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June 15, 2024

The killer cardio circuit: A how-to guide for building muscle and endurance

By Yang Bai | April 5, 2012

Let's move let's move. These are wise words I once heard at a track meet back in high school. Holding to the belief that it's often better to do than to talk, below are some different levels of the same exercise routine that can be combined with lifting or taken as a whole workout routine by itself.


Jump Rope

Jump rope can be like running in place, a process that is extremely tedious and uninspiring. To see your time go by easier, you may want to include alternating your feet and not just jump with both of them together each time. Additionally, you can jump on one leg at a time and go to 10 each, crisscrossing, jumping backwards, doing high knees every step, and to kick some extra lactic acid into your legs, landing in lunge position every jump. Remember, the wider you hold the rope, the tighter it becomes and thus moves faster. A rope that is too loose will be more likely to catch your feet.


The burpee is often implemented and rarely done right. There are many versions of it so we will name three. By standard, a burpee is the combination of a jump and a pushup or plank. For beginners, lower yourself from standing position to pushup position, preferably with knees off the ground. Next, bring the feet forward and go back to a standing position, pause minimally and jump straight up. After landing, you are ready for your second rep. A more advanced method includes doing an actual pushup, and leaves no waiting gap between standing back up and jumping. An even more advanced version and my personal preference is falling forward from the original standing position, catch yourself in a pushup position, complete the pushup and jump forward to catch yourself and finish with a vertical jump.

Vertical Jump

The point of vertical jump is to increase the strength in your legs. Sports tests will always measure an athlete's vertical jump because a weak lower body is often a sign of weakness in agility, power, and endurance. There are three main methods for carrying out the vertical jump. The simplest is of course starting with bent knees, swinging both arms upward and pushing off the ground with both legs. With enough control, you can hold your hands out at waist level and perform the same routine making sure that the palms and knees touch each time. A third way of doing it is jumping forward onto a bench or any platform; this ensures that you don't cheat the height of your jump.


Alternating lunge

If done correctly, this exercise gives your legs a good stretch before the next two destroy them. Focus on stepping forward a good distance, keeping the back straight and bending down to a 90 degree angle at the knee of the forward leg. The hands can either be kept at the side or move with the opposite leg like motions of running broken down into still frames. If your left knee forward is bent at 90 degrees, the right elbow should also be forward bent at 90 degrees. Correct posture stretches the back leg while simultaneously trains stability in your quads.

Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are very widely used. They are either very easy or very hard depending on the variation and your execution. To execute, hold yourself in pushup position and quickly bring one knee at a time up towards your chest. The standard is that you are running in place while exaggerating the steps by bring one leg forward such that your knees are come close to your chest. If you can get the first part right, and want to change it up, try bringing your knees up on the outside of your arms. This will stretch both legs and make the overall process harder. Additionally, the foot that is brought forward does not have to touch the ground and this variation will work the abs more.

Jump Squat

Doing these at the end of the above circuit will definitely obliterate your legs and leave you weak and unable to walk for a minute afterwards. But of course you are a fitness enthusiast and are willing to do whatever it takes to tone those quads and hams for warm weather. A minute of pain now versus a summer of confidence is no debate topic. At shoulder-length width, hold your arms straight out, and stand with your legs apart and bend down to a squat position 90 degrees at the knees. From this position, perform a vertical jump and raise both arms straight up and land back in the squat position with arms straight out. Just a few of these at the end of your cardio circuit can be bring excruciating pain to your legs so make sure you are mentally prepared before physical engaging.

With enough time and repetition, these workouts will give you sore legs, an after-burn that will strip away flab given enough time and repetition. As I have noticed, a lot more people have been performing burpees and mountain-climbers since Nov. They are in fact, time-efficient cardio circuits that I too perform and believe build functionally fit individuals.

So start today and put yourself on the gradual path to success because yesterday, you said, "tomorrow."

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