Posted on November 28, 2022 by Harry Edwards
So, you’ve decided to get your gym shoes on, put your headphones in and are getting in the zone! But suddenly you stop in your tracks. “What am I actually going to do?” You think to yourself, “I’m motivated to do some cardio, but what will be best for me? What should I do?” Well fear not! Today we’re going to inspect the most popular forms of cardio training and examine their unique features to reveal why you might favour one over another.
Running is the classic form of cardio, existing as long as humans have existed. Very straight forward, running can be performed in the gym on a treadmill, out in the hills and countryside, or just down your street. Running has the lowest equipment needs of any form of cardio, making it especially convenient. “But what about my knees?”, I hear you cry! In reality it is poor running form, not running itself, that generally causes knee pain. Knee injuries associated with running are typically caused by overuse and bad technique. This includes improper rest between runs, running too far or too hard before your body is adapted for the new stress, and generally overworking yourself. With running it is a case of earning each stage of development and taking your time with progression. Once you have the form down, besides just improving your cardiovascular health and fitness, you are likely to actually see an improvement in your knee health, with a number of studies showing that runners are less likely to suffer from osteoarthritis than non-runners. Beyond knees, running is great for developing your fitness and, because it is an impact exercise, it helps develop muscular strength in your lower body that is more akin to resistance training than other forms of cardio. So if you’re looking for cardio options, this one is an oldie but a goodie! If you want to get some more tips on running, especially as a beginner, check out the link here.
Cycling is another classic, often being the first cardio machine people will hop on when they enter a gym. Cycling, similar to running, has the bonus feature that, assuming you have a bike, you can do it almost anywhere. Whether you want to cycle around the countryside, from town to town or just through your neighbourhood, cycling will allow you to get out and about. It is also very easy to integrate into your everyday life, with cycling to work, the shops or any other journeys you make during your day all adding up for a positive impact on your fitness and health. Alternatively, static bikes are a staple of every gym, making them very accessible to people seeking them out. For those with joint or weight issues, cycling is a great shout because it is essentially a zero impact form of cardio. This also means that recovery from cycling workouts is faster, making them easy to perform regularly through the week. Cycling, unlike running or rowing, is not quite as easy to gear towards shorter, higher intensity workouts. It is possible, sprint cycling is a thing, however the average gym goer will find it easier to do treadmill sprints or rower intervals than attempting sprints on a static bike or out on a road bike. However for mid and long duration exercise, cycling is better suited than other forms of cardio, allowing you to cover long distances more easily and enabling active rest by coasting. So when it comes to burning some calories and breaking a sweat, cycling is a great option! For some tips to improve your cycling and your overall strength, check out the link here.
Another staple of the gym, the rowing machine is a fantastic piece of kit. The rower has several qualities that make it stand out. First, unlike other forms of cardio that tend to focus on the lower body, rowing is a full body workout, requiring the legs to press and then your arms to row. This means rowing will round out your fitness and physique by ensuring all parts of your body are working together. Rowing, like cycling, is also a low impact exercise, making it a good option for people with joint or weight issues. Rowing is also very adaptable to your goals and needs. It can be performed as a long duration endurance activity or at short, high speed intervals for power development. Whatever you want to get out of your cardio, you can achieve it with rowing. In addition, as previously alluded too, rowing closely mimics weightlifting movements. As such it is excellent for training the mind muscle connection, reinforcing the correct movement patterns for these exercises. Finally, rowing, particularly out on a river but also in the gym, can be very relaxing and meditative due to its rhythmic quality. This all adds up to an excellent option for your next cardio workout that we would really recommend you try! For a fun rowing challenge, check out this link!
The X trainer is another hidden gem among cardio equipment. Another full body workout through the use of both resistance handles and the leg platforms, the X trainer is especially good for warming up before a workout. It is virtually zero impact, making it particularly good for rehab clients or older individuals. Due to the set up of the machine, it is also much easier than other equipment to adjust mid-workout, allowing you to constantly control the intensity of your workout to achieve what you need. This all sounds very soft and cuddly, but some studies have shown that in terms of calories burned per hour, a X trainer could actually outperform other cardio workouts when pushed to high intensities. So next time you’re thinking about doing some cardio, don’t overlook the humble X trainer!
Another form of cardio that has existed for as long as humans have, swimming is an excellent option for you to try. Swimming is the epitome of a full body workout. As you are totally enveloped by water, every movement you make is made against resistance, forcing every part of your body to be engaged at any given moment. Additionally, because we are not fish, swimming has the additional component of training your lungs and forcing you to develop your breathing. For example, some studies have shown that regular swimming can be beneficial for people with asthma by helping them expand their lung capacity. Swimming is also beneficial for helping other special need groups. It’s low impact makes it good for clients with joint issues, it has been found to help relieve pain in people with MS and can be very beneficial for pregnant women. Swimming, due both to the full-body aspect of its resistance and the secondary loss of body heat to the water, is one of the most calorie burning workouts available. Finally, its relatively inexpensive and accessible, with most gyms having a pool available and the only necessary equipment being a swimsuit and towel. So if you’re looking for a novel option for your cardio, consider taking a dip in the pool! For some additional training to develop strength specifically for swimming, check out this link here.
A personal favourite of mine, especially with its ties to boxing and combat sports, skipping is a fantastic way to push your cardiovascular fitness. Firstly, skipping involves the movement of your whole body, requiring strong explosive hops with your legs, bracing in your core and strength in your arms to propel the skipping rope through the air. Secondly, more than other forms of cardio, skipping involves training your coordination, proprioception and timing. Navigating the rope, altering your speed, and integrating different types of skips all contribute to making the workout more or less challenging according to your skill level. One of the only drawbacks of skipping, besides the learning factor whereby skipping takes a while to get the knack of, is that skipping is definitely an impact exercise. With the way you are repeatedly bouncing up and down with your legs essentially straight, it is not uncommon for people to get “jumpers knee” where the repeated strain of jumping up and down causes tenderness and pain in the knee and lower leg muscles. As such this exercise will not be ideal if you have suffered from knee problems. However, with the proper rest, working at the correct intensity, and mixing up your training, skipping could become your new best friend when it comes to getting your cardio in. For a boxing themed workout that incorporates skipping, check out the link here.
So you’re now clued in on some of the most popular form of cardio around! There are still many more to choose from, however these are the staples of cardio training. You should now be better informed to decide what type (or types) of cardio you want to do when you next workout. So fear no more! Stroll into that gym with confidence knowing what you’re gonna do, how its going to help you achieve your goals and all while having fun!