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What do NFL running backs, Olympic sprinters and top bodybuilders have in common? Wheels of steel. No, we're not talking about an old-school Grandmaster Flash album or a trucking-simulation video game. These athletes all have legs powerful enough to propel them through a brick wall — in fact, their legs are so hard they look like they're made of brick. Ask any of these athletes: Legs are the foundation of an awesome physique. So where does that leave you? When did you last train your legs? You can admit it — you skip leg day once in while. While we're on the subject of skipped workouts, what's your cardio status? Yeah, we thought so. Well, here's a concept: combination legs and cardio training. By putting these two dreaded activities together, you get a more intense workout than you could by training them separately and you're less likely to skip either one.
Our cardio/leg attack focuses on fat loss. By pairing your biggest bodypart with cardio, you take advantage of the elevated calorie burn associated with working the largest muscles in the body at very high intensities. And combining your cardio and leg training is a faster and more innovative way to do a leg workout. How does 850 calories over 60 minutes for a 200-pound man sound? Not to mention an extra 1,000 calories over the next two days due to the increased metabolic rate. This routine isn't just an easy way to cover legs and cardio — it's a tough workout. It doesn't include high-rep, lightweight sets or long-duration, low-intensity cardio. Are you training to look like a marathon runner? Of course not, so say goodbye to your hypnotic, high-volume, low-intensity training sessions. It's time to up the ante.
The key to the cardio/leg routine is compound moves that hit several large lower-body muscle groups at once. The weight is heavy with a lower rep scheme than you typically use. Cardio interval training takes advantage of maximum stimulus and calorie-burning potential. Plus, we throw in some power-conditioning moves to cap off this ultra-efficient array of exercises. Your workout starts with a cardio warm-up (10 minutes), moves to alternating sets of squats and deadlifts (15 minutes), back to cardio for intense sprint intervals (15 minutes), feet-together bounds and squat-jumps (5-10 minutes) and then finishes with a cardio cool-down (10 minutes). The session should take no more than 60 minutes.
Ten minutes of light- to moderate-intensity activity (50%-60% of your maximum heart rate, or MHR) raises your heart rate and core body temperature and causes you to break a light sweat. Take your pulse for six seconds and multiply by 10 to compute your heart rate. Physiologically, this easy warm-up helps you avoid premature fatigue. If you forgo warming up, you're more likely to produce too much lactic acid early in the workout. As a result, your second-half performance will suffer.
Now it's time to stimulate those hard-to-hit fast-twitch muscle fibers. Alternate between sets of barbell squats and romanian deadlifts, completing three sets total of each exercise. Perform only 6-8 reps per set — choose a weight with which you reach failure in this range. Start off with either squats or deadlifts (your choice), complete the first set, then rest for 90 seconds before proceeding to the other exercise. We know 90 seconds isn't much rest when doing 6-8 reps, but we're on the clock here. (If you have more time, go ahead and extend the rest to two minutes or longer.) As you perform your second and third sets, take precautions to avoid injury: Reduce the weight slightly if required and always use a spotter! Continue to alternate between exercises until you complete three sets of each.
Jog for one minute to orient yourself, then increase the treadmill speed until you're sprinting hard (or running fast). Keep up this pace for one minute, then slow down to a jog or walk for one minute. Do this seven times total (for 14 minutes plus one minute for your orientation jog) and you've burned a ton of calories in just 15 minutes. Step off the treadmill carefully and revel in the metabolic fire that burns inside you for about a minute.
To further stimulate any muscle fibers still able to fire, we have two power-conditioning exercises that literally get you jumping. Start with the feet-together bound (three sets of five consecutive bounds, 60 seconds of rest between sets), followed by the squat-jump (three sets of 10 jumps, 60 seconds of rest between sets).
– This workout was designed with the intermediate athlete in mind. Beginners should select either squats or deadlifts (alternate these two exercises from workout to workout) and choose one of the two power moves (feet-together bounds or squat-jumps). Advanced trainees may add up to three more sprint intervals, increasing the amount of high-intensity cardio performed.
– During your first several workouts, you might feel as though you can barely run on the treadmill after squats and deadlifts, let alone sprint. Don't give up. Move at an intensity that you can handle for the sprint intervals. You may find it helpful to walk between sprints, working your way up to a slow jog several weeks into the program.
– And finally, perform alternating sets of squats and deadlifts (rather than straight sets) for time efficiency. You can move into the next set more quickly because the working muscles and recruitment patterns are different and therefore require less recovery time. Just don't get overzealous and try to superset — you need at least 60 seconds of recovery to drive heavy poundage in each set. Got all that? Now you're prepped and ready to go for your bodyfat-burning, calorie-annihilation session.