Steady-state cardio, exercise that keeps your heart rate constant throughout your workout, is a great way to stay in shape and improve your cardiovascular health. But, it should not be the only type of cardiovascular exercise you do. If you are looking to shake things up in your routine or need to break through a plateau, you will definitely want to include some high-intensity workouts to your plan. The nice part about them is that although you will be working a lot harder, you do not have to work out as long in order for the exercise to be effective.
Here are five great high-intensity workouts you can try:
Tabata: This high-intensity interval training method has really caught on by everyone from avid gym-goers to committed CrossFitters. Why? Because in only four minutes, you will be working at a capacity unlike any other. Choose any exercise that works your entire body like burpees, mountain climbers, thrusters or push-ups. Do it for twenty seconds making sure you go all out the entire time. After twenty seconds, take a ten-second rest. Now repeat the twenty seconds on, ten seconds off cycle seven more times using the same exercise for a total of eight cycles. The key is to give one-hundred percent during each twenty-second work phase.
CrossFit: You do not have to go to a CrossFit location to appreciate the hard work and high intensity that goes with every single workout they do. Go to any CrossFit website and see what their WOD (workout of the day) is and give it a try. You can always modify exercises if you need to (if you cannot do a pull-up, you can do an inverted row or a pull-up with an elastic band under your feet). You can even make up your own CrossFit WOD by picking a combination of strength and cardio exercises and going for a twenty-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible in twenty straight minutes). Again, your weights should be challenging and you need to go all out. Hey, it is only twenty minutes, right?
Boot Camp: Boot camp classes are all the rage right now and with good reason. They combine many high-intensity exercises as well as strength and conditioning moves. Be prepared to work extra hard as you go through rounds of push-ups, sprints, tire flipping, burpees and squats—just to name a few. Outdoor boot camps may rely more on bodyweight exercises without the presence of free weights, but you will certainly not notice a difference as you huff and puff your way through the workout.
Boxing: Kicking, punching, ducking and swinging are what you can expect in a boxing class. And do not mistake boxing with kickboxing. It is an entirely different feeling, and workout, when you wear gloves and start driving those punches hard into a heavy bag or giving it your best roundhouse kick. Before you know it, you will be sweating like a heavyweight champ.
Weight Training with Heavy Weights: There is a misconception, especially among women, that lifting weights is not cardiovascular exercise—it is merely a way to tighten and tone trouble spots. If you believe that, then you are not lifting heavy enough. The next time you hit the weights, walk past the usual five- and eight-pound weights you use. Grab ones that are at least fifty percent heavier than your usual weights. For example, if you usually use twelve pound weights for chest presses, move up to twenty pounds. You may not be able to crank out as many reps, but that is fine. The goal is to work up to it and then move up in weight once you hit your target rep range. Try doing a few sets with the heavy weight and you will soon discover that there is a lot of cardio that comes with lifting heavy weights. Ideally, you should dedicate at least three days a week to lifting weights. Make sure you always hit the major muscle groups like chest, back, legs and shoulders.
Do not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone every now and again to bust through a plateau or try something new. The results you will see from consistently changing your workout program will be evident once you keep making changes to your routine. Enjoy your five-mile runs or long bike rides, but every now and then, throw one of these high-intensity workouts into the mix and push your body a bit harder. You will be amazed by how much you can do and how strong you already are.