In today’s fast paced society, you’ll likely have times when you’re struggling to get an effective cardio workout in. Fitting this into your schedule not only requires you to account for the workout itself, but also the prep time, driving time if you’re going to a gym and shower time afterward. This can take two or more hours in some cases. The majority of group fitness classes that are cardio focused also last an hour or longer. These factors can make getting an effective cardio workout in very challenging if you have a limited time.
In order for you to maximize the benefits of your cardio workout in a limited amount of time, you must perform exercises that:
Luckily the four workouts below will accomplish all of these things in under 10 minutes. Here they are:
Sprints are the simplest and most efficient way to elevate your heart rate, increase your metabolism and burn calories in a short period of time. Sprints do not require extra equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Unlike steady state cardio, sprints will not cause muscle loss and may even cause muscle gain. They also elevate metabolism and burn fat significantly more than steady state cardio does. For these reasons, sprints should be a staple cardio workout in your exercise routine.
However, sprints can be challenging and may cause injury if you’re a beginner. To lower your injury risk, start with 3-5 sets at a fast, but submaximal pace. Gradually build up to 5-10 sets at a faster speed over the course of a few workouts. Distance-wise, start with 50 yard/meters and gradually work up to 100+ yard/meter distances. Rest anywhere from 30-60 seconds between sets. For an added challenge, do your sprints on a hill; this will elevate your metabolism and heart rate even more than regular sprints.
Sled sprints are likely even better than regular sprints at elevating heart rate, increasing metabolism and burning calories. Pushing a sled with extra weight added at a sprinting pace takes significantly more energy to accomplish resulting in increased cardiovascular conditioning and endurance. The ability to add weight to the sled and use the principle of progressive overload will also allow you to get stronger and build more muscle further increasing your metabolism. These factors make sled sprints one of the best exercises you can do.
When doing sled sprints, first add enough weight to the sled so that pushing it is challenging but doable. You can either use lighter weight to make your workout more cardio focused or heavier weight for a more strength based session. Make sure that your back is straight and not rounded before you start. Push the sled as fast as possible, staying on either your toes or your entire foot, until you have to stop, then repeat for 3-5 rounds. As with regular sprints, start slowly and work your way up to more sets and heavier weights to prevent injury.
The tabata protocol is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese exercise research scientist. Through studies conducted on athletes, he and his research team discovered that 4 minute, high intensity workouts increased both cardiovascular and muscular endurance significantly more than moderate intensity workouts. This showed that tabata training is one of the most efficient ways to boost endurance and burn fat.
However, tabata training can be incredibly challenging. Sustaining maximal effort for four minutes is very draining on your body. There is also the risk of your form breaking down on certain exercises which can lead to injury. Because of this, the best exercise machines to use for tabata training are the stationary bike and the rowing machine due to their low risk profile.
The tabata protocol calls for 20 seconds of maximal effort followed by 10 seconds of “rest”. This is then repeated 7 times for a total of 8 sets in 4 minutes. Start by warming up on either a stationary bike or rowing machine for 1-2 minutes, then set a timer for 4 minutes. Go as hard and as fast as you physically can for 20 seconds, then slow down and go at a moderate pace for 10 seconds. Repeat until finished, then go collapse on the floor…
The kettlebell swing/squat pyramid is a good way to build strength and get an effective cardio workout simultaneously. However, due to the risk of form breakdown, it should be performed only if you feel like you can do the exercises perfectly for every single rep. If you can, prepare yourself for a challenging, but rewarding workout.
Begin by selecting a kettlebell that is moderately heavy but still useable. Perform one swing rep and follow it immediately with one goblet squat rep. Next, perform two swings and two squats. Continue in a pyramid fashion until you complete ten swings and ten squats. After this, perform the pyramid backwards until you are back to doing one swing and one squat. This will result in you completing 110 total reps and leave you gasping for air.
Nick Tigges is a personal trainer and online fitness coach based in Atlanta. He specializes in smart, efficient training plans that will get you stronger and more conditioned while minimizing injury risk. You can message him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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