I’m not a natural born runner. I’m not bad in the speed department, but the thought of committing to weeks on end of long distance training runs has never appealed to me, so that pretty much rules out a marathon (although I am infinitely inspired by the drive and resilience of the long distance runners among you). I prefer my cardio short and sharp, so my heart screams and my pulse soars and it’s all over before I can blink. The post-workout endorphins after a challenging tabata session are like nothing else. I feel powerful. I feel light on my feet (even if my legs don’t always oblige). I feel like I can tackle anything that comes my way.
Aside from the incredible feel-good factor of the toughest high-intensity exercises, the physical benefits are also second to none. As someone who always feels short on time, the result to time ratio of every workout is hugely important to me. And incorporating high-intensity cardio supersets into conditioning workouts is the easiest way to reduce the time of your workouts while maintaining (or even increasing) the benefits of each session.
Here are just a few of the reasons to love cardio conditioning supersets:
- You sweat more – The body heat rises more quickly with the sharp increase in energy expenditure. Cue the opening of the pores and that gloriously natural detoxifying effect of a good sweat session.
- Afterburn is amplified – The more times your heart rate spikes and then drops off again (compared to steady state cardio like endurance running, which keeps the heart rate level), the greater the metabolic activity after your training. That means by working harder for less time, you can burn more fat and calories for longer.
- Faster muscle fatigue – While this may sound like a negative, tiring your muscles out faster during conditioning segments means they get rapidly stronger to meet your regular training demands. Your body also becomes more efficient, your lactic acid threshold rising to be able to sustain greater effort for longer. Yes, this means you’ll be able to get in an extra burpee or two, but you’ll also feel the difference as you race effortlessly up escalators or catch that bus just in the nick of time.
Convinced? Time to put your new knowledge to practice. Do 3 sets of 15 reps for each of the below supersets, with 30 seconds rest between each round. I selected these combinations for super-quick transitions, so minimise any pause between the two exercises in each superset.
Deadlifts to squat jack
Holding a kettlebell or pair of dumbbells weighing at least 10kg, assume a hip-width stance and ‘switch on’ your abdominals as you bend with a straight spine towards your toes. When the weight gently taps the floor, slowly return to the top while keeping your legs straight – and say hello to your hamstrings. Quick, straight on to your squat jacks! Drop the hips back and down and touch the sides of your heels, then explode up as you push through your heels to jump up and jack your legs out to the sides. Land in a perfect mid-width squat position and transition smoothly between every rep.
Military crawl to side to side plank jumps
I have to credit one of my colleagues at Heartcore who inspired this military crawl plank. Warning: he does it on the Reformer Pilates Bed, with the carriage opening beneath you like the jaws of an angry shark. This floor-based version is far kinder, but similarly adds variety to your plank and challenges stability through your spine. In a flat back forearm plank, stack your forearms one in front of the other. Then take a few slow controlled crawls forward by alternating which forearm is in front, following with your feet behind. Continue crawling for up to 60 seconds before moving straight into your high plank on your hands, then get that heart rate high with side to side plank jumps. Keep your back as straight as possible and your feet together as you pounce from one side of the mat to the other. Light on your toes and steady through your hips!
V-sits to resistance band crab jumps
With a resistance band tied snug just above your knees, find your long spine position on your back and slowly peel your shoulders and legs off the floor in one simultaneous movement. Meet in the middle and hover for a moment in a V-sit. The addition of the resistance band will help to reinforce your straight leg position and keep your toes together, which increases the challenge for those lower abs. Feeling crabby? A set of crab jumps will set you right with a rush of cardiovascular endorphins and a satisfying extra burn in the sides of your glutes. Plant your hands behind you and lift your hips towards the ceiling so the front of your body forms a box. Maintain this position, squeezing your glutes and engaging your core, while jumping your feet in and out against the resistance of the band.
Slider side planks to mountain climbers
Sliders* are a go-to for me when I need a home workout or want to slow down and think about form. However, they’re also great for speeding up. This combination of side pike and mountain climbers does both. Place your hands directly beneath your shoulders and the sides of your feet on the sliders, top leg in front. From here, keep your legs together and your shoulders directed towards the floor as you squeeze the sliders as far in to your torso as possible. Think about reaching your hips high towards the ceiling and exhaling into the working oblique. After up to 15 slow controlled pikes, square your hips and position your toes on the sliders, then drive one knee at a time in towards your chest. The extra resistance of maintaining contact with the floor adds a subtle core conditioning element to the classic cardio superhero that is the mountain climber.
*You can also perform this exercise using paper plates or face cloths.
Press-ups to vinyasa jump throughs
Inspired by the most challenging vinyasa yoga classes, this press-up / jump through combination will give you a gleeful burst of energy when it suddenly clicks and you can begin to speed up your transitions into your V-sit or ‘boat pose’ at the top. Start in press-up position, your hands beneath your shoulders and your glutes and hamstrings active. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and slowly lower your chest to the floor. After you’ve completed all your reps here, fire through the core to shift the weight into your hands and kick your feet up and through to the front of the mat. Try not to let your feet touch the floor, but straight away lean back with your shoulders and lift up through your toes towards the ceiling. Hover in V-sit, then reverse. Voila!
As I leave you with my favourite fat-blitzing supersets to help you feel the burn, I’m off on the next flight to Australia. I’ll be giving my body a little rest, so I can come back to my own supersets feelings fresher and stronger. I look forward to catching up on the other side, when I’ll have lots of holiday news as well exciting Fit Brit Collective updates to report ;).