Workout #9- Combining Cardio and Strength Training

Circuit #1: 2 sets
Push-ups x max
Reverse Lunges x 25 each side
Cardio 5 min RPE 6-7

Rest 3 minutes

Circuit #2: 2 sets
Modified Pull-ups x max
Squats x 30
Cardio 5 min RPE 6-7

This excellent workout combines both aerobic endurance and anaerobic strength work, exercising muscles of the entire body in a challenging circuit style.  Pick the cardio activity you prefer (running, biking, elliptical, walking).  Click on the RPE link for an explanation of intensity.  Click on the individual exercises to see tutorials on each.

This leads me to a question I am often asked.  Should I combine cardio and strength work into one workout, and if so, why?  The easy answer would be “yes”, for 2 reasons.  One, I am a firm believer in functional fitness.  That means that I want your exercises to make you better at carrying on the tasks of your everyday life.  I want you to challenge your body in your workouts in the same fashion that you challenge your body in your regular activities.  Most physically demanding tasks we perform require some combination of cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength, so combining the two into one workout will only enhance those abilities.  Plus, since you need both kinds of exercise anyway, why not do them together and maximize time?  Two, it is a great way to boost calorie expenditure.  Keeping the heart rate elevated throughout the workout keeps the engine running and burning fuel.  Strength work interspersed with your cardio takes the challenge up a notch, and provides an anabolic (building) stimulus that counteracts the catabolic (breaking down) stimulus that cardio alone provides.  This will keep your metabolism up and muscle mass intact while dropping body fat, and keep you from plateauing in your goals.  This doesn’t mean that every workout has to be structured this way.  There are benefits to doing the strength work and cardio separately, but it is an effective tool for many seeking to increase the challenge and functionality of their workout routine and break through some plateaus.  Enjoy!


Workout #8: 60-second Circuit

The following workout is for those of you that prefer to exercise in the gym.  It can easily be adapted to home use by incorporating a set of resistance tubes instead of cables.  Here’s how it goes.

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Chest Press x 60 seconds
Alternating Dumbbell Reverse Lunges x 60 seconds
Alternating Cable Squat + Row x 60 seconds
Alternating Twisting Crunches x 60 seconds
(Rest for 30 seconds between each exercise.  Repeat 3 times for 4 sets total)

For each exercise, perform as many repetitions as you can in the 60-second time period.  Keep track of how many repetitions you complete for each exercise so that you can compare when you do the workout later and see if you have improved.  The aim of this workout is to elevate the heart rate while boosting muscle strength and endurance, as well as kickstarting the metabolism.  Find weights that are comfortable for you.  Enjoy!


Workout #7: Cardiovascular Interval

Pick your cardiovascular exercise of choice and complete the following routine without stopping:

3 minutes at a comfortable pace (RPE 4-5)
2 minutes at an elevated pace (RPE 6-7)
1 minute at a fast pace (RPE 7-8)

Repeat circuit

(Please consult your physician before engaging in high intensity physical activity)

Click here for an explanation of RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion or visit the Resources page.  Utilizing the RPE scale allows for all fitness levels to complete this workout at their own individual capacities.  Complete as many circuits as you can.  Start with 3-4 circuits.  You can do more if you are up to the challenge, but I don’t recommend any more than 7-8 circuits.  The principle here is energy system development.  “Aerobic” means “with oxygen”.  Aerobic exercise is exercise where your body is able to take in enough oxygen to meet the demands of the exercise.  Examples would be walking, running, cycling, and swimming at a lower exertion level that can be maintained for a longer period of time.  “Anaerobic” means “without oxygen”.  Anaerobic exercise is higher intensity exercise where the intensity is such that oxygen consumption cannot keep up with the demands of the activity.  Examples would be the same exercises as above at higher intensities, as well as strength training and many sports activities.  I will go into more detail later about the specifics of these two categories in later posts.  But here’s the skinny (no pun intended).  Higher intensity exercise increases calorie burn, boosts metabolism, and increases a person’s functional capacity to meet the physical demands of everyday life.  Pretty much everyone’s exercise program includes these goals.  So make sure that your cardiovascular exercise is effectively programed to help you reach your goals.  And that starts with bumping up the intensity with a workout like the one above.  Enjoy!


Workout #6: Circuit Training

Modified Pull-ups

(Reps for beginners: 15, 12, 9, 6, 3 for each exercise except the Plank, which is held for max time.  Reps for intermediate: 30, 24, 18, 12, 6 for each exercise except the Plank, which is held for max time.)

This workout is what we call a Circuit Training workout.  We use the term “Circuit Training” to describe a workout where multiple exercises are completed in succession before repeating an exercise, with little to no rest between individual exercises.  Usually a Circuit Training workout consists of 4-10 exercises per circuit.  The purpose of a Circuit Workout is to train the body across all available energy systems.  It is used in sports-specific settings to train athletes to adapt to the rigors of competition, which involves completing skills under fatigue and with little to no rest.  For the average person, it is a highly effective workout to increase calorie expenditure because it keeps the heart rate up, but involves strength-building skills that will help boost metabolism and build muscle tone.

This workout strengthens upper body, lower body, abdominals, anaerobic conditioning, aerobic conditioning, and cardiovascular endurance.  In this particular circuit, you will complete the first repetition number for each exercise (15 for beginners, 30 for intermediate), except the Plank which you will hold for your max time.  Once finished with the Plank, you will begin the circuit again, this time completing the next number of reps required (12 for beginners and 24 for intermediate) with the Plank again for max time.  Repeat this pattern for all 5 sets until the workout is completed.  Time yourself to see how long it takes you to complete the workout.  Do the workout again at a later date and compare times.  As you get stronger your Plank time will get longer, but shoot for the same time or a little faster for the whole workout.  Or, if you want to get technical, stop the watch during each Plank and just total the time for the other three exercises.  Then compare how quickly you can complete the workout.  Hold dumbbells to add weight to the squat, or perform regular pull-ups if you are that advanced.  For images and instructions on the Squats, Modified Pull-ups, and Plank, click on the exercises above.  To see more Featured Exercises, click here.


Exercise of the Week: Modified Pull-ups

Exercise of the Week #4: Modified Pull-ups

Primary Muscles: Upper back (Latissimus dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius) & Arms (Biceps brachii, brachialiis)

Secondary Muscles: Low back, Glutes

The modified pull-up is one of the best exercises around for building functional upper body strength.  While most people struggle performing even a single standard pull-up, the modified pull-up gives everyone an opportunity to experience the benefits of this important upper body exercise.  It also addresses an area of the body (the upper back) that often gets ignored in exercise routines, but is of crucial importance as it counteracts the tightness and weakness that results from a lifestyle dominated by extended hours of sitting doing activities out in front of the body.  Here’s how it goes:

Find a horizontal bar (usually can be found at a park or if you are at the gym, use a squat rack with an empty bar racked on supports) that is at a comfortable height for you.  (The higher the bar, the easier the exercise will be, so make your adjustments accordingly)  Place the hands in an overhand grip one hand-width wider than shoulder width apart.  Walk underneath the bar until your upper body weight is being supported by your extended arms and your legs are extended with the heels digging into the ground.  Make sure that the body is in a straight, neutral position.  Using the muscles of the upper back and arms, pull yourself up, bringing your upper chest to meet the bar.  Then, slowly lower yourself back to starting position, keeping your back straight and your hips from sagging.  Exhale as you pull and inhale as you come back to starting position.  Adjust resistance by changing the level of your feet (higher for more difficulty) and changing the level of the bar (lower for more difficulty).

Definitely a staple in any exercise program, so give it a shot.  Have fun!