For the last three years, I’ve mostly been working out at home. For a while, I continued going to a commercial gym as well but, eventually, I made the commitment to stop paying for a gym membership that I didn’t need and started working out exclusively at home.
Options for cardio in a commercial gym
When I still went to a commercial gym, I had a pretty huge range of options when it came to doing cardio exercise. Treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical trainers and rowing machines were all available whenever I wanted. I tended to resort to the Concept 2 rowing machine for most of my cardio but I enjoyed the fact that I could mix it up to stop myself getting bored.
A typical cardio session in a commercial gym
A typical cardio session for me when I was trying to lose weight might have looked something like this:
- Warm up: 5 minutes easy rowing
- Intervals: 20 minutes rowing intervals (usually 500m, 750m or 1,000m intervals)
- Recovery: 5 minute easy rowing
- Steady state: 10 minutes (treadmill)
- Steady state: 10 minutes (exercise bike or elliptical trainer)
That would typically take me about an hour including switching between machines. I was rarely doing one thing for long enough to get too bored and I’d switch between the elliptical and the exercise bike each time for my last exercise to make doubly sure it didn’t get missed off the end.
Difficult to replicate in a home gym
I quickly worked out that forking out for four good quality machines would set me back a few months’ salary and that to try and exactly replicate that kind of cardio workout in a home gym requires a very large wallet. A simple compromise might be to buy just one machine and put up with the boredom. I don’t have that much faith in my ability to stave off boredom, however, so I researched some unusual ideas for cardio that I could do at home with minimal equipment or expense.
Unusual ideas for cardio
Here is a list of unusual ideas for cardio that you may not have considered:
- Barbell complexes: if you have a barbell for strength workouts, you can use it for cardio as well. Take care to use only exercises you are familiar with to reduce the chance of injury. My favourite complex is the combination of the following: Romanian deadlift, high pull, front squat, push press and good morning for 8 reps each.
- Bodyweight circuits: you can do circuits of press ups, pull ups, hanging knee raises, inverted rows, Turkish get ups, leg curls and extensions off a box, step ups, pistols and one-leg deadlifts for cardio.
- Strongman medleys: you can use a sandbag for lifting, carrying, loading and dragging. You can push a car or carry dumbbells for distance as a farmers’ walk.
- Indoor cycling: you can invest in a turbo trainer, a small and inexpensive piece of equipment that turns your regular bicycle temporarily into an exercise bike.
- Weighted rucksack carries: you can load up a small rucksack with weight and take it for a brisk walk around the block. I use 15kg (30lbs) of weights plates from my barbell set wrapped in a pillow and stuffed into a small (10L) rucksack.
- Stair climbing: if you have access to a long set of stairs, you can walk quickly up and down them. If you need to increase the challenge, combine with the weighted rucksack option above!
- Sledgehammer striking: you can swing a sledgehammer onto an old car tire for time. I started out doing 10 strikes on 1 minute for 10 minutes, which gave me about 30s rest each minute, and built up to 20 strikes on 1 minute for 10 minutes, which is pretty much straight through for 10 minutes.
- Hill sprints: if you have a hill near to your house, you can use it for hill sprints. I am fortunate enough to have a hill up to a golf course near where I live so it’s fairly quiet (except on weekend mornings!). I run about 100 yards and then walk gently back to the start before repeating a couple of times. This option really isn’t for the faint-hearted, though!
Lots of options
I hope this short article has gone a little way towards showing you how many options there are for doing cardio or aerobic training at home.