly intense work while adding an element of slower paced exercise.  A standard example would be to jog for one minute at a moderate pace and then sprint for 30 seconds.  This cycle would then be repeated for a desired amount of time.

This might still be too much “cardio” work for a lot of people.  Try this.  Complete all of your heavy multi-joint movements for the day.  For example, if you are working your back today complete your pull ups, rows and pull downs like normal.  Once it is time for your single joint exercises, bring your dumbbells over to the cardiovascular section of the gym.  For this type of HIIT, you will be completing one set of your isolation exercise then hopping on cardiovascular equipment for active rest.  Repeat this process until all of your sets are completed.  This also works great for ab work, but really can be implemented with any resistance training you desire.

Peripheral Heart Action

Have you ever felt the “pump?”  This is when the muscle engorges with blood after multiple sets of the same muscle group.  During weight lifting your body uses the blood stream to help bring nutrients to the muscle and get rid of waste. This type of reaction can be used to your advantage. This is where Peripheral Heart Action comes into play.

PHA takes advantage of your body’s natural response to muscle contraction.  A PHA work out alternates upper body and lower body exercises in a super set or in a circuit.  This will cause blood to continually pump through out the entire body because it never gets the chance to pool or “pump” into one specific muscle group.  This continual movement of blood causes your heart to work harder.  The less rest a person takes between exercises, the more cardiovascular intensive this type of work out becomes.

With all of these options, a person has no excuse to skip out on training the most important muscle anyone can train, the heart.  Let me know if you have any “cardio” alternatives and if you will implement any of these types of work outs into your routine. Comment below!

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