by Eric Diaz
Who else hates running? Me too. Ever since my playing career was over, my desire for any type of long distance running has gone out the window. However, I’ve only been able to fully reach my fitness goals when I’ve included some form of cardio in my programming.
The great benefit of any form of cardiovascular exercise is its ability to increase the size of your heart. With this healthy size increase, the left ventricle of the heart has the ability to pump more blood per beat, which results in an increase of oxygenated blood pumped throughout your body. The scientific terms we are looking at here are stroke volume and cardiac output.
Studies show the added bonus of using resistance-based cardio vs. steady-state cardio can increase blood flow to your limbs. Resistance cardio has also shown to have a longer lasting positive effect on post workout blood pressure.
Here are some of the top non-running forms of cardio you can utilize in order to get your heart rate elevated, without enduring the repetitive steady-state joint torture that is running long distances.
Maintaining a flat back throughout this movement, you will swing the kettlebell or dumbbell between your legs just below your groin, and use power through your hips to “thrust” the weight up until your arms are parallel with the floor. This movement should emphasize a hip hinge pattern instead of a squat pattern. Think about the Newton’s cradle that you see on many an office desk, where the row of balls use momentum to swing back and forth.
Not everyone has access to these, but they’ve become quite popular in recent years. The goal is to move the ropes in an undulating pattern, while maintaining bent knees and a braced core. Popular variations include alternating waves (arms move in opposite direction up and down), double waves (“Hyah mule, hyah” like Yosemite Sam), and snakes (moving arms in a lateral motion to create a snake-like slither). There are plenty of rope variations, but these three will get you rockin’ and rollin’!
A very popular movement amongst the CrossFit faithful, you want to front squat with the med ball or dumbbells in your hands, and as you come back up, use the momentum to press the DB or toss the med ball against a wall (10 foot target). DO NOT TOSS dumbbells unless you are a complete savage. Common med ball weights are 20lb for men, 13lbs for women. With dumbbells, you can use a lot more weight since you’re not letting go.
The name is somewhat self explanatory, but there are multiple ways to slam a ball. Also, make sure you have the right type of ball to slam. Depending on the bounce return, you may have to pick the ball up off the ground, so be sure to use proper form when doing so. Raise the ball high overhead with an elongated torso, come up on tiptoes, and slam the ball to the ground, exhaling and following through your motion. Picture your enemy on the ground and you can slam the ball directly into their gut. Just kidding. But seriously.
Jumping rope is a skill, and I was probably better at it as a fourth grader than I am as an adult. But it is an awesome cardio workout once you build your skill base. After you string together a bunch of single jumps, try some double-unders, crisscrosses, and backwards skips. Also, play the Rocky soundtrack for maximum effect.
Do you have healthy ankles, knees, hips, and good balance? Try these on for size. Jump side to side landing softly on your outside foot. For a good progression to prime your body, first try some jump squats with both feet, and then forward leaping bounds.
Another CrossFit staple, rowing machines can and should be found in most commercial gyms. Check out a few YouTube tutorials to get an idea on proper technique, but skip this one potentially if you have any history of knee arthritis. If you’re healthy, rowing can strengthen the muscles around the knee. If you have pre-existing issues, they may be exacerbated with a repetitive rowing motion.
Your one-stop shop for cardio, muscular endurance, and power production, boxing packs a mean punch (PUNch intended, alright I’ll stop) as an absolute beast of a workout. Boxing not only provides an incredible physical release, but it also allows you to really tap into your mentality and acts as a form of therapy. Nashville is sprinkled with incredible boxing gyms and extremely knowledgeable coaches, so find one that fits you and hit ‘em with your best shot (last one, I promise).
The beauty of these moves is they will not only benefit your cardiovascular system, but they will also enhance your ability to produce power. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but pick a few you like, take inventory of the equipment around, and get to repping, friends!