On the back of some crazy 1980s fitness trends it became a popular belief that ‘cardio’ was the ticket to weight loss. You know cardio. Long slow runs, long slow rides on the stationary bike, long slow cross training on the cross trainer, and generally anything that is long and slow and has the ability to raise the heart rate. It is certainly true that constant movement, such as the methods listed above, do have the ability to elevate the heart rate and burn some calories. The problem is that rarely is cardio done in this fashion. Ever seen someone sitting on a bike or a cross trainer reading a magazine? Or talking on their phone, or generally working at a level so low that they might as well be sitting on the couch? This cardio doesn’t work.
There is a better way to cardio, a way that will multiply your fat loss, elevate your heart rate and metabolism and also crank up your fitness and strength levels in a shorter amount of time. It is time to make your fat burning more efficient and change the way you think about cardio. It is not about going long and slow. Provided you are in good health and are able to perform some reasonably vigorous exercise, there are a number of methods that are much more effective at burning those calories. This better way to do cardio has nothing to do with fitness machines and can be done in the gym, at home or outdoors.
We want to use high intensity, short duration exercise circuits to crank up our fat loss. The combination of short rest periods and using a bigger group of muscles increases your heart rate and metabolic rate, which equals more calories burnt. How do we do it? We select anywhere from 6 - 10 exercises which use a large amount of muscles and key movements and group them together. Feel free to use drink bottles full of water or sand to substitute for dumbbells, and complete a 10 minute warm up and dynamic stretch prior to starting.
Why not try this circuit on for size? Complete the exercises below as quickly as possible, give yourself a short period of rest (1 – 2 minutes depending on your fitness level) and repeat 3 – 5 times.
10 x burpees
10 x push ups
10 x jump squats
10 x Bar or bench dips
12 x explosive lunges
10 x dumbbell squat and press
2 x 20m shuttle runs
As you improve your fitness you can change exercises, modify them to make them easier or harder and include new exercises to provide variety.
Be warned that these circuits can be tough! But you will be rewarded with increased fat loss, increased muscle definition and increased fitness levels for your efforts. Next time you go to the gym for cardio, instead of walking over to the treadmill and jogging for 30 minutes, try some circuits and take your fitness and weight loss to a new level. My tips for constructing a good circuit?
1) Keep it simple, use dumbbells and equipment that you can grab quickly such as fitballs, medicine balls and ropes and don’t need too much setting up;
2) Include some explosive movements such as jump squats to further increase heart rate;
3) Include 6 – 10 exercises so that your circuit takes around 3 to 5 minutes;
4) Try to include full body exercises such as a squat and press to maximise muscle involvement;
5) Mix it up often to keep challenging your body to adapt and prevent boredom!