Two reasons the treadmill became and has remained such a popular machine at the gym is because it’s easy to use and convenient to access. But whether you loathe running in place on a conveyor belt or are simply on the lookout for new cardio workouts, these upper-body sessions will fill that void.

The Lower-Body Bias

  • Perform 20 minutes of steady-state cardio on an empty stomach.
  • Walk 3 to 5 mph on a treadmill at a 2 to 3% incline.
  • Do 4 to 6 30-second sprints at 95% intensity.

The above examples of M&F’s previously prescribed walking and running cardio sets are insular and exclusionary. That said, just because none of those examples are exciting doesn’t mean lower-body-focused cardio activities don’t have value. They target your body’s largest muscle groups (glutes, hamstrings, quads), which generally gives you more bang for your buck in the calories-per-minute department. But to ignore the positive effects of upper-body cardio is to ignore emerging science on the effectiveness of it.

Elevating the Focus

There are a multitude of cool tools to use at the gym these days—including tires, sledgehammers, battling ropes, and heavy bags—and many of them are ideally suited for increasing your body’s ability to torch belly goo. Hell, even a set of light dumbbells, put to good use, can set your metabolism (as well as your muscles) afire.

In fact, a 2013 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that interval training with battling ropes provided fat-burning benefits similar to sprint training. The lab coats found that “an acute 10-minute bout of rope training in a vigorous-intensity workout, resulting in high heart rates and energy expenditure, meets previously established thresholds known to increase cardio-respiratory fitness.”

Translation: There’s no need to run when you can slam ropes and get a crazy pump in the process.

So we encourage you to skip your previously scheduled treadmill sesh and instead try any (or all) of the following routines to continue chiseling a lean, mean, show-stopping physique.