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Ditch the Cardio Deck – Here’s 4 Conditioning Workouts Using Weights

If you’ve been doing the same old tired cardio day in and day out, it may be time to ditch the cardio deck. Check out these 4 cardio routines using weights!

For some reason, people think the only way to think when it comes to conditioning is hitting up some form of cardio machine or doing the real thing outdoors.

While I’m not saying these methods can’t be effective at all, I’m also not saying alternative methods of training aren’t useful.

If your goal is fat loss, you can accomplish a lot with properly applied weight training tactics.

And the best news is, you won’t have to worry about the fear of compromising any muscle development.

Workout 1:  20 x 3 Squat Training

There’s no better movement to incorporate into your conditioning workout than a squat, based on its compound nature. The usual problem is the fact that to make it into a high-octane workout, most lifters usually have to completely plummet the amount of weight they can lift for strength or size purposes to keep technique and injury risk in good respective places.

Working with reps upon reps for the sake of the burn is usually something that has to be met with low rest and low weight. Alternatively, you can still keep your technical proficiency on point by lowering the amount of reps you do per set.

Muscle and Strength Male Athlete Squatting for Cardio

Using 50-60% of your 1RM and performing sets of only 3 reps, while resting for a mere 30-45 seconds between sets is a great way to get your heart rate up and keep it up through the entire duration of the conditioning workout.

You’ll be fresh enough to have the stores of ATP available for 3 solid reps on each subsequent set, and the weight will be appreciable enough to trigger a solid neural and muscular response.

Workout 2: Barbell Complexes

A barbell complex is different than any superset or compound set, due to the fact that you’re performing a series of movements with the same implement. As a kicker, you’re not allowed to put the implement down between movements; only when you’ve finished the last lift.

Related: 5 Best 20 Minute HIIT Cardio Workouts For Rapid Fat Loss

Needless to say, you’ll be burning calories for the rest of the week after you’ve finished a workout containing rounds of complexes. But like any good workout system, there are a few guidelines to consider:

1. Since you’re not allowed to put the weight down, be sure to choose movements that “flow” together well. For example, transitioning from a barbell back squat to a bentover row may not be the simplest task, whereas going from a deadlift to a bentover row would be a smooth transition.

2. Choose weight that is a manageable challenge for the smallest movement of the group. A complex involving deadlifts, for example, shouldn’t have weight that challenges your 6RM for that lift, because subsequent movements will suffer where quality is concerned.

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3. Don’t be afraid to mix up the reps. A customized complex that contains appropriate rep choices for the exercise in question will create a much better training effect suited to you.

4. For reference here are some great lift ideas to include in both barbell and dumbbell complexes:

Here’s one brutal complex with a heavy load to give you the idea:

Try resting 3 minutes between complexes and performing as many rounds as you’d like. I usually like to shoot for 6.

Workout 3: Turkish Getups for Time

Conditioning doesn’t have to be fancy and there doesn’t have to be multiple elements to a workout for it to be effective. Hitting the deck with a kettlebell for some TGU’s is a total body exercise that will have anyone sucking wind if it’s done for long enough, if the implement is heavy enough, or both.

Start with a goal of 5 minute sets. Simply do a complete getup and once you get back down to the floor, switch arms and repeat. Continue alternating arms without stopping until the full time has elapsed.

I like using a moderate weight, rather than going too heavy to sustain my efforts. A 35-40lb kettlebell is a comfortable weight and good challenge for me. If that was easy, here are 3 things to do to make it harder:

  1. Add weight to the kettlebell – go up by 5 pounds and try it again.
  2. Add time to the clock. Instead of 5 minutes, try for 6 or 7 minutes next round.
  3. Try a different implement. A barbell Turkish getup creates a whole new world of difficulty and usually results in more calories burned per rep:

Don’t be afraid to keep rest time low here between rounds of work. The movement is so compound with an implement that’s light relative to your body’s weight and the size of the movement. Beyond letting muscles recover, the rest you take is mainly to lower your heart rate temporarily and help you catch your breath.

Take 2 minutes between rounds and you’ll be fine. Focus on a 30 minute total time window and enjoy the conditioning!

Workout 4: Vertical Push/Pull

I personally consider this an “old faithful” workout that never fails to give a lifter’s conditioning a kick in the pants. It’s important to realize and remember that using weights for the purpose of conditioning and fat loss is much less trackable than using them for strength or even straight hypertrophy.

Related: Plyometrics – The Missing Piece in Your Workouts

In this case, the weights are nothing but a facilitator for an increased heart rate and creating a state of oxygen debt or muscle fatigue. This is noteworthy because training with a certain percentage of your max, or expecting a consistent performance that reflects your strength under rested circumstances need not apply – at least not as strictly.

The vertical push / pull workout combines the snatch, dip and pull up into a challenging workout that doesn’t rely on heavy equipment.

Exercise Sets Reps
1a. Kettlebell Snatch (left hand) 6-7 10
2a. Bodyweight Dips 6-7 Failure
3a. Kettlebell Snatch (right hand) 6-7 10
4A. Pullups 6-7 Failure

Rest 2-3 minutes between rounds and repeat. Focus on 6-7 rounds.

If you’re feeling like one of the big dogs, you can bring this a step further by resting less and seeing how many rounds you can complete in 40 minutes.

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Summary

Nothing special – just a reality check for your conditioning using the basics as your guide.

Before you jump on a nonsensical plyometric/aerobic synthesis, or turn into a full time treadmill hamster, try one of these four simple workout methods and you may have the eye-opening experience that triggers some stubborn fat loss and gives you some lungs while you’re at it.

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