Like all exercise, we need to increase the difficulty of cardio exercises as they start to get easier. This ensures we can continue to benefit from the activity, and keeps things from getting boring. But increasing the difficulty doesn't mean we have to increase the impact! Read on for 8 ways to up the challenge, no running or jumping required. Keep this list handy for the next time you're ready to ramp up your cardio workout!
#1: Move Multiple Joints and/or Limbs
When you perform an exercise that moves multiple joints or one that has you moving arms and legs at the same time, your body has to work harder (read, your heart will also have to work harder!). A lot of body weight exercises are multi-joint movements such as squats (hips, knees, and ankles are all moving through a squat) and lunges. Adding in movements with the remaining limbs will further elevate the heart rate as all the moving limbs will demand more oxygen rich blood flow.
Try it Out: during your next workout, add a biceps curl as you lunge down.
#2: Move Like You Mean It
Your body will always try to perform movements in the most efficient way possible - from a survive or thrive perspective, it wants to conserve energy. That means the most efficient way possible is often less physically demanding. So, when you move through a movement, really focus on what you're doing and try to increase the intensity of what you're doing.
Try it Out: the next time you pull your arms down from an overhead position, pretend like you're pulling down on something really heavy.
#3: Try Interval Training
If you typically do steady state cardio, intervals are a great way to give yourself a new challenge. Alternate between a higher intensity/effort than what you do for your steady state, try to maintain that intensity for a short period of time, and then recover by moving at a low intensity/effort, and repeat.
Try it Out: during your next cardio activity, pick up the pace/increase your intensity (aim for a 7 or 8 out of 10) for 30 seconds. Then, reduce your speed/decrease your intensity for 30 to 60 seconds (aim for a 3 or 4 out of 10). Repeat for a total of 10 to 20 minutes. This can be done with any cardio activity, including cardio equipment.
#4: Throw Your Hands Up
A similar concept to moving multiple limbs, bringing your arms overhead instantly increases the demands on your cardiovascular system.
Try it Out: the next time you do a leg exercise, move your arms up and down, too (like you might see in a jumping jack, for example).
#5: Move Faster
We generally have a normal pace or tempo that we would set unconsciously whenever when we participate in physical activity, like heading out for a walk, for example. Often, we can walk quite a bit faster without having it turn into a jog. You can move faster by increasing the tempo of any exercise (but always prioritize your form, first!) or by increasing your pace when you're walking/cycling/cardio-ing.
Try it Out: on your next walk, pretend you're walking to something important and you're running 10 minutes behind schedule.
#6: Move For Longer
If you participate in physical activity for the same duration every cardio session, try increasing it. This can be applied to both steady state and interval training.
Try it Out: during your next cardio session, try increasing your work interval by 10 seconds if you're doing HIIT training, or increase your duration by 5 minutes if you're doing steady state cardio.
#7: Rest Less
This option lends itself nicely to interval training. Depending on the intensity and duration of your work interval, rest for a slightly shorter period of time than you normally do.
Try it Out: during your next workout, decrease your rest break by 2 to 5 seconds (depending on the exercise) for HIIT training, or keep your feet moving when you're waiting at a stop light during an outdoor steady state session.
#8: Change it Up
Trying something new, or even just switching up a certain aspect of your workout, can increase the physical demands of the exercise. Often, just one change is enough to notice a difference in difficulty!
Try it Out: during your next workout, try adding weights to a body weight exercise you've mastered, or choose a route outside that incorporates more hills.
There you have it - my top 8 recommendations for increasing the difficulty of your workout without a hop, skip, or jump. Have other ideas? Share them below! I'd love to hear them!
Photo By Kate Warren Photography