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Quick Brutal Cardio Ideas

Quick Brutal Cardio Ideas

Cardio is either an over appreciated or an under-appreciated tool in the arsenal of the typical gym goer. Either people do nothing but pound the treadmill or swish on the cross trainer, or they feel that walking to their car is too much cardio. Both of these attitudes are extreme and aren’t going to serve you well in the long term.

So it is safe to say that for people who realise that their gym going shouldn’t be completely devoid of cardio, or for those people who are sick of 1 hour treadmill sessions, let’s take a look at some ideas to get your lungs screaming for mercy, and your heart beating out of your ears.


The term circuits can be used to describe pretty much anything in the training realm. Generally is involves several exercises performed in a row, one set each, for a number of circuits. Many Crossfit workouts of the day (WOD) are just fancy circuits.

The idea that you should follow is to take several larger weight training movements, for example, the bench press, overhead press, squat, row etc, then add a weight that is quite low. 40kg for an intense circuit using those movements should be plenty, go even lower if you are not a strong lifter. This is unless of course you’re very strong, in which case use more weight. Don’t be cocky however, since the weight will kick your ass.

After you have prepared your exercises and weights, you can do two things. Either, set a number of reps to do, and try for AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) or you can set a number of rounds, and then try to beat a time.

An example that we have tried and that has kicked our ass in the past is the following:

3 rounds, as fast as possible.

40kg on the bar

  • Bench Press – 10 reps
  • Overhead Press – 10 reps
  • TRX Horizontal rows (barbell rows could be used) – 10 reps
  • Front Squat 10 reps
  • 400 metre Run

This can lead to you breathing so hard you get a sore throat.

Another idea we have tried:

AMRAP (As many reps as possible)

20kg bar

  • Overhead Squat – 10 reps
  • 30 second treadmill sprint (incline optional depending on how crazy you are)
  • 16kg KB Swing – 15 reps
  • 10 Renegade Rows Each side (using 16kg KB)

There are so many ways you can plan training like this. One word of caution, putting in moves that are overly technical (snatch for instance) can be unsafe. You are better doing these with a Kettlebell than a barbell in this context.

Hill Suicide runs

A simple way to commit death through cardio is hill running. This alone is difficult enough, but a way to make them even more effective and even more horrific is by turning a hill run into a suicide drill.

A suicide drill is a simple enough idea; you take a distance e.g. 100 metres and split it up into three equal parts. Set some markers there, call them points A, B and C, a suicide run is as follows:

Run to Point A, walk to the start

Run to Point B, Walk to the start

Run to Point C, walk to the start

Run to point B, walk to the start

Run to point A, walk to the start

This is one set. Try and do 3 or 4 sets. The term “suicide” seems very appropriate halfway through your second set.

15 min no put down Kettlebell

Doesn’t sound too difficult, but this simple drill can destroy your hands, lungs and muscles. The trick is simple, pick up the kettlebell, perform kettlebell moves for 15 minutes and don’t ever put the kettlebell down. Also, you aren’t allowed to just stand there for 15 mins, although holding a kettlebell for 15 mins is still fairly impressive.

The way these generally work is that you perform Kettlebell swings in between other movements. For example:

Swings – 10 reps

Cleans – 5 reps per side

Swings – 10 reps

Snatch – 5 reps per side

Swings – 10 reps

Squat – 8 reps per side

Swings – 10 reps

This can go on and on, or you could keep repeating the above processes. You get the idea, basically it is voluntary torture. You will begin to look forward to the kettlebell swings a rest, and when kettlebell swings feel like rest you have truly stepped into hell.


This one is simple, get a sled or prowler in your gym load it up with weight plates and push it. When you get to the other side of the room either push it or pull it back.

This one requires no explanation, you can either put less weight on, and you will be almost running, or you can load it up with plenty of weight and struggle with every fibre of your body to push and pull it across the room.

Either way, the first time you do it you will most likely puke, but it works like hell.

Farmer Walks

Another simple yet brutally efficient movement that will test your very reason for existing, it will build full body strength and tear the fat off your body.

The premise is simple, pick up heavy things and walk with them. If your gym is not equipped with farmer walks handles you can pick up heavy dumbbells or kettlebells and walk for distance or time. Just like the prowler work, you can either use lots of weight, or go for distance and duration with less weight.

Weighted Vest Walks

This sounds simple enough, but try going for a good walk with a decently weighted vest on. The pain you will feel in your traps and legs will be unbelievable. This will really make you breathe hard and work on that cardio many people neglect.

Parting words

There are thousands of different ways to get in some conditioning/cardio into your training diet. Don’t fall for the old gym stereotype of being muscle bound but too but out of breathe tying your shoelaces. On the other hand, if you are just looking to drop some weight, or get into better shape, any of the above ideas should be a good addition to your training. Enjoy, and don’t vomit too much.

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