It has to be some sort of proven training fact: You’re not going to work as hard and make as much progress on exercises you despise vs. those you enjoy doing. Case in point: When’s the last time an elliptical session made you practically (or actually) puke in the trash can at the gym? Now think back to the last hardcore leg day you struggled through.
Our guess is that the squats, heavy lunges and step-ups were much more intense–and nauseating–than the cardio workout that allowed you to catch up on yesterday’s “SportsCenter” highlights. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that the intense lifting routine burned more total calories and bodyfat (during the workout and afterward combined) than the ESPN-sponsored one.
That’s why we’re introducing you to “Full-Metal Cardio” a crazy-intense, heart-pumping weightlifting regimen that’ll get you fitter and leaner than most anything you can do on a $5,000 machine in front of a television. So feel free to sell your treadmill on eBay, and start picking up barbells and dumbbells on cardio day.
By now you should be familiar with high-intensity interval training (HUT), a type of cardio in which you perform short intervals of high-intensity exercise followed by short intervals of low-intensity recovery. For example, on a track, road or treadmill, you’d alternate sprinting for about 30 seconds with 30-60 seconds of walking until you hit your desired total time. Volumes of research show that HIIT burns more fat than the steady-state variety, even when the steady pace is done for a longer period.
Leave it to us to boost the efficacy–and brutality–of an already effective workout. The following “Full-Metal Cardio” program uses the same basic premise as HUT, with one major difference: We’re swapping out the treadmill, bike and elliptical machines for traditional weightlifting exercises that’ll hit every muscle fiber in your body to burn more bodyfat and send your conditioning through the roof.
Besides minimizing treadmill-induced boredom, this program addresses two other main drawbacks of traditional cardio:
1) it’s not as effective at burning calories postworkout as weight training, and
2) most programs work only your lower-body musculature, thus limiting the release of fat-burning enzymes.
Research shows that lifting weights boosts your metabolic rate (calorie-burning) higher and for longer after a workout than cardio does. One reason is that weights provide resistance, which taxes the muscles both biochemically and mechanically.
As a result, many calories are expended to return the muscle fibers to their original condition and beyond. Typical cardio provides resistance as your legs propel your body and absorb the landing, but not to the same degree as weight training.
Most cardio–cycling, running, stair-stepping–exhausts the legs while the upper body gets something of an active recovery. Weight training allows you to broaden the scope of muscles you want to involve to include large bodyparts such as back, chest and shoulders. More muscles in need of recovery means more calories being burned to fuel that recovery process over the next several hours or days.
Lift to Get Lean
“Full-Metal Cardio” more or less mimics a HUT scheme: You do one set of an exercise followed by 30 seconds or less of active rest (however long it takes to set up the next exercise), then you do a set of the next move and so on. To promote balance, we suggest you do the same number of exercises for upper and lower body while mixing in full-body lifts such as thrusters and clean and jerks, which are not only great calorie-burners but also help improve explosiveness and athleticism. In other words, don’t perform solely upper-body exercises in one session, lest you defeat the purpose of maximizing muscle recruitment. The workouts starting on page 112 feature the proper balance of movements to get your heart rate up while chiseling away at stubborn blubber.
The training sessions in this program are relatively short, but don’t let that fool you–the intensity is such that 10-20 minutes of these circuits is all you’ll be able to handle. If it’s easy for you, it probably means you rested too long between exercises or didn’t go heavy enough on your sets.
We recommend performing one of these workouts 1-2 times a week on days you don’t regularly train–any more than this can easily lead to overtraining and burnout, considering that your muscles will also need time to recover from traditional lifting workouts. To round out your cardio week, feel free to include 1-2 steady-state sessions. A logical training split might look like the routine below.
“Full-Metal Cardio” workouts should always be challenging, and progressing within the basic parameters outlined here is very straightforward. Once you can complete a workout in relative comfort, do one or more of the following: Aim to perform more reps in each set, increase weight on one or more exercises for the same number of reps, increase intensity by shortening rest periods between exercises, and/or increase volume by going through the circuit 1-2 more times. The beauty of HIIT/circuit training is there’s no limit to how intensely you can train.
These can be done using resistance bands (as pictured) or using an assisted pull-up machine. If you’re especially strong on pull-ups, do them unassisted.
* TRAINING WEEK SPLIT
MONDAY PULL DAY (BACK, BICEPS), ABS/CORE + STEADY-STATE CARDIO
TUESDAY PUSH DAY (CHEST, SHOULDERS, TRICEPS)
WEDNESDAY FULL-METAL CARDIO
FRIDAY LEG DAY (QUADS, HAMSTRINGS, CALVES), ABS/CORE
SATURDAY FULL-METAL CARDIO OR STEADY-STATE CARDIO
* FULL-METAL EXERCISE MENU
UPPER-BODY EXERCISES PUSH-UP, ASSISTED PULL-UP
LOWER-BODY EXERCISES WALKING LUNGE, JUMP ROPE, JUMP SQUAT
FULL-BODY EXERCISES CLEAN AND JERK, DUMBBELL SWING, HRUSTER, MEDICINE-BALL THROW
ABS/CORE EXERCISES PLANK, WEIGHT-PLATE WOODCHOPPER, DUMBBELL, SHADOWBOXING
* ROUTINE 1: FIVE-EXERCISE CIRCUIT
ASSISTED PULL-UP 15
WALKING LUNGE 10 each leg
PUSH-UP to failure
WEIGHT-PLATE WOODCHOPPER 15 each side
Perform this circuit 3-5 times with as little rest between exercises as possible. Rest 1-2 minutes between circuits. The next time you do this workout, aim to shorten your time.
Start in front squat position, holding the bar as though you’re performing a military press. Explode from the bottom position, using the momentum from your hips, quads and glutes to drive up and press the bar over your head in one fluid motion.
This isn’t a slow-motion exercise, but it shouldn’t be done superfast either Step out far, get your back knee nearly to the floor and feel a stretch on every rep.
Don’t sacrifice range of motion for rep speed. Get your chest to the floor at the bottom and extend your arms just shy of lockout at the top.
WHAT NOT TO DO
When performing lunges, don’t let your front knee pass your toes. Step out far enough to avoid putting undue stress on your knees
CLEAN AND JERK
This is a big. explosive, full-body move with maximum range of motion. When in doubt on weight selection, go light and gradually work your way up.
Go as fast as you can, aiming to complete as many revolutions as possible in the allotted time. If you’re advanced, do “double-unders,” where you swing the rope under you twice during each jump.
* ROUTINE 2: 10-EXERCISE CIRCUIT
JUMP SQUAT 12
ASSISTED PULL-UP 15
CLEAN AND JERK 15
PUSH-UP to failure
DUMBBELL SWING 15
PLANK 30 sec.
MEDICINE-BALL THROW 10
DUMBBELL SHADOWBOXING 30 sec.
WALKING LUNGE 10 each leg
JUMP ROPE 1 min.
Perform this circuit 3-5 times with as little rest between exercises as
possible. Rest 1-2 minutes between circuits. The next time you do this
workout, aim to shorten your time.