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Story time, grab a chair. I did a program with my buddy David 3 years ago called Mechanical Drop Sets. David put on 30+lbs of solid bodyweight and I put on 20lbs+ in 12 weeks (a little pudge but mostly clean mass). It was insane. So were the workouts. On the high week it was upwards of 500 reps total per workout and there were 4 workouts per week. Ugh. Add it to the list of programs I’ll venture to use again on myself.

On the 9-12 week part of the program it calls for you to add in cardio training. One short, very intense. One medium intensity, more time. And one 45 minute jog. Add 20lbs to your body in such a short period of time and you figure you’re going to suck at running. We got out to the track and began running on the 9th week. Aside from some low back tension, to our surprise we were killing it with the running. How the hell was that possible? We just lifted heavy sh*t for 9 weeks, gained insane body weight and should be like a turtle but here we are, heart rate easy, legs moving freely. Hmmm…

Do this: Pick up a dumbbell, a moderate weight, hold it up in front of you and squat 20 times fairly fast and low (range of motion).

Now put the weight down. Tell me about your heart rate….

It’s sky-high, right?! So weight training can equate to cardiovascular training as well. Those 500 rep workouts were equating to a cardiovascular system that was also improved. Cool, I hate cardio so now I finally had my excuse why I’ll never have to do it.

Give your head a shake, Adrian. The #1 cause of men dying is heart disease. 26% in fact (cancer is close at 24%, then it drops to 7% for unintentional injuries which to me reads stupid guy machismo). For women: the #1 cause of death is also heart disease at 26% (cancer is 2nd at 22%, stroke is next at 7%). So this means I should be smart and not only make my heart stronger by lifting things but actually training my cardiovascular system as if it were an important body part that should have its own specified training. But I still hate cardio so it’s gotta be something I can actually sorta enjoy doing.

So let’s get on that:

15 Different Cardio Styles That Actually Work

I’m going to classify these into three categories to make it easy. High Intensity (usually interval style; something you can only keep up less than 20 mins), Moderate Intensity (usually exercises or machines that are difficult to keep up longer than 30 mins), Low Intensity (think jogging for 45+ mins). I’ll talk a little about each variation and then sum this up with discussion on which is right for  you.

High Intensity: <=20 Minutes

1. Tabatas. Time commitment: 4-15 mins. I’m going to do a separate blog about Tabatas but essentially it’s named after a Japanese exercise expert who discovered that doing 20 seconds all out effort followed by 10 seconds short recovery for 8 rounds which equates to 4 minutes total on a stationary bike improved VO2Max (breathing/cardio capacity) more than endurance style cardio or ANY style being done. In the fitness industry today we refer to a Tabata more in relation to the timing (20 sec GO:10 sec REST x 8 = 4mins) but we use a zillion different exercises. Again, I’ll get more into Tabata info in another post. Instead for now, watch this video and follow the instructions in the “see more” description of the video. The video is essentially a double Tabata which is no one’s business doing.

2. Max-OT cardio. Time commitment: 16mins. I’ll tell you two things about Max-OT training: 1) it’s by far the most effective cardio on the planet for fat loss and 2) it becomes the most brutal form of cardio by about the 3rd week. You can use any machine in a gym that has the “Interval” setting but the recumbent bike is the best. I don’t even do it on any other equipment. Sit on the bike, set up your height adjustments, start it up on the interval program, pedal like a maniac for 16 mins. Record the calories burned (not for accuracy, just for tracking) and every single time you get back on that machine to do this cardio you MUST beat that calories burned number. You can do that by increasing resistance or RPM on the pedals. Trust me, come the 3rd week of doing this 2-3x a week you’ll really know what I mean by the two points above. Oh, and build yourself a couple 4 or 5 song iPod playlists that amp you up like crazy. Music makes this torture much better. Read more here:

3. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Time commitment: 20 mins. The above style of cardio is really a specific format for HIIT. In reality HIIT can be done a million different ways. Generally speaking work:rest ratios of 1:2 or 1:3 work best. For example I could go outside and after a warm up jog of 5 minutes I would then perform 10 “intervals” of 30 second all out sprint followed by 90 seconds of a very light jog (1 to 3 work:rest ratio), then follow it up with a 3-5 minute cool down jog back home. You can use machines at the gym also, any program where you see lots of hills is meant to work in this fashion. High heart rate followed by lower heart rate, repeated, then tapered off. Two things everyone should read:  and You’ll have a hard time justifying the time-wasting hour-long runs 5 x a week when 3-5 x 20minutes of HIIT produces up to double the fat loss results.

4. Tire Flips, Car Pushing (or insert any odd object hard work exercise). Time commitment: 10-20 minutes. This is pretty simple logistically. Most people don’t have access to a giant tire. If you do (there’s one at my gym if you’re bored) just do this  for 10 minutes, resting the least amount possible; way easier mentally when you have a partner.  Or just get your spouse, friend, random person that can laugh at you while sitting behind the wheel to steer your car in a large empty parking lot while you get behind and push that sucker back and forth for 10-20 minutes. Sorta like this:

Moderate Intensity: 20-30 minutes

*by moderate intensity I’m not implying these cardio styles aren’t brutal or any less effective but to get my point across: it’s not like you’re going to push your car for 30 minutes straight, though you could probably jog for 30 minutes. That’s the sort of difference I’m talking about here. The sum total of difficultly should aim to be the same, regardless of the time (4 minutes or 60 minutes). If  it is not, assess if you’re working hard enough or the style you chose was effective enough.

6. Hill Repeats. Time commitment: 20-30 minutes. Endurance athletes do this type of work frequently to simulate what happens come half and full marathons where they face hills that make the long runs more difficult. I suggest you find the biggest, baddest hill close to your house. I want you to start at the top of the hill. Walk down it quickly for a warm up. Now run as fast as possible up the hill (it’s going to slow big time as you approach the top). Walk or jog back down. Repeat for 20 minutes. It’s okay that your pace slows. You just do your absolute best to go fast up that hill. Your lungs will be on fire! In Surrey, we have some great hills. I like 140 street at 80th-74th ave. 144 street at 80th-76th ave is great too. I find hills that are 2-5 blocks and sharply climb at some point are best.

7. Jump Rope. Time commitment: 20-30 minutes. I’ll start this by saying I’m convinced guys were not designed to jump rope. While the girls played double dutch at recess, I was busy playing soccer. I’m compensating here because I suck at jumping rope. About 5 minutes in and my calves go on fire. I did do a stint where I worked my way up to 20 minutes. My cardiovascular became mint! Crazy effective, but if you’re like me and can only last 5 minutes at a time in the beginning best to start somewhere else first; you need a good 10 minutes at least to create EPOC (more at end). Still, there is little that beats a good jump rope workout.

That young kid mid-flight would have been me trying to play with the girls at recess

Adrian Crowe is not your typical personal trainer. With 10+ years of his own training and now over 5000 personal training sessions with a huge variety of ages (8-83 years old), goals (figure competition to general weight loss) and fitness levels (sedentary to professional MMA fighters) there is no challenge he's not up for. His experience and passion for helping people reach their goals, one step at a time is unparalleled.  Visit his website at



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