Cardio – most men hate it with a passion. In fact, in some circles of men, it’s considered a curse word. It’s pretty much that thing you do in the gym if your doctor says you have high cholesterol or you’re over 40. Or perhaps you’re going through a mid-life crisis and want to try to get back into clothes you haven’t worn in 15 years.

Most men I run into at the gym and those that I train would rather spend more time getting stronger and work on their diet rather than add in a “cardio day”. On my list of things to do in my weekly routine, a “cardio day” is pretty much last on the list every time. The truth is, cardio does suck (or at least what most people think of when they say to do cardio), but these suggestions will get you the results you want without having to be bored out of your mind running for miles. It’s worked for my clients and it will work for you!

Don’t get me wrong, this is going to feel exhausting the first month or two until you get used to what a rigorous workout routine actually feels like. If you want the best cardio workouts for men that are quick and effective, I suggest you keep on reading!

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For most men, their main fitness goal is to gain muscle and lose fat. They want that shredded look you see in magazines, and they want it fast! And for most of us, if gaining muscle mass and losing body fat is our goal, we need to make sure the cardio we add into our workout is going to help us reach that goal, not take us in the opposite direction. If we are Jack from the story Jack and the Beanstalk, and gaining muscle/losing body fat is our golden goose, high intensity cardio workouts are our magic beans.

What is high intensity training? Most people think this means exercising until your heart is racing and you feel like you’re going to throw up. The truth is high-intensity training refers more to how intensely the brain has to work during the exercise rather than the volume of repetitions.

For example, if I was going to deadlift 500lbs one time this would be considered more intense (neurologically) than lifting 225lbs 10 or 15 times. If we take that same concept and apply it towards how we perform our cardio as we exercise, we get the golden goose and have the strength to cut down the beanstalk to defeat our giant. Below are some very simple (but very challenging) ways to ensure that you are getting the best cardio workout you can.

Best Cardio Workout Tips:

1) Walking

Before you begin your workout, walk 2 minutes on the treadmill with an incline of 2% between 3.5-4 mph. Jog the next 2 minutes with the same incline, between 6.5-8 mph. Run the next 2 minutes with the same incline, between 9-12 mph. Reduce the speed the next 2 minutes back to 6.5-8 mph and finish off your warm up with 2 minutes between 3.5-4 mph.

This may not seem like much, but it will radically change the way the rest of your workout will feel (especially if you using tip #2 after completing this warm-up). Personally, I was able to maintain a 6-minute mile by performing this warm up routine 4-5 days per week and not doing any other form of cardio.

2) Lifting weights

If you are lifting weights, have a timer next to you. If your goal is gaining muscle and losing body fat, this is a must! You would be amazed at how much time you waste while at the gym. This ensures you are using your time wisely at the gym and that your body is training with the appropriate energy system.

Use this as a general guideline:
-Rest 2-2.5 minutes after heavy, multi-joint exercises (rep count is at 5 or lower) such as deadlifts, back squats, weighted pull-ups, barbell bench press, cleans, etc.
-Only rest 1 minute between multi-joint exercises with rep counts higher than 8
-Single joint movements require only 30-60 seconds of rest between each set

3) High intensity interval training

1-2 days per week, perform high intensity interval training (mainly sprints). Sprints are one of the best ways to build cardiovascular endurance and shred fat while maintaining muscle mass. Intervals simply mean the exercise is followed by a rest period based on how long it took you to complete the exercise.

Listed below are some guidelines for how long to rest between each sprint based on the distance and intensity. It is assumed that all sprints/runs are performed at 80-100% of capacity (meaning you are running your butt off!).

-<100m – 1:15 work to rest ratio (i.e. if it took you 12 sec, you would get 120 sec of rest)
-100-200m – 1:10 work to rest (i.e. if it takes 25 sec, you rest 2 min 5 sec)
-200-400m – 1:5 work to rest
-400-800m – 1:3 work to rest
-800m-1 mile – 1:2 or if very well-conditioned, 1:1 work to rest

best cardio workouts for men2Image by Andrew Malone

4) Jump Rope!

This is an exercise nobody does anymore. The beauty of this exercise is it is self-limiting. That means this exercise forces you to have good form as you perform it. If you have poor form, you will quickly mess up. You are limited by how good your technique and conditioning are. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to jump rope with bad posture? This is why it is a great substitution for running, which we can do for miles and miles with horrible form! Try including 5 minutes of jump roping at the beginning of your workout and an additional 5 minutes at the end of your workout.

5) Play fun games like Ultimate Frisbee

This is an amazingly fun way to get your heart rate up without you realizing you are working out! All you need is a Frisbee, friends, and an open field. You are doing interval sprints without even realizing it. Here is a link to the rules of how to play: http://sportsvite.com/sports/UltimateFrisbee/rules

6) For the die-hard cardio fans out there…

…you are free to continue running your miles but that is only going to get you so far (pun intended).  If you are going to use long-distance running as your primary source of cardio, at least run outside instead of on a treadmill so you don’t build even more compensations. At the end of the day, your heart will definitely benefit from the cardiovascular training, but looking at the big picture, your time can likely be better spent using one of the above methods to get the BEST cardio workout.

Putting Tips #1, 2, 3, and 4 to Good Use

Day 1

Exercise

Sets X Reps

Rest

1) Warm Up – See Method 1, then foam roll

15 min

2) Back Squat (65%, 75%, 85%, 85%)*

4X4

2-2.5 min

3) Goblet Squat (dumbbell or kettlebell)

4X12

1 min

4a) Walking Lunges w/single dumbbell

3X10 steps each side

1 min

4b) Pull Ups (assisted if needed)

3X8

1 min

5a) Single Arm Seated Rows

3X12 each

1 min

5b) Side Plank w/rotation

3X45 sec

30 sec

6) Stretch

10 min

*Percentages are based off of your 1-repetition max weight
Exercises labeled “a” and “b” are supersets. For example, complete exercise 4a, rest 1 minute, then complete exercise 4b, rest the appropriate time, then repeat until the number of specified sets have been completed. Continue to the next exercise.

Day 2 – Advanced Cardio

Exercise

Sets X Reps

Rest

1) Warm Up – 5 min jump rope and dynamic warm up

2) Accelerations (begin with jog, be at full sprint by 60m)

6X100m

1:10

3) Sprints (90% max speed)

3X200m

1:5

4) Run (75-80% max speed)

3X400m

1:3

5) Jump Rope

5 min

6) Foam Roll and Stretch

10 min

Day 2 – Beginner/Intermediate Cardio

Exercise

Sets X Reps

Rest

1) Warm Up – 5 min jump rope and dynamic warm up

2) Accelerations (begin with jog, be at full sprint by 60m)

6X100m

1:15

3) Sprints (90% max speed)

3X200m

1:10

4) Run (75-80% max speed)

3X300m

1:5

5) Jump Rope

3 min

6) Foam Roll and Stretch

10 min

Leave comments or questions below if you need clarification on the workouts. If you would like to make a change in your life for the better, I will gladly contact you to see how I can be there to guide and cheer you on as you strive to reach your fitness goals!

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