Cardio doesn’t have to be boring. And you don’t always need to do separate cardio sessions to burn a few extra calories. If you don’t have the time to do separate cardio sessions, then adding shorter “finishers” to the end of your workouts is an efficient way to get it done. Here are simple cardio finishers that will help you keep it interesting:
1 – Master the jump rope. Skipping with a rope is one of the simplest and best forms of total-body conditioning out there. It will injury proof your ankles and knees, it’s lower impact and easier to recover from than running, and it requires very little equipment or space. Try dusting off your skipping rope at the end of your ab workouts for a fun way to condition and burn a few extra calories. Set a timer for three to five minutes and see what you can get done.
2 – Get athletic with agility drills. These drills are typically used by athletes and sport coaches to develop agility and change-of-direction speed. However, you can also turn them into cardiovascular conditioning exercises. Hill and shuttle sprints can be effective, but changing directions, turning, and cutting are a whole lot more interesting. Plus they will get your heart rate up much sooner. For fat loss, try using agility drills as intervals with a 1:1 to 1:2 work-to-rest ratio. That is, if you set up a drill that takes you 20 seconds to complete, take 20 to 40 seconds to rest. T-drills and zigzag and Union Jack drills are simple to set up with just a handful of cones (see figure 4.2).
3 – Longer-duration loaded carries. Grab something heavy and walk with pride and purpose. In chapter 10, you’ll find a description of the one-arm farmer’s carry you can try. You can also perform a basic farmer’s carry holding weight in both hands instead of just one, as shown in drill 5 later in this chapter. This has less of a core component to it, but is more taxing for your entire muscular and cardiovascular systems. You have many options for loaded carries; all you need is weight (e.g., dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbag, trap bar) and space to walk. For fat loss, 60 to 90 seconds walking followed by 60 to 90 seconds resting works well. Try four to six sets to warm up or finish your ab workouts.
4 – Metabolic resistance training (MRT). In short, MRT is a form of circuit training that uses the same resistance throughout (sometimes called a complex). You pick up a weight (e.g., barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell) and do four to six exercises without stopping for a complete set (see table 4.2). Because of its specific structure, you won’t underload some movements while overloading others as typically happens during most other styles of circuit training.
5 – Ladder drills. Low-intensity plyometric drills are a fun way to finish off a workout, get your heart rate up, and improve coordination. Try combining ladder drills with a Tabata protocol (20 seconds of high-intensity efforts with 10 seconds of passive recovery for eight rounds) to mix up your cardio sessions.
6 – Cycle or walk and learn. It’s low impact and easy to recover from and you can listen to audiobooks or podcasts while doing it. It’s not a finisher in the same sense as the other exercises, but if you prefer to finish your resistance workouts with low-intensity cardio, then cycling or incline walking are the best options that allow you to do other things at the same time.
Adapted from Ultimate Abs: The Definitive Guide to Developing a Chiseled Six-Pack by Gareth Sapstead. Available now via Human Kinetics, Amazon and all good book stores.
Also known as “The Fitness Maverick”, Gareth specializes in smarter training techniques to get you strong and looking great naked year round!