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Best Foot Forward: 10 Fat-Melting Cardio Strategies

Unchain yourself from the elliptical and burn fat at a blinding speed with these 10 unique cardio workouts!

Cardio is an essential part of staying healthy and carving an impressive physique. If programmed correctly, a good cardio program can increase your energy, improve recovery, spike your metabolism for up to 72 hours, and help you destroy body fat.

If you are like me, you find a trot on the treadmill, a pedal to nowhere on the bike, or the "elipsing" on the elliptical to be mind-numbing and tedious. More important, these cardio modalities don't help you become athletic, flexible, and lean.

Fortunately, there are many ways to do cardio that are mentally stimulating and yield fast results. Here is a list of 10 of my favorite non-traditional ways to melt fat.

1 / Timed Metabolic Circuits

One of the best ways to combine strength training and cardio is to perform challenging bodyweight exercises for a set amount of time. You will need a pull-up bar and one of the following: a suspension system (TRX, rings), a Smith machine, or a thick rope. Perform each exercise for 30-50 seconds (30 seconds if you are a beginner and 50 if you are advanced). Use the remainder of the minute (10-30 seconds) to transition to the next exercise. If you cannot complete the set with perfect form, pause until you can do more reps or time runs out. The five exercises done in a row make up one round. Perform 6 rounds and rest 60 seconds at the end of each round.

Timed Metabolic Circuit

Circuit: 6 rounds



2 / Manual Sprints on a Treadmill (Sled Treadmill)

Sprints are my number one choice for fat-shredding cardio. Sprinting recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers (the fibers responsible for strength, power and muscle size), and naturally spikes growth hormone, which speeds metabolism and recovery. Finally, due to its long stride, sprinting increases hip mobility.

If a hill, a lawn, or a track is unavailable, raise a treadmill to 10 percent incline and turn down the speed to zero mph or a complete stop. Grasp the handles and sprint by pushing the belt of a treadmill as fast as possible. Remember, a sprint is not a fast run—it is an all-out, maximum-effort, no-reservations burst of power. Sprint for 20 seconds; follow with 40 seconds of rest; and repeat nine more times. For best results, change work-to-rest ratios every time you sprint. Here are some intervals I like to use:

  1. 15 seconds sprint, 45 rest, 12 reps
  2. 20 seconds sprint, 40 rest, 10 reps
  3. 30 seconds sprint, 90 rest, 8 reps
  4. 10 seconds sprint, 20 rest, 20 reps
  5. 10 seconds sprint, 10 rest, 30 reps

3 / Medicine Ball Circuit

You will need a 4-10 pound padded (Dynamax) Medicine Ball, a wall to slam it against, and an aggressive attitude. Complete 12 repetitions of each exercise with no breaks, then rest 60 seconds. Perform a total of four rounds. It's not about the weight of the ball. To become more powerful, focus on the explosive speed of each throw.

Medicine Ball Circuit

Circuit: 4 rounds



4 / Speed Drills

Use a track, lawn, basketball court, or any place that gives you enough room to move. Complete one set of the first five movements to help you prepare for the sprints. Start with the side shuffle for 10 yards and transition into a full-out sprint forward for 20 yards. Perform three times on each side (Right, Left) for total of six sets. Focus on using a long, symmetrical stride and arm swing. Rest 30-60 seconds.

Speed Drills


5 / Complexes

Complexes can be used as warm-ups, finishers, or dedicated cardio workouts between strength training sessions. The goal is to increase heart rate and overall metabolic output without going to muscular failure. Complexes can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or barbells depending on what you have available and which tool you feel comfortable using. Use a weight that allows you to move at a high speed with good form. Complete each exercise without rest for five repetitions each. Rest 60 seconds and repeat for a total of five sets.

Barbell Complex

Circuit: 5 rounds



Dumbbell Complex

Circuit: 5 rounds



6 / Prowler Push

The best thing about a Prowler or any sled training is that it disrupts your metabolism without excessively breaking down muscle. The eccentric, negative component of each movement is eliminated, causing less damage to the muscles involved.

Load the Prowler with the desired weight (half to double your body weight, depending on your fitness level). Grasp the handles and tuck your elbows into your ribs. Keep your back straight, lean forward, and drive your legs into the ground. Extend your hips with every stride. Push for 30 yards, rest 90 seconds and repeat four more times for a total of 150 yards.

7 / Tabata Intervals with Battling Ropes

Loop a 1.5-2.5-inch battling rope around a sturdy object and hold one end of the rope in each hand. Perform each exercise below for 20 seconds each at maximum effort, followed by 10-second rest for a total of four minutes. Rest 90 seconds and repeat up to four times.

Tabata Intervals with Battling Ropes

Circuit: 4 rounds



8 / Rowing Machine

Row 500 meters as fast as humanly possible, followed by two minutes of rest. Finish as many rounds as you can in 20 min. Your goal is to finish 4-6 rounds, or 2,000-3,000 meters, in 20 min. That is a pace of about 90-120 seconds per 500 meters.

9 / Core Routine

This ab routine will raise your heart rate and melt more fat. Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise (per side) to complete one round. Do four rounds with 60 seconds rest in between.

Core Routine

Circuit: 4 rounds



10 / 30-20-10 Jump Rope Blast

Jumping rope is a great way to increase your work capacity and coordination. In this circuit, we add the cardio challenge of jumping rope to an already intense total body workout. Perform 30 seconds of your most advanced jump rope variations (doubles, triples, crossovers, etc.) followed by 20 repetitions of a lower-body exercise and 10 repetitions of an upper-body exercise. Complete four rounds of all six steps. Take a 60-second break between rounds.

30-20-10 Jump Rope Blast




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Showing 1 - 25 of 31 Comments

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sxyfitmomwife

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sxyfitmomwife

Going to try these to change it up a bit

Mar 5, 2013 6:24pm | report
 
PDeV1

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PDeV1

ropes blast looks great I'll take a try ! medecine ball and complexe too ! Nice variation I'll try it this summer !

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Mar 5, 2013 7:23pm | report
 
MarkT808

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MarkT808

Insightful article, definetly gonna try the jump rope blast

Mar 6, 2013 11:25am | report
 
TerrySmithJr

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TerrySmithJr

Might have to add some of this stuff to my routine

Mar 7, 2013 4:38pm | report
 
dogetta

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dogetta

I did jump rope altered with kbell swings tabata style. wow good burn for 20min!

Mar 9, 2013 1:37pm | report
 
mast3rc

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mast3rc

Very familiar exercises from sports... I been re-enlightened...

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Mar 10, 2013 4:05am | report
 
justin6683

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justin6683

the first 2 appeal to me the most, my body will be ready in the am.

Mar 10, 2013 10:24pm | report
 
bennygood

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bennygood

Great routine 1

Mar 11, 2013 6:42pm | report
 
mmckibben87

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mmckibben87

I like to do sprints in the AM. My only prob is my treadmill only goes to 10mph. So I have been doing 20-20 sec sprints w/30 sec rest. :/

Mar 12, 2013 6:41am | report
 
leighisiu1992

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leighisiu1992

Did Rowing machine workout shock to the body worth a try.

Mar 16, 2013 11:33am | report
 
BloodType3R

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BloodType3R

Who you scowlin at ginger?!

Mar 16, 2013 9:41pm | report
 
PJwaitforit

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PJwaitforit

I'll be doing the battling ropes thingy, and the sprinting on the treadmill, While I'm at it, I'll try the core workout too. God help me...

Mar 20, 2013 1:27am | report
 
andymel13

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andymel13

adding some of this to my weekly schedule to blast it away for once and all

Mar 20, 2013 7:37am | report
 
mcj82firebid

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mcj82firebid

Does anybody know if it would be a good idea to do the bb complex for cardio after a workout or on days i do not workout? Right now I am working M-Chest/tri, Tue-back, Wed-Bi's, Thur-Legs, Fri-Shoulder/Tri, Sat-Bi's

Mar 22, 2013 8:37am | report
 
mindy19

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mindy19

Going to try for sure!

Mar 23, 2013 10:07pm | report
 
Mattyd007

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Mattyd007

good advice, good read

Mar 25, 2013 12:05am | report
 
jtomsheck

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jtomsheck

Love Tabata intervals... try Tabata squats at end of leg day or Tabata pushups at end of chest day. You will burn your muscles completely and melt fat in a short time.

Mar 28, 2013 1:06am | report
 
Pacman4

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Pacman4

doin the ropes looks fun!!

Apr 1, 2013 2:43pm | report
 
thehousewife

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thehousewife

So helpful! Great article. Can't wait to try some of these! :)

Apr 10, 2013 6:45am | report
 
amy.brown

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amy.brown

Super excited to try this one!!

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Apr 10, 2013 9:19am | report
 
jdogg412011

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jdogg412011

I think I can do most of these. I can't do a lot of plyometrics because my knees are pretty banged up.

Apr 10, 2013 9:42am | report
 
DaniLex06

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DaniLex06

Can the swings be done with regular dumbbells?

Apr 10, 2013 2:16pm | report
 
shookmusic

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shookmusic

Do the ropes after a shoulder workout! Killer.

Apr 10, 2013 2:53pm | report
 
dlg0120

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dlg0120

awesome article

Apr 10, 2013 6:43pm | report
 
DesireeForever

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DesireeForever

I like doing sprints on the elliptical. I can go as fast as I can without needing to mess with the machine's speed. No arms though. :)

Apr 10, 2013 7:15pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 31 Comments

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