FitFriday #19: WE LOVE CARDIO!

That title may have a tone of sarcasm for most. Some of you may actually love cardio...

but I have feeling some of you may feel like this...

or this...

or even this...

but really, it's not all THAT bad. 

Most of the time my cardio is 20-30 minutes of intervals on the elliptical with the occasional sprint session on the treadmill or outdoors. Unfortunately, running long distances (over 1/2 mile) is out of the question with my chronic knee pain. :( 

Every now and then I like to mix it up with a high intensity cardio circuit (like the one I'll be giving you today) and it's always the most challenging, and the most rewarding, cardio session I do. It's something that I hope to be adding into my training on a regular basis in the near future. So, for those of you that are sick of the boring repetition of the treadmill or elliptical, or just love the challenge of high intensity work, check out this cardio circuit!

These exercises may not be for everyone. Physical and other health concerns may limit your ability to perform these exercises. If there is any concern about performing these exercises please consult your doctor. Physical activity is important but there are contraindications that may warrant a less intense form of activity. 

Exercise Breakdown

  • Jump Rope

No, you don't need a jump rope for this exercise. With or without rope, try to maintain a continuous jumping pattern for the whole time period. If you don't have a jump rope, still try to simulate the arm motions as you would if you were using a jump rope. Keep your elbows tight into the sides of your body and use your wrists to rotate the rope rather than your whole arm. Be sure to leave a slight bend in your knees so you're not coming down on a straight leg as that will cause an increased amount of strain on the joint. 

  • Burpees

Start this exercise standing. The basic sequence of this exercise is as follows: (you may wish to start with a jump straight up similar to the jump you do to finish the burpee to get your momentum going) Go into a squat position and place your hands on the floor just in front of your legs (this image does a poor job of showing this position correctly, try to start from a squat with the heels on the floor rather than the knees together and heels up as shown); shoot your legs back so that you end up in a high plank position; jump your legs back in to a squat position; and finally jump straight up with your arms up; as you land, bend your knees to soften the joint impact and go right into your next squat position and continue this flow.

There are a multitude of ways to modify the burpee to increase, or decrease, the difficulty level.

Decreased difficulty (feel free to do what feels comfortable or a few of each modification)

  • Take out the jump at the end of the movement
  • Instead of shooting your legs back both at one time, step backward and forward one foot at a time
  • Reach or jump up bend over to touch your toes and come back up taking out the high plank position

Increased difficulty (feel free to add one or more of these to your sequence)

  • Add a push up once you get to high plank position
  • When jumping up to finish the movement, perform a tuck jump lifting your knees up to waist height, brining your hands down to hit your knees 
  • Butt Kicks

With butt kicks, you are essentially running in place. The idea is to obtain the greatest amount of knee flexion possible so that your heel touches your backside, literally kicking your butt. This motion forces you to have a little bit of added motion in the legs rather than just jogging in place with minimal lower body motion. 

  • Mountain Climbers

Start in a plank position. Make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders and everything is in a straight line from your head down through your ankles. Drive your right knee up toward your chest, jump and switch legs.

To modify this exercise, take it slow and step it out instead of jumping from one foot the the other. You may also perform this exercise in a vertical position. Standing, bring one knee up to about parallel with the hips, raising the opposite arm to the ceiling and continue to alternate for the allotted time.  

  • Jumping Lunges with Basic Forward Lunge

Begin in a lunge position. Both knees should be at a 90 degree angle with the hips directly above the back knee and the front knee directly above the front ankle. From this position, explode upwards, switch legs and land in the same position with legs in opposing positions. Land with bent knees to soften the joint impact. Keep the core tight to keep your balance!

If you are unable to maintain this exercise for the full time, then switch to basic alternating forward lunges, basically the same thing without the jump. Just step forward to the 90 degree angle of the knees and then bring your front leg back to your back leg and repeat on the opposite side. 

Make it a goal to do the jumping lunge for the full 45 seconds! If you need to take a break, that's okay, but as soon as you feel ready, get back into the jumps!

  • Jumping Jacks

Just your basic jumping jack, nothing fancy here. Just be sure to keep soft knees, in other words, make sure as you're jumping and landing there is a slight bend in the knee, again, to make sure that there is a lessened impact on the joint. Arms go up, legs go out. Arms come down, legs come in. 

To modify this, either add a larger jump (making a sort of "X" or star shape in the air) or, to simplify, slow it down, still having the arm motion but tapping one foot out to the side and alternating feet/sides each time your arms go up. 

  • High Knees

High knees, again, are a lot like jogging in place but kind of the opposite of butt kicks. It requires a more elaborate motion of the lower body but this time you're bringing your leg up in front of you, ideally, so that your thigh is parallel with the floor, a horizontal line from the hip to the knee. Keep the knees as high as possible for as long as you can. You may notice that your knees may drop as time goes on, just push through it and get them as high as you can!

  • Jump Squats with Squat

This is quite similar to jumping lunges, but with a squat position. When you squat, make sure your weight is in your heels. To help me with this, I usually try to think of lifting my toes up off the ground. From a squat position, launch yourself up into the air, I usually have a bit of an arm swing going too for added momentum. At the bottom of your landing you’ll be back in that squat position ready to go again, but remember, weight in the heels. That being said, don’t land directly on your heels, a bruised heel bone is no fun. Being a dancer I have the “toe, ball, heel” landing mechanism pretty much perfected. When I land, I land toes first and then roll through my foot and end with the weight in my heel. Don’t think about it too much, this is the natural landing mechanism for most people. This mechanism will help with the "soft landing" I have been mentioning in pretty much every exercise. ;) Of course, slight bend in the knee when you land.

This exercise has pretty basic mechanics but it can get tough with increased reps. That is why I included the basic squat as plan B. If the jump squat is too much to handle, or if you're unable to perform the exercise for the full 45 seconds, just continue to do bodyweight squats. As with the jumping lunges, get back to jumping as soon as you feel you are able!

That's all folks!

As always, e-mail me with any questions: 

Now go enjoy the rest of your Friday!