Pretty much every serious gym goer knows they need to both lift weights and do a cardio workout. However, the problem many run into is that they often don’t have time for both. This leaves them in the conundrum that they have to choose either lifting or cardio. But what if you could get your cardio workout while lifting weights? Luckily, you can.
Can You Get Cardio Fit without Doing Cardio?
One of the biggest fallacies in the fitness industry is that you have to actually do a cardio workout to tax your heart health. This simply isn’t true. To improve your cardiovascular and / or cardio-respiratory systems, you simply have to elevate your heart rate and breathing. How you do that doesn’t really matter.
Most think of traditional cardio workout activities (jogging, sprinting, rowing, biking, etc.) as the only ways to do this. However, anything that gets you breathing hard can work. This can include lifting weights, manual labor, bodyweight conditioning, playing sports, or the like.
This is evidenced by many bootcamp style classes or cross training type workouts you see. Most of these are heavily rooted in HIIT principles, which not only can burn excessive calories, but can provide increases to both aerobic cardio and VO2 max. However, actual “cardio” is rarely ever done.
How to Lift Weights for Better Cardio
Elevated heart rate and breathing comes with increased activity (both in volume and intensity) combined with minimal rest. If you want your weight training to double as your cardio workout, it’s as simple as reducing rest breaks.
The problem with this is that reducing your rest breaks can lead to a serious buildup of individual muscular fatigue, which then reduces your workout performance. To get around this, stacking together different exercises to allow for greater localized recovery is your best bet.
What this allows you to do is continue working the body as a whole while individual body parts rest. So say you first do a set of shoulder presses, then a set of rows, then a set of calf raises. Your shoulders rest while your back and calves work, your back rests while shoulders and calves work, and your calves rest while your shoulders and back work. However, since you never stop completely working, your heart and lungs are taxed the entire time.
Don’t Use Light Weights
The big mistake most trainees make when they start doing this sort of thing is that they go entirely too light. The way to think about this type of training is to consider it an otherwise “normal” strength workout. However, because you’re stacking a set of 3-5 exercises together one after the other instead of doing all your sets of a single exercise at once, you’re eliminating several rest breaks.
In other words, it’s like doing your regular workout, but with 60-80% less rest than normal. While this can greatly tax your cardio, it loses its effectiveness if you’re radically reducing the weight. You don’t want your training to be heavy or with minimal rest – you want it to be both at the same time.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but don’t think you have to actually do “cardio” to get a good cardio workout. Stacking together intense weight training exercises with little-to-no rest can get you just as good, if not better results. It’s what many popular current workout trends are based on, and it’s something you can start to employ right away.