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8 Cardio Workouts That Even Men Will Love


Whether you’re a competitive athlete, casual lifter or simply training to improve your health, you know cardiovascular training is important for both men and women. Beyond the wealth of heart-healthy benefits, cardio training is vital to mental health. Exercise ranging from low to high intensity improves your concentration and mood and stimulates the release of endorphins, giving you the “runners high” after a lunchtime or after-work training session. Equally as important, low-impact cardio training will improve your recovery after weightlifting sessions, eradicating soreness and allowing you to train harder more frequently. With the wealth of benefits in mind, here are eight cardiovascular-focused workouts created specifically for men; although women can certainly do them too.

1. Treadmill: Interval Sprints

Treadmill intervals are an excellent high-intensity training method. If you haven’t sprinted in a while, treadmill intervals allow you to ease back into running without going all-out and injuring yourself. Here's the workout:

  • Start by setting a treadmill at a 2 to 3 percent incline and warming up for three minutes between 5 and 6 mph.
  • Increase the speed of the treadmill to between 7 and 10 mph, depending on your training level. 
  • Sprint for 15 seconds, then hop onto the sides of the treadmill and rest for 45 seconds. 
  • Repeat for 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • Start slowly, and then increase the pace of the interval. You should be out of breath and struggle to maintain your speed for any longer than the 15-second sprint.

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2. Rower: Total-Body Low-Impact Training

Unlike most cardio equipment, the rower offers full-body benefits due to the rowing motion created when your upper-body muscles (lats, traps, rhomboids, forearms and biceps) work with the legs. By recruiting the upper and lower body, the rower allows you to target the entire body after a hard workout or stimulate a greater amount of muscle mass during your training. The more muscle you recruit with an exercise, the greater the potential cardiovascular benefits due to an increased number of muscular contractions. Whether you’re looking to recover from other training or minimize joint stress with low-impact training, the rower is a great tool. Here's the workout:

  • Set the resistance between three and six. 
  • Warm up at a comfortable pace for three to five minutes. 
  • Row as hard as possible for 300 meters.
  • Recover at a low-intensity pace for 200 meters. 
  • Repeat the high-intensity 300-meter row with 200-meter recovery for 20 minutes. 
  • After 20 minutes, spend three minutes cooling down at a low-intensity pace. 
  • Your total training time will be between 26 and 28 minutes.

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3. Stair Climbing Machine: Ramping Workout

The stair climbing machine is one of the most time-efficient cardiovascular workouts. Because you’re stepping up and putting the glutes and hamstrings under stretch, you’re recruiting your quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings to repeatedly lift your body with each step. By recruiting the biggest muscles to haul you up the stairs, you’ll increase the muscular and metabolic cost of the exercise. Here’s the workout:

  • Four-minute low-intensity warm-up
  • Two minutes of moderate-intensity step-ups
  • Two minutes of high-intensity double steps (two steps at a time)
  • One minute of high-intensity single steps
  • Repeat this five-minute ramp twice more
  • Three minutes of low-intensity cooldown
  • Total time: 22 minutes

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4. Stationary Bike: High-Intensity Intervals

The stationary bike is an excellent high-intensity training tool if you need a simple and convenient workout in a time crunch. Using the workout below, you’ll alternate between high and low intensity to reap the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). With this method, you’ll burn calories during and after exercise -- and spend less time in the gym in the process. Here’s the workout:

  • Three-minute easy warm-up
  • 30-second high-intensity sprint
  • 30-second low-intensity recovery
  • Repeat the sprint-recovery cycle for 15 minutes
  • Three-minute low-intensity cooldown
  • Total time: 21 minutes

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5. Dumbbell Complexes

Since most gyms are either extremely busy or poorly equipped, getting more out of less equipment is ideal for most men. In this case, dumbbell complexes are a great metabolic conditioning method when you’re traveling or in a time crunch. Grab a set of dumbbells you can comfortably curl for 10 reps and find some open space. Perform the following sequence of exercises without rest. After 10 reps of all exercises have been completed once, set your dumbbells down, grab some water and rest for three minutes. Repeat for three to five total sets. Here’s the workout:

  • Dumbbell overhead presses
  • Dumbbell front squats
  • Dumbbell walking lunges
  • Dumbbell bent-over rows
  • Dumbbell goblet squats
  • Biceps curls
  • Rest three minutes
  • Repeat three to five times
  • Total training time: 18 to 25 minutes

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6. Total-Body Barbell Complex

Barbell complexes are simple: Get a barbell, find some open space and be prepared to work hard. By performing compound, multi-joint exercises with little rest, you’ll force the biggest muscles in your body to contract and move under fatigue. While you should keep the resistance low to optimize technique, performing multi-joint exercises without recovery creates a huge challenge to your cardio training. For beginners, start the exercise with an unloaded barbell, moving with your best form through 12 reps of each exercise, without rest in between exercises, until all exercises have been completed. Then set your barbell down, grab some water and rest for three minutes. Repeat for four total sets. Here’s the workout:

  • Deadlift
  • Upright row
  • Standing overhead press
  • Front squat
  • Rest three minutes
  • Repeat four times 
  • Total time: 20 to 25 minutes

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7. Total Body-Weight Circuit

Sometimes there’s no equipment available or you’re stuck in a crummy hotel gym. While this is never ideal, it’s still possible to get a great cardio workout using just your body weight. Perform all exercises in a circuit, resting for the prescribed time, then move on to the next circuit. Here’s the workout:

  • Three sets alternating between 10 push-ups and 30-second forearm planks
  • Three sets of 10 body-weight jump squats
  • 250 jumping jacks
  • Rest for two minutes
  • Three sets alternating between 30 seconds of mountain climbers and 30 seconds of a push-up hold with 30-second rests in between sets
  • Rest for 30 seconds
  • Three sets of 30 seconds of body-weight squats with 30 seconds of rest in between
  • 250 jumping jacks
  • Rest for two minutes 
  • Total training time: 30 minutes

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8. Elliptical: Recovery Training

This workout is best thought of as active recovery. Because the elliptical is a low-impact machine, the minimal joint stress makes this a perfect tool to flush your body of soreness after a difficult workout. By starting at a low intensity, you’ll gradually warm up the body, then hit a brief high-intensity portion to boost heart and sweat rate to clear the system. Here’s the workout:

  • Two minutes at an easy pace
  • Five minutes at moderate intensity
  • Five minutes at low intensity
  • Three minutes at high intensity
  • Five minutes at low intensity
  • Total time: 20 minutes

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About the Author

Eric Bach is a personal trainer, author of The Power Primer, and fitness business consultant in Denver, Colorado. His passion is simplifying fitness, helping clients get great results through the ruthless execution of the basics. Find out more on his website Bach Performance, or hang out on Facebook.

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