The Best Cardio Workout
If there's one question people ask me over and over again when it comes to getting in shape, it's "What is the best …?" This goes for everything from "What is the best exercise to sculpt your abs?" to "What is the best thing to eat for breakfast?" to "What's the best kind of cardio?"
People obviously want the greatest results in the shortest amount of time when it comes to fitness. I get it; and part of my job is helping people do just that – achieve their best bodies as quickly as possible with as little risk of injury as possible. Why waste time?
My response to the vast majority of the "What is best?" questions is that it is simply whatever you do frequently, correctly and at the appropriate intensity. The mode or type of exercise is obviously important, but it matters not how "best" any one thing is if you do not do it frequently.
When it comes to cardio exercise, we now have a huge variety of machines to choose from. The treadmill, elliptical, stair-stepper and rowing machine, to name but a few. We also have a whole host of workout options to confuse us even further: fat-burning, tempo workouts, interval training, random and more. So which is the "best?"
While there is no "one-size-fits-all" machine or workout that is indeed "best" for all people, there are certain workouts and cardio modalities that are the most effective.
I particularly like hill workouts, and here are a few reasons I find them so worthwhile:
Anyone Can Do Them: Hill workouts entail doing hill repeats – going up and down a hill multiple times. You can walk fast or run up them, the hill can be gradual or steep, short or long. So both the novice exerciser and the professional athlete will benefit from incorporating hills into their workout routine.
You Can Do Them Indoors or Out: You do hill repeats indoors on a treadmill or, better yet, find a hill outside near your home. All you need are sneakers and an incline.
They Are Built-in Interval Workouts: Interval workouts provide the maximum cardio benefits in the shortest amounts of time. Ascending the hill raises your heart rate, and it decreases while you walk down to recover. You burn maximum calories during the workout and possibly continue to burn calories even after the workout is over.
They Are Great Lower-body Toners: Hill repeats challenge all of the major muscle groups of the lower body, especially the glutes, making them a great way to sculpt your legs. You kill two birds with one stone, combining your cardio and functional strength training at the same time.
They Improve Sports Performance: Football player Walter Payton had a legendary hill workout routine, as did tennis player Andre Agassi. Regardless of your sport, performing hill repeats can help you improve dramatically. Running hills involves not just the lower body, but the core and upper body as well, making them a phenomenal full-body workout.
How to do them: Hill workouts are simplicity at its finest. You want to have a warm up before and a cool down after, along with a series of hill repeats; the number, hill length and intensity are simply contingent upon your personal exercise levels and your goals. Here is a sample outdoor hill workout:
- Walk or jog easy 5-10 minutes to a hill that takes one minute to get to the top
- Walk fast or run hard up the hill, walk down easy to recover
- Repeat this 4-10 times
- Walk or jog easy 5-10 minutes home
So regardless of your age, fitness levels or goals, hit the hills once a week to build your best body possible!