Cut Your Cardio Time In Half With This High-Intensity Circuit Workout

Kehinde Anjorin, CFSC, NCSF
·8 mins read
Photo credit: Kathryn Wirsing
Photo credit: Kathryn Wirsing

From Women's Health

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “cardio?” Probably running, or perhaps the elliptical machine, stationary bike, or even a rower, maybe? But there’s so much more to cardiorespiratory training than steady-state endurance workouts—a.k.a. trucking it for the long-haul.

The best way to get your heart pumping and the sweat dripping? Compound exercises, which involve multiple joints and more than one muscle group. This way, you get every part of your body in on the action and burn more calories.

Another way to turn up the burn: Swap the steady-state for a HIIT workout or circuit training sequence. The higher the intensity of your sweat sesh, the more energy and oxygen you use and the greater after-burn effect (otherwise known as EPOC) you experience. Basically, you'll continue to burn calories at a higher rate after your workout as your body returns back to its regularly scheduled program #balance.

The real deal-sealer here, though, might just be that you can cut your cardio time in half (from 150 to 75 per week, per the U.S. Department of Health's physical activity guidelines) by opting for HIIT or circuit training. That means more free time for you!

Use this list of the best cardio exercise to create a whole slew of heart-pounding workouts that also offer full-body benefits. Oh, and you can do them practically anywhere, too.

Time: 20 minutes

Equipment: mat, kettlebell, jump rope (optional)

Good for: total body, cardio

Instructions: Choose six to eight exercises below. Complete the indicated number of reps for each move, then immediately continue onto the next. After you've finished all of your movements, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

1. High Knees

How to: Start in a standing position on mat with arms bent at 90 degrees, elbows close to sides, and hands at hip height in front of body. Bend right leg and lift right knee up to tap palm. Return right knee to floor and quickly repeat on left side. That's one rep. Continue alternating sides, increasing speed for an added challenge. Perform 20 reps, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

2. Jump Rope

You can do perform this move with or without an actual jump rope. The form is the same either way.

How to: Start with feet together and arms by sides. Bend at elbows (but keep them close to body) to bring forearms wide and up to hip height. Begin making small circles with both forearms in a forward motion while simultaneously taking quick hops with feet. (If you're using a jump rope, the goal is to revolve the cord around body and clear it under feet with every hop.) One jump equals one rep. Perform 20 reps, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

3. Squat Jump

How to: Start in a squat (feet under shoulders, toes facing forward, thighs parallel to floor) with torso upright and hands clasped in front of chest. Press through feet to straighten legs and jump up off the floor while swinging straight arms behind body. Land back in a squat position. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

4. Kettlebell Swing

How to: Start in a hinge (hips back, knees slightly bent, torso leaned forward at 45 degrees) holding the handle of a kettlebell with both hands, arms extended straight toward floor and bell between knees on the floor. In one motion, squeeze glutes, straighten legs, lift torso, and thrust hips forward, while swinging the weight to chest height, keeping arms straight and core tight. Reverse the movement, bringing the kettlebell between thighs this time when you hinge. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

5. Plank Get-Up

How to: Start in a low plank with forearms on the floor and parallel, elbows under shoulders. Pick up right forearm and press through palm to extend arm straight. Then, repeat with left to come into a high plank, keeping hips as level as possible. Reverse the movement to return to start. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps, alternating which arm you start with, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

6. Half Turkish Get-Up

How to: Start lying on back with right leg and arm straight on the floor and at a 45-degree angle from body, left leg bent so foot is flat on the floor, and left arm extended up toward ceiling (elbow locked out) holding a kettlebell. Keep eyes on kettlebell, press into right arm, and sit up, coming onto right forearm. Then, press through right palm and left foot to lift hips into air, keeping right leg straight. Slowly reverse the movement to return to starting position. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps per side, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

7. Single-Arm Kettlebell Push Press

How to: Start standing with feet just wider than hips, a kettlebell in right hand, right arm bent with elbow close to body so that the weight rests on shoulder, and left hand on hip. Sink hips slightly into a quarter-squat. Then, quickly push through feet to extend legs, simultaneously pressing kettlebell straight up until right arm is completely extended overhead. With control, lower kettlebell back down. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps per side, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

8. Kettlebell Deadlift to Squat Clean

How to: Start in a deep hinge position (hips back, knees slightly bent, and torso leaned forward almost parallel to floor), with hands gripping a kettlebell on floor between feet. Squeeze glutes and press hips forward to straighten legs and lift weight up keeping it close to shins. When bell reaches knees, bend elbows and pull it up to chest. Then, bend knees and sink hips back and down into a squat. Once thighs are about parallel with floor, press through feet to extend legs and return to standing position. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

9. Bear Crawl

How to: Start in bear plank, with shoulders over wrists and knees under hips and elevated a few inches off of mat. Step left hand and right foot forward at the same time, followed by right hand and left foot. Keep back flat and hips stable. Take three steps forward, then three steps backward. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

10. Bear Plank Shoulder Tap

How to: Start in bear plank, with shoulders over wrists and knees under hips and elevated a few inches off of mat. Keeping back flat and shoulders and hips stable, lift left hand up off mat and bend at elbow to tap right shoulder with it. Replace left hand, then repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps, then immediately continue on to your next move (you're doing six to eight total). When you've completed all of your exercises, rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

You Might Also Like