Picture this: You barely survive a long and brutal work day, followed by traffic that challenges your sense of “Namaste.” After what seems like every potential obstacle has been placed before you in an effort to derail your plans to get in some cardio, you fend them all off like a beast and get yourself in the doors of the gym.
Just when you think you’re home free, you see that every single piece of cardio equipment is already occupied by people who made it through the fray faster than you.
Bikes: belong to someone else
Now what? Don’t fret, fellow fitness friend, I have the perfect solution! Five fat-fighting, brain-boosting exercises that beat the cardio machines any day.
1) Run the Stairs: Rather than mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other while watching a terrible comedy on the gym TVs, challenge your body’s proprioceptive awareness by running stairs. It will take a lot more concentration to get up and down repeatedly without falling, tripping, or running into anyone. You’ll work hard lifting your knees, bracing your core, moving your arms, and keeping your eyes peeled.
2) Bridges: Get your booty in prime shape by completing variations of this bodyweight exercise. Start with a plain bridge (lie down, face up, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Brace your abdominals, and drive through your heels until your hips are elevated. Give your butt a big squeeze at the top!) Variations include: single-leg bridges, bridges from a bench or physioball, or weighted bridges.
3) Burpees: Yup, I said it. And I know you just shook your head in disapproval. You can’t argue that burpees get your heart rate up, require 100 percent of your focus, and require lots of coordination and core control for the move to be completed properly.
4) Skaters: This exercise gets the body moving laterally from side-to-side, in a way that you don’t usually move during everyday activities. Place a mat on the ground and stand behind it at the left edge. Use your right foot to hop across the length of the mat from left to right catching your trailing foot behind you. Think about what speed skaters look like in the Olympics – low to the ground with core engaged. To progress this exercise, don’t let your trailing foot hit the ground. Maintain a low, athletic stance, which will require your entire core to fire.
5) Jump Squats: At the risk of encouraging an oft-botched exercise, I believe the jump squat (when done properly) is extremely beneficial. It gets the heart-rate up, requires focus, helps improve explosive power, and torches kilojoules. The most common mistake I see people commit with this exercise is not finishing at the top. Instead of finishing with a tall jump, straightening of the legs, and activation of the glutes (butt), people often stay flexed in the hips and hunched over, even at the top of their “jump.”