To a lot of hardcore weightlifters, the word “cardio” can be considered as blasphemous as “toning up.”

Even though research has shown that about 30 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise has a multitude of benefits, including helping reduce LDL (aka “bad) cholesterol and blood pressure to weight loss, gymgoers oftentimes ignore the benefits for a variety of reasons. They may not having enough time, or they may feel like it “interrupts their gains,” or just because old-school cardio is downright boring. Instead, they go straight to the weights.

Here’s the good news: Cardio has never needed to be relegated simply to mundane machines. If you have access to battle ropes, kettlebells, and medicine balls, you can get the benefits of cardio without the joint-pounding effect of traditional cardio by using these tools as part of a training-day finisher.

Rest easy, these tools will save your muscle gains since there’s little or no eccentric muscle contractions (muscle lengthening while under tension) happening. Because it’s mainly concentric contractions (when the muscle overcomes the resistance and shortens) and isometric contractions involved, studies have shown these types of cardio workouts are less likely to impact your recovery after strength training.

Truth is, there’s no need to sacrifice your hard-earned gains while maintaining or improving your cardio. Using these pieces of equipment is perfect when you’re short of time but need the benefits of cardio without impacting your recovery.

Cardio for fat loss, if that’s your goal

These three high-intensity trainings below will increase your demand for oxygen, known as Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). This is required to get back to homeostasis (balance). Think of it simply as your body’s way of playing catchup.

For every liter of oxygen you breathe in, you burn about five calories. By increasing your O2 requirements (a result of doing workouts such as the following), odds are you’ll be able to enhance your fat loss and conditioning efforts too.

When to do these

The routines below can be used effectively while strength training, building muscle, or working for fat loss.

Use one of these three finishers at the end of your training or between sessions for recovery and fat-burning purposes. Then give a smile and wave at the folks taking up the elliptical machines.


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