Aerobic exercise doesn’t have as many health benefits as weight-training, but don’t listen to the meat-heads who ignore it completely.
Opening up your lungs regularly through intense cardio builds your wind power. It conditions your breath to be steady and controlled; a forced pranayama that pumps your blood full of oxygen.
Your heart is a muscle and needs to be pumped just like your bicep. Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of men and clots come to weak hearts and stagnant blood.
Weight-training works the heart if you are lifting with intensity, but ‘cardio’ is called cardio for a reason. Boosting your blood circulation through cardio energizes your whole body and makes your heart strong.
The instant pay-off though is that cardio pumps oxygenated blood to your brain and that clears your mind. It’s the most effective way to dust off the cobwebs after a long night sleep or a stressful day.
Cardio is the best way to break from working on a project, when you feel your motivation waning and the progress isn’t flowing.
After a jog in the park, you’ll return to the work completely refreshed, busting with enthusiasm, concentration at full power.
- Hitting the Heavy Bag
This one is my favorite, especially on a bag hanging with 360 degree clearance. You want the ability to dance all the way around the bag in order to get a good rhythm going.
Like all high-impact cardio exercises, hitting the bag engages your whole body. Your feet are shuffling and your entire upper body is in motion.
Throwing a proper punch starts from your toes and move up into your hips. You twist your upper shelf with your core abdominals and then release your arm with the weight of your body behind it.
You don’t throw good punches with your arms; you throw them with your back and shoulders.
Also, this activity rocks because it promotes intensity (the magic word) like nothing else does. Throwing punches gets you fired up and ready to kick ass.
After a minute or two of working the bag, you can feel that your whole body is exhausted. Even pro-boxers are spent after a few minutes in the ring.
This exhaustion is a sign of the impact that the exercise is delivering.
You are going to need a round timer to mark your intervals so you have a chance to catch your breath. I like the___________.
I don’t like wearing heavy gloves. I just do wraps and leather bag gloves.
- Rowing (ergometer)
I’ve rowed competitively and I can tell you that pulling an oar in choppy water will knock your ass out if you aren’t in good shape.
Once again, this exercise is high-impact because it engages your whole body.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in a commercial gym doing it right:
From a resting position – your legs are buckled, leaned forward, arms extended, grip on the bar – push your legs but do not begin straightening your back or closing your arms until your legs are near full extension.
At that point, THEN you begin pulling with your back, fully until you start leaning in the reverse direction, and only THEN do you pull with your arms to complete the motion.
Correct form is very important, even if you aren’t actually in the water.
At the resting position (forward), the oar is sitting in the ‘water’ at zero and thus requires the most force to get moving. So, you are building momentum with your biggest muscles first… your legs.
Then you drive that momentum with the next largest muscle group, your back, and finish with the smallest muscles.
On the return it’s the same sequence in reverse – arms released, then back fully forward before you start buckling your legs.
Not only is this the most efficient way of moving the ‘water’, without correct form you will get tired fast because you are exhausting your smaller muscles with work meant for the bigger ones.
Bad form on the water will get you a stiff oar in the chest. On the machine, it is just extremely awkward to hit your knees every time you lean forward. This is how most people do it, and it is painful to watch.
This correct form might feel awkward at first if you’ve been doing it the wrong way, but as you practice the motion will become fluid and it will be way easier to keep up good pace for a 2k, 5k, 10k circuit.
Last point: On a standard ergometer, there is a dial on the side that controls the shutter on the wind-vent. At one end of the spectrum the shutter is open, which pulls more air under the fan. Keep it at 5 if you are new to rowing.
Running is hard to beat because you can do it outside. Sunshine and fresh air exposure alone is enough to put it over the top.
I like running because it puts me in touch with the streets. I can explore the city and parks and soak up the vibe. I like darting through trees, hopping up steps or sprinting over a bridge.
HIT (High Intensity Training) running is the way to go for maxing out all the health stuff mentioned above. Again using a round timer, you sprint for 30 seconds, jog or walk for a 60 seconds and then sprint again, jog again, repeat. You can make up your own intervals.
Just like with the weights, pushing yourself to exhaustion is the key to building strength and size. In this case, your heart gets strong and your lungs get big. Not to mention the muscles in your legs.
I’ll admit that I tend to jog easy with few intervals of HIT. For me, running is more of a meditative exercise and a chance to unwind. I don’t push it as hard as the other stuff.