Ahh yes, the dreaded “C” word. Folks, cardio is not the mortal enemy of a bodybuilder. In fact, it is a necessary evil to get that defined, robust look you so desire. If you pay too much attention to fluff and keep denying yourself this valuable training modality, you will continue to have subpar results. But if you are willing to listen to reality, cardio can be your best friend.
It’s not so much the type of cardio that matters as it is the way you perform it. Schlepping along at a walking pace for metric tons of minutes is not the way to go. You are more advised to keep it short and sweet, and here’s why.
When you train at a high intensity, you naturally boost your growth hormone and testosterone levels. This means faster muscle gains, plus you’ll maintain your muscle mass. You also rev your metabolism through the roof so you can expect to burn a lot of fat without cutting into your hard-earned muscle.
All that being said, here are a few of the best forms of cardio that you can use to keep your rips rockin. It’s best to spend no more than 30 minutes doing your cardio workouts. This will give you enough time to get great results without going overboard.
- Kettlebell Swings
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded training tool than a kettlebell. Due to its shape, you can easily move it in multiple planes and combine many exercises together to get more bang for your buck. The swing is an exercise that blasts your heart rate while also working your glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats and abs.
This wholistic effect not only burns a lot of calories, but also builds lean muscle mass. You now get the best of both worlds.
When performing swings, make sure to hinge your hips on the backswing, keep your arms close to your ribcage and forcefully snap your hips forward on the front swing. Squeeze your glutes, quads, lats, abs and hamstrings simultaneously on every single rep and make sure you have a straight line from the back of your head to your heels at the midpoint.
An easy way to use swings in your workout is to do a top of the minute drill. After a good warmup, do a set of 15 to 20 swings at the beginning of each minute. You will need a clock to do this. Repeat the cycle for 20 to 30 minutes and you’re done.
- Kettlebell Snatches
In similar fashion to swings, snatches are explosive and burn a ton of calories. They also work the same muscles as swings, plus you get more shoulder and biceps activation. And, they have a tendency to be even more intense than swings from a cardiovascular standpoint.
During snatches, pull the bell up in the air and slightly back as you bend your elbow. Turn it over your hand as you quickly straighten your arm. The kettlebell should not smack your arm at all. Dial it in to the point where it lightly lands on the back of your wrist.
Pull it down in one smooth motion and hinge your hips back as you would with a swing. Then fire it right back up for your next rep.
A top of the minute drill would work well for snatches too. You can also time each arm with a rest break in between. For example, do snatches on your right arm for 15 seconds, rest for 15 and do 15 seconds on your left. Follow this schematic for 20 minutes and you’re good.
- Hill Sprints
These are pretty self-explanatory. Hill sprints activate a large amount of lower body muscle while you forcefully contract your abs to generate power.
Start with a light warmup, sprint up a hill for about 30 seconds, then turn around and jog back to the bottom to recover. Turn around and hit it again. Repeat 15 to 20 times and do a light cool down jog.
- Cycling Intervals
If you’re looking for a no-brainer, low-impact cardio source, then cycling intervals are your ticket. Like hill sprints, cycling engages your lower body musculature while you contract your abs to maintain good posture and force production.
Simply alternate back and forth from high to low intensity throughout your workout. Make sure to crank up the resistance and stand at regular intervals too for added tension on your muscles.
Last but not least, we need to address crawling. This whole body activity will have your heart rate elevated faster than any other form of cardio. And all you need is the weight of your body. You are best served performing this for 10 minutes at the end of a weight training workout.
Get on all fours then raise your knees a few inches off the ground. Crawl forward by moving your opposite arm and leg. Alternate your limbs until you make your way across the length of a fitness room or gym floor. Catch your breath and crawl back. Make sure to keep your back and shins parallel to the floor at all times.
As you can clearly see, cardio does not need to be boring. With a little creativity and mental strength, you can get your fix while obtaining the results you are after.