3 Alternatives to Traditional Cardio

3 Alternatives to Traditional Cardio

Let’s face it, if you want to have any decent level of fitness or athleticism you are going to have to perform some kind of cardiovascular exercise. There is however less boring/tedious ways do cardio other than just going for a jog, uphill walk on the treadmill, a cycle or doing the x-trainer for 30-45mins three times per week.

I want to start by explaining the definition of cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise has two different systems:

Aerobic system (this refers to your body using oxygen to perform exercise for a prolonged period of time at a generally light to moderate pace of around 60%-85% of your maximum heart rate. Aerobic exercise can be fuelled by glycogen reserves, fat reserves or a combination of both)


Anaerobic system (this refers to your body working for a short period of time at a high percentage of your maximum heart rate usually over 85%, in which case your body is initially powered by glycogen stored in the liver and muscles which is then broken down to produce glucose, which then reacts with oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and water to the produce energy for our body to use in short bursts)

Now the science is out of the way let’s get down to the good stuff…..


bored cardio

Sometimes it is hard work to get motivated to get on the treadmill, stationary bike or x-trainer and do 30-45 mins of  steady state cardio with the intent to use up any excess glucose and burn some body fat. Especially if you decide that  you want to increase your fitness levels at the same time, which ends up in you trying to beat your distances each  time you do Cardio to “Get Fitter”…

 What if I was to tell you that you could get fitter and burn off extra glycogen and fat without your joints taking the  impact of pounding the treadmill or the tediousness of the stationary bike or x-trainer? Interested?


Circuits are great because you can really elevate your heart rate for 30-45 mins with your heart rate in the 60%-85% range. This can be done on Resistance Machines or Free Weights or even just with your own bodyweight. That is why circuits are so good because really you can tailor your workout to what equipment you have available to you.

I have provided a sample circuit below but feel free to get creative with this.

You can add ANY exercise to this circuit and it will fit right in.  So here you go:

Start off by doing 3-5sets of the exercises below and build it up to 10 sets

(1) Bodyweight Squats x10
(2) Press Ups x10
(3) Crunches x10
(4) Burpees x10
(5) Alternate Leg Lunges x10 on each leg
(6) Plank for a 30 second count
(7) Back extensions x10
(8) Chin Ups or Horizontal Rows x10
(9) Hip thrusts x10
(10) Leg Raises x10

You will find this very challenging at first but your body will quickly adapt, gaining both aerobic fitness and muscular tone at the same time and due to you doing different exercises you keep your mind is kept active and your training time goes much faster.


The Tabata protocol was created by a Japanese man named Izumi Tabata.

The idea of this protocol is to quickly create an oxygen debt which will be recognised by you panting heavily. This will quickly make your body use up your blood sugar (glycogen stores) which then forces your body to use your fat cells for energy.

The protocol for Tabata

5 min warm up (a walk/gentle jog/cycle etc. will be fine)

Choose any Cardio Machine/ Major Compound Exercise like a Squat or Deadlift and do 8 x 20 seconds of work as fast as possible (with good form) followed by 10 seconds of rest.

Do a 2 min cool down (a walk/gentle jog/cycle etc. will be fine)

The Tabata Protocol is intense and to the point. They are great at the end of a weights workout to burn off any excess glycogen and to start tapping into your fat cells.


Complexes are a combination of three or more compound exercises completed consecutively with one piece of equipment (a compound exercise is an exercise that involves moving more than one joint at a time and using several muscle groups). Complexes are very good for increasing fitness and burning fat. They also have the added benefit of allowing you to tone up whilst doing something a bit more creative that standard steady state cardio.

An example complex routine would be as follows:

x5 Power Cleans
x5 Front Squats
x5Push Press  – Done for 3-5 sets with a 1 min rest period
x5 Back Squats
x10 Press Ups

This will be very challenging both physically and mentally, but the rewards gained from Complexes are well worth the effort.

Don’t forget that this is just a sample routine. Please feel free to get as creative as you want with this.

So there we have it. Three alternatives to doing your traditional Cardio that should keep your interest and get you burning fat ready for summer in no time…

If you have any questions then please drop me an email info@redlevelfitness.co.uk

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Ben Cooper, Director – Red Level Fitness

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