Examples of High-Intensity Cardio

Determined young black woman jogging in a forest, close up

There are few better ways to raise the heart rate and improve the body's ability to use oxygen than by doing high-intensity cardiovascular fitness training. Anyone who is trying to become fitter, maintain a healthy weight, improve their endurance or improve athletic performance benefits.

There's a broad selection of high-intensity cardio training exercises. The enemy of any long-term fitness program is boredom, so take a look at these examples of high-intensity cardio training and consider including some of them in your cardio routine to keep your program from becoming another tiresome chore.

What is High-Intensity Cardio?

For anyone unfamiliar with high-intensity cardio training; it’s a training protocol that involves maintaining a heart rate between 70 and 90 percent of the maximum heart rate.

According to a study in the September 2012 Journal of Applied Physiology, high-intensity aerobic training is a more effective way to improve cardiorespiratory health and reduce body fat than conventional weight-training.

Running is good for high-intensity cardio training.

1. Running

This is one of the most fundamental high-intensity cardio exercises. Running is something everyone is familiar with and so has virtually no learning curve. Except for a comfortable pair of running shoes and appropriate clothing, you don’t need any specialized equipment either. Different running options include:

  • Running on a track or local road
  • Using a treadmill
  • Running in place

Running means you can enjoy a high-intensity cardio running workout almost anywhere, regardless of weather or location.

Research published in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research establishes that running at over 80 percent of the maximum heart rate improved athletic performance in triathlon competitors. The test-subjects improved their performance in running, swimming and bicycling — possibly because of increased leg strength due to neuromuscular adaptations experienced during the workouts. This study suggests that high-intensity running confers improvements to other athletic activities.

2. Bicycling

Next to running, biking is the only other athletic activity almost everyone is both familiar with and already owns the necessary gear to enjoy: A bike and a helmet. Doing high-intensity cardio training on a bicycle may mean you need to invest in a racing or mountain-style bike, rather than using the old touring bike with a basket that may be in your garage, however.

Like running, high-intensity cardio workouts can be performed indoors (on a stationary bike) or out. According to a study in the April 2014 issue of the Exercise Sports Science Review, high-intensity cardio on a bicycle will not only provide cardiovascular benefits but also increase the size and strength of the legs more than running.

3. Rowing Ergometer

Rowing is a fantastic way to develop cardiovascular fitness, and thanks to the rowing ergometer people can enjoy the benefits of rowing without needing a boat!

Rowing works both the upper and lower body, and according to research published in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Sports Science, performing bouts of high-intensity cardio on a rowing ergometer is a productive way to get fit. Nineteen Test-subjects who performed high-intensity cardio rowing workouts over a 10-week period experienced better improvements in their 2000 meter rowing time than the test-subjects who relied on conventional, long slow distance training (LSD).

4. Stair Climbing

Even running takes a back seat to climbing stairs as cardiovascular training. Stepping stimulates the glutes and other hip muscles more directly than running or biking, although it’s still considered a high-impact movement. A research article in the September 2005 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that just eight weeks of stair climbing (only two minutes, five days per week) improved V02 max — or oxygen usage during exercise — lipid profiles and cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Of course, if you don’t have easy access to flights of stairs, most gyms are equipped with stair climbing machines. Invest in a step mill for your home as another option.