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Cardio Workouts To Get Your Blood Pumping

Cardiovascular training involves any form of exercise that increases your heart rate in order to improve your body’s ability to use oxygen. While typically performed in a dedicated exercise setting such as a gym, track or field, any sustained level of physical activity can boast brilliant heart-healthy benefits.

The most common forms of cardio are low-intensity steady state (LISS) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). LISS involves performing an exercise over a long duration, at a relatively low level of intensity (about 45-60% of your maximum heart rate).

HIIT, on the other hand, means cardiovascular exercise that involves stages of maximum effort followed by short rest periods, repeated for a shorter duration than seen in LISS activity.

What Are The Benefits Of Cardio?

The benefits of cardiovascular training are significant. For starters, improving your fitness levels through cardiovascular activity can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of contracting serious conditions such as coronary heart disease.

It also helps you boost your work capacity – a foundation of general fitness on which your more specific fitness goals can be built. Whether you’re an aspiring bodybuilder, a casual football or rugby player, or just someone who trains for fun, being able to increasingly handle a greater workload can be of huge benefit.

An increased level of cardiovascular fitness can also improve your VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use in one minute of exercise, per kilo of bodyweight). When your fitness levels improve, so does your VO2 max, meaning you can therefore exercise with a much greater intensity. Lifting heavier weights for more reps, prolonging a run, increasing stamina for sports – all these activities will benefit.

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

Experts recommend that most people perform cardiovascular training three to five times a week, with a level of intensity that raises maximum heart rate to between 65-85%.

15-Minute Cardio Workouts For The Home And Gym

“A simple HIIT workout is the best thing to do if you have a small amount of time and need to get your butt in gear!” says Jason Bristow, master trainer and group exercise manager at Virgin Active Mayfair.

To help you get started with HIIT, Bristow has put together two five-exercise workouts you can try. One is made up of bodyweight exercises so you can do it anywhere, while we’ve called the other a gym workout but it just needs a set of dumbbells, so you can do it at home if you have a pair.

For both sessions, do each exercise for 20 seconds, rest for ten seconds and then go on to the next one. Repeat all five moves for six rounds for a 15-minute workout that’s sure to get the heart pumping. If you have more time and are feeling brave, add on a few more rounds.

Home Workout

Jumping jack

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

From standing, jump into the air, raise your hands above your head and land in a wide stance. Go straight into another jump and bring your arms to your sides and your feet back to the centre to land.


Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your torso and sit back until your thighs are parallel with the ground, then drive back up to standing through your heels.


Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Get into a press-up position with your hands under your shoulders. Lower your chest until it’s close to the ground, then push back up.

High knees

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Run on the spot bringing your knees up towards your chest.


Time 20sec Rest 10sec

From standing, squat down and place your hands by your feet, jump your legs back so you end in a press-up position. Do a press-up, then jump your feet up to your hands, stand up and leap into the air, raising your hands above your head.

“The burpee is one of the best exercises you can do,” says Bristow. “It fires up every muscle in synchronisation and makes your body chow down on the calories.”

Gym Workout

Dumbbell squat

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Follow the same form as with an unweighted squat, holding dumbbells either by your sides or between your legs as you squat.

Dumbbell overhead press

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Stand holding a pair of dumbbells by your shoulders with your palms facing away from you, and your elbows out to the sides and bent at 90°. Extend your arms and push the weights overhead, making sure you don’t lean back.

Dumbbell lunge

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Holding the dumbbells by your side, take a big step forwards with your right foot and lower until both your knees are bent at 90°. Then push back up to a standing position through your front foot and lunge forwards on your left leg.

Dumbbell bent-over row

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend at your waist and lean over until your torso is almost parallel to the ground, keeping your back straight. Let your arms hang down towards the floor. Lift both dumbbells up to your chest at the same time, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Pause at the top of the movement and squeeze your back muscles, then lower the weights back to the start.


Time 20sec Rest 10sec

If you want an extra challenge, perform the burpees holding dumbbells.

Six Quick Cardio Workouts

Forget the hour-long grind. Here’s how to make conditioning more efficient – and more fun.

1. Step up to stair runs

Office block, train station or town centre – it doesn’t really matter. “Warm up with some walking lunges and bounds to get the quads and glutes firing,” says trainer Mark Briant. “Then complete ten lots of stair runs, sprinting up and walking down to recover. For added intensity try and take two steps at a time.”

Why it works Even the sternest hill won’t match the incline on a set of stairs: you’ll accelerate your heart rate in seconds, improving VO2 max.

2. Go complex at the bar

“To combine strength with cardio, do barbell complexes,” says Briant. “Try one power clean, two front squats and three push presses – all without resting or putting the bar down. Rest for 90 seconds, then repeat four times. Start light and build strength and confidence in the movements.”

Why it works A complex will tax every muscle in your body, making oxygen intake – rather than muscular fatigue – the limiting factor. Plus you’ll get better at every movement.

3. Paddle to the metal

Instead of doing long, steady rowing sessions, switch to intervals. “A good way to pace is to aim for a consistent 500m split time,” says Briant. “Complete eight sets of 250m rowing sprints, with an equal work to rest ratio, aiming for a 500m split of 1min 45sec or below.”

Why it works The rower is equally taxing on your lower and upper body – and if you keep your strokes-per-minute rate low, it’ll give you an upper back workout as well as testing your lungs.

4. Invert your Tabatas

Tabatas are the quintessential high-intensity intervals: 20 seconds’ work, ten seconds’ rest, repeated eight times. For ultra-high intensity, flip the script: do just ten seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest. Save it for the toughest exercises, such as battle ropes.

Why it works “With HIIT the key is to keep the intensity high across every interval,” says Briant. In traditional Tabatas, it’s tempting to slow down for the last couple of intervals – here, you can go full blast throughout.

5. Revisit the classics

“Burpees are great in a HIIT workout because you’re using your whole body,” says HIIT instructor Jamie Ray. The downside? They’re notoriously hard, so you’ll want to be creative. Do one, rest for 10 seconds, then do two and rest for 20, all the way to ten, then back down. That’s 100.

Why it works In scientific tests, burpees beat every other bodyweight move for post-exercise oxygen consumption, making them ideal for fat loss as well as cardio.

6. Slam the pedals

“When you’re on the Wattbike, try using a higher resistance at an explosive pace at 30-second intervals,” says Ray. “This will help your lung capacity, raise your cardio level and improve your recovery rate.”

Why it works Regular bouts of high-intensity cycling can increase VO2 max as well as stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped by each heartbeat). They can also reduce blood lactate levels while improving muscular efficiency. Rotate them in with your other moves.

Keep scrolling down the page for even more cardio workouts

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