Tip: Two Cardio Workouts That Build Muscle

These untraditional metcon workouts are mixed right into your weight training. Try not to pass out.

I like to take an inverse approach with cardio and dieting: Eat as much as possible without getting fat, and do as little cardio as possible to maintain leanness.

For cardio, this means frequent walks with the dogs, and two brief bouts of high-intensity work with my trainer, Aaron White. He doesn't even call it "cardio" because these bouts are woven into our workouts with all the other lifts. Here they are:

  1. Sit in the upper body ergometer machine. It's the piece of cardio equipment that makes you pedal with your arms. You might see it in a physical therapy office, but commercial gyms often have at least one.
  2. Test the resistance to know how much to use. You'll be going as hard as you can for a minute. We use the highest resistance the machine allows.
  3. Hit an uncomfortable speed and maintain it. Pedal with your hands all-out for one minute. Don't auto-pilot this or let your speed decrease too much; pretend like you're sprinting... but with your hands.
  4. Get off the machine and, without rest, grab a pair of dumbbells one step lighter than what you usually use for lateral raises. Do a lateral raise then go directly into a front raise with both arms. That's one rep. Do 15 lateral-to-front raise combos. Focus on getting a solid mind-muscle connection with your delts.
  5. Set the dumbbells down, curse as much as necessary, catch your breath, then do it two more times.
  1. Get on the recumbent bike... the machine you think is for old people, right?
  2. Put the resistance on a moderate level. Hit an uncomfortable speed and maintain it. Pedal for two minutes.
  3. Raise the resistance at the one-minute mark, and then raise it to the hardest level the machine allows for the last 10 seconds. Try to maintain your speed throughout the whole two minutes (you shouldn't be able to, but try).
  4. Get off the bike and while you're gasping for air, do 10 walking lunges, each leg.
  5. Turn around and recover while walking back to the bike. Get a sip of water. Do it two more times. Rest as needed, but don't stall.
  • For either of these, you can increase the pedal/cardio time, just remember to find a pace you can maintain for the duration of time.
  • These mini-cardio sessions are as hard as you make them depending what resistance you use and how fast you pedal. Difficulty is up to you. Work harder for a harder workout.
  • Another way to increase the challenge is by reducing your rest between rounds. So instead of taking a two minute break before your next round, take just one.