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Build Your Engines: My 5 Favorite Cardio Options

Lifting weights is KING. Every man should be strong. However, men need to build their engine with conditioning as well. I'm not talking ellipticals, steppers, and treadmills.


Here are my five favorite ways to build your engine.


Sprinting


Sprinting improves your cardiovascular health. It will definitely get your heart pumping and you breathing heavy. Due to the short bursts and then recovery time, sprinting workouts are pretty much an interval workout, you know, those popular fat burning workouts. And that is exactly what they do, burn calories and a lot of them. By performing sprints it puts your body into "fat burning mode" (EPOC) which causes your body to burn fat way beyond the workout. Unlike long distance running or any other slow-steady state cardio where you stop burning calories as soon as you stop the activity. Ever see an Olympic sprinter? They are lean and jacked.


Sprinting also builds strong muscular legs. I still would not skip leg day in the gym, but sprinting is great way to work the legs, especially the glutes.



Jumping Rope


Who knew as a kid that jumping rope would be an amazing exercise as an adult. Seeing a professional boxer so cool and flawless bust out a skipping session is something to admire. When you try it, you realize how much work you need to put in. So jumping rope is a great cardio option because learning curve is low, everyone has done at some point in their life and knows what to do, so it is great for beginners and can be practiced and mastered at advanced levels.


Jump ropes are fairly cheap (you can buy expensive ones, and they are pretty awesome and worth it in my opinion) but cheap ones work well to get you into the habit. You can jump rope pretty much anywhere and it travels well if you need to hit the road. It provides a complete full body workout, if done with good form, you can incorporate into any training regimen, and it is very effective for weight loss.


Man that sounds great!..... but wait there's more!


Jumping rope boosts metabolism, improves agility, endurance, and vertical leap, has a low risk of injury with lower impact on knees and ankles than running and improves cardiovascular health.


And let's not forget that it builds a great set of calves!


There are so many styles to learn with skipping rope, that it should never get boring. Once you master the basic skip, then you can work on getting faster, changing the tempo up, using a lighter or heavier rope (which works the wrists), incorporate crossovers, different skips, double unders, triple unders and anything else you can come up with.



Heavy Bag/Martial Arts


Bag work is great or joining a martial arts gym where you can spar with a partner is a great way to get a workout in, but also develop invaluable skills on how to defend yourself. Sticking with bag work, for this post, hitting the heavy bag improves core stability, coordination, power, and confidence to strike. It is a full body workout including the cardiovascular system.


Bags come in different weights so choose which is best for you. You can also invest and get a Muay Thai bag for kicks and knees. There are a variety of bags if you want to work on specific skills available, but beyond the scope of this post.


Another great use for heavy bags (and I suggest having two so you don't have to keep re-hanging it) is to have one the floor for "ground and pound" and you can pick it up and slam it. You can also you use it for weighted carries.



Rower


Rowing is an incredible sport and a sport that builds a part of the body that many gym goers neglect, the back side. Unless you have the time and commitment to join a rowing club, the next best option is the row machine.


Learning proper row technique can take time and practice but worth it in the beginning. The rower is a great low impact activity that punches a full body workout. You can row short sprints or go for a slow-steady long cruise. You can work on trying to improve your 250m, 500m, 1,000m, or the gold standard 2,000m row.


Rowing can be a very rhythmic motion, getting you into a zone where you can just go and get some thinking done at the same time.




Air Dyne Bike


If you have ever used an Air Dyne bike then you know that this thing is a monster. For those who have not, you pedal it like a bike and simultaneously push/pull the handles. The catch is that as you do that, you create resistance with fan blades making up the front wheel. So the faster you go the harder the resistance. Basically it's self-torture.


So the benefits are it's a total body workout, no impact on the joints, and you can instantly vary the resistance.


So you can perform sprints or slow-steady state for longer periods of times. Sprints can be for time, calories, or watts. I also love that you can just pedal with the legs without help from the arms or put your feet on the pegs and make it all upper body.


This is probably the piece of equipment that I have the most dysfunctional love/hate relationship with.




BONUS: Rucking


Rucking has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Again, a simple activity that packs a lot of benefit. It falls in the middle of walking and running by burning 3x more calories that walking but being easier on the joints than running.


There is a very small learning curve, since most people are already capable of walking. To ruck you add a weighted back pack or anything of weight to carry. The extra weight helps build cardio and strength. You will feel muscles working in your legs, upper back, and small muscles in your ankles.


Rucking is a great activity that gets you outside, sometime in the elements, for some fresh air and sunlight. It can be a social activity with family/kids, friends, or joining a local ruck club or a solo activity. You can do it anywhere and can turn any outdoor walk into a ruck whether in the neighborhood, woods, or city.


I hope this post gave you some new ideas on how you can get out there and improve your conditioning. It is important to be strong but having the lungs to keep going and working while everyone is dropping like flies is an important factor that I do not want to be without.

Try some or all of these and let me know what you think!


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