Cardio For Meatheads
I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas or start to their respective Holiday Season. Lisa and I are currently in the Dallas/Fort Worth area visiting family so I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from the website this week. Thankfully a few friends and colleagues were kind enough to pinch hit for me and provide some stellar content in my absence.
First up is Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean who’s written several excellent articles for this site in the past. Today he discusses “cardio” for meatheads.
Cardio For Meatheads
I despise traditional cardio.
I’d rather pour gasoline over myself and jump into a fire than run on a treadmill.
However, give me a barbell and a few weight plates and I’m happier than a pig in mud. Happier pigs make yummier bacon, and the World Health Organization should be dammed, just saying.
For the most part, I’ve been a guy who never really found it difficult to get lean.
However, this has been harder as I’ve gotten older. This creates a conundrum as strength training is no longer enough for me to drop fat, but joining those cardio bunnies on the dreadmill is never an option.
Since the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise are undisputed, and the theory that cardio eats muscle like termites through wood has been smashed to pieces (Alex Viada is a prime example), I should suck it up and join the masses, right?
With most gyms having battle ropes, kettlebells, and medicine balls, that’s never going to happen. After all, there are more interesting ways to get your sweat on instead of being held captive by the treadmill or elliptical.
The beauty of using these tools is it saves your joints from taking an unwanted pounding on the treadmill, and with little or no eccentric stress involved with the exercises below, you’re not likely to get sore afterwards which allows you to have your bacon and eat it, too.
The routines below are my go to cardio when training for strength or hypertrophy.
Insert these at the end of your training as a finisher or between strength training sessions in place of traditional cardio. Smile and wave at the cardio bunnies while you’re sweating because they’re probably wondering what the heck you’re doing.
1) Battle Ropes/Side Plank Combo
I borrowed these from the Sons of Strength, Eric and Ryan Johnson. This combination is brutally effective and a great way add some extra core work in.
Instructions – Do any variation (see video below for ideas) for 30 seconds and then immediately get into side plank. Make sure to breathe down into your belly and engage your glutes. Hold this for 30 seconds. Go back to the battle ropes for other 30 second interval and do the side plank on the opposite side. Repeat this sequence for 10 minutes.
2) Kettlebell Swings/RKC Front Plank
This is another combo I stole from the Sons of Strength. Holding a full tension plank after heavy kettlebell swings is a challenge you’re sure to enjoy.
Instructions – Do 20 Russian Style kettlebell swings and then immediately get into an RKC Front plank. Once you have hit full tension take 10 deep inhales (and exhales) while maintaining full tension. Repeat the kettlebell-plank sequence for 5- 10 rounds.
3) Kettlebell Swings/Medicine Ball Slam
This duo will get your heart racing because the heart is working double time pushing blood from the lower to the upper body and back again. As an added bonus your lungs will burn, which is a sure sign of a good time. It will help to channel your inner Hulk smash on the slams.
Instructions – Do this as a countdown superset. Do 20 reps each of the swings and the slams and go down by two each time you perform a round until you reach two reps for each exercise (for example 20-18-16-14….2). If you don’t have access to medicine balls, substitute in battle rope slams.
Note – You can mix and match these combinations to keep things interesting. For example
- Swings- Side plank
- Battle ropes- RKC front plank
4) 10 Minute Farmers Carry
Dan John is a believer that inefficient exercise (exercises you suck at) is essential for fat loss and the farmers carry definitely fits the bill.
The following 10 minute carry combination is straight out of Dan’s play book which I unashamedly stole for your benefit.
At first glance this appears easy, but this carry combination will light you up.
Instructions – Depending on your strength level, start with one 20, 25 or 30 pound kettlebell. Hold the bell overhead (bottoms up) and walk, keeping your biceps by or behind your ear. After you lose your grip, stop and reset. When you lose your grip for the second time, bring the bell into the rack position and keep walking.
Once you lose neutral wrist position or your upper back is screaming at you, hold the bell suitcase style by your side and keep walking. Do this for a total of 5 minutes on each side.
Conditioning shouldn’t always be a grind and neither should it stand between you and your gains. This is a time to keep it short, sweet, intense and most of all fun.
After all, life is too short to be bored out.
Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean, is an A.C.E Certified Personal Trainer working deep in the heart of Dallas, Texas.
No, Shane doesn’t wear a cowboy hat or boots. After being told that his posture blows by Eric Cressey, he has made it his mission to rid the world of desk jockeys, one person at a time, and have fun while doing so.