Burn Fat and Build Strength In Less Than 30 Minutes With This 6-Week Cardio Plan

David Morton, Edward Cooper
·7-min read

From Men's Health

If you want to improve your cardio without clocking endless 5K runs, then you've come to the right place. This three-part cardio workout plan uses three different environments — home, outdoors and the gym — to progress your fitness in six short weeks, progressing from bodyweight movements to tried-and-tasted fat-burners forged in the irons of functional fitness.

The first section, to be repped out at home, will power up your metabolism and start whittling away at your fat stores with a quickfire fitness plan you can run through in your living room with just your bodyweight– no kit required.

Next up, head outdoors to give your well-trodden stamina sessions a breath of fresh air. These outdoor moves will build strength as well as speed, for a more defined, athletic physique.

Lastly, our final, high-intensity exercises will push you to your limit, elevating your power and endurance. The clock starts now.

Weeks 1 and 2: The Burn Begins at Home

You don’t need much space or kit if you’re serious about getting fit and lean. The first two-week phase of this plan will quickly build up your strength and endurance in very familiar surroundings – your living room, say, or your garage. You won’t need any equipment at all. Simply clear yourself a bit of space and ensure you have enough headroom for burpees.

A yoga mat might come in handy, too, unless you want to sweat all over your floor.These workouts will increase your cardiovascular fitness with dynamic movements that ramp up your heartrate and tax your lungs for a hefty calorie burn.

The unilateral – one-sided – exercises will improve your running strength, while the focus on your core will fix your posture and bulletproof you against injury. Oh, and carve out a six-pack, too.

Perform these three workouts in order, with at least a day off between each one. You want to be able to go all out on every rep of every set, so make sure you’re resting and recovering to come in at 100%.

The hardest part is getting started. So just start. The rest will take care of itself.

Home Workout #1: Prime Your Muscles

Time: 20 Minutes | Level: Easy | Benefits: Fat-Loss, Muscle-Gain

If you want to thrive in the tougher cardio sessions to come, lay thefoundations of strength – and burn some fat to boot. This workout splits six moves into upper- and lower-body tri-sets. Complete three times each. Now get to it.

Tri-sets: Three moves performed back to back. You’ll save time, turbocharge your fitness and spike your metabolism

Home Workout #2: Carve Out Better Form

Time: 20 Minutes | Level: Medium | Benefits: Fat-Loss, Speed

Your posture is the first thing that gives way during energy-sapping cardio. Strengthen your
core with Tabata intervals. The short rest and full-throttle work will also help you increase your speed. It’s time to tighten up

Tabata: The toughtest four-minute workout you’ll ever do. Follow 20sec of maximum effort with 10sec of rest. Repeat eight times.

Home Workout #3: Enhance Your Stability

Time: 15 Minutes | Level: Easy | Benefits: Fat-Loss, Stamina

Cardio training such as running and climbing requires you to work one side of your body at a time, making balance vital. Our descending ladder will make you wobble – but it’ll teach you to stay in control when the intensity cranks up

Descending ladder: Reducing the reps by one each round until you’re down to one rep. Here, you’ll start at 10 and rest after each round.

Weeks 3 and 4: Push Your Limits Outside

With your muscular endurance newly enhanced, now is the time to take your training out into the open and really push to burn even more calories.

Head to the park or into your garden – all you need is somewhere to do a few pull-ups and a skipping rope.The workouts in this phase use different session structures to keep your muscles guessing and are a world away from the boredom of simply running three days a week, swapping plodding around the neighbourhood for smarter training that unlocks the potential of our entire body.

As before perform these three workouts in order, with at least a day off between each one. Which, of course, let’s you work around the inevitably inclement weather. Go hard, go home and get fitter and leaner than ever. If you get a tiny bit of vitamin D in the process, all the better.

Outdoor Workout #1: Run Faster, For Longer

Time: 25 Minutes | Level: Medium | Benefits: Willpower, Speed

A quicker, fitter body is built on more than just endless laps. Break up your efforts into
interval sprints to increase your aerobic capacity and sustain a good pace when the miles clock up. Take a deep breath, now

Aerobic Capacity: A measure of your heart’s and lungs’ ability to consume oxygen – important when you want to improve your stamina.

Outdoor Workout #2: Maximum Effort, Minimum Time

Time: 20 Minutes | Level: Hard | Benefits: Muscle, Willpower

Building strength in your arms, back and chest will increase your efficiency to help you conserve energy during cardio. Find a pull-up bar in the park and set your timer for this 20-minute AMRAP. It’s you against the clock

AMRAP: This means ‘as many rounds as possible’. Useful for measuring your improvement over time as you try to beat your score.

Outdoor Workout #3: Extend Your Staying Power

Time: 20 Minutes | Level: Medium | Benefits: Stamina, Muscle

Bouncing with a rope might look simple, but it’ll reveal your true aerobic ability. This circuit also incorporates strength moves for a complete conditioning session guaranteed to build you a bigger engine. Work for the rest

Work:Rest Ratio: The time it takes to complete a round dictates how long you rest. In this case, your rest is equal to your work times.

Weeks 5 and 6: Take Your Fitness To a New Level

Time to explode. Now you’ve established your base of strength, improved your lung capacity and reinforced your mental toughness, you are ready to tackle our third phase. These are best done in a gym but you don’t need much equipment, so you’ll be in and out quickly and safely.

The three intense cardiovascular challenges in this part of the plan borrow the protocols and intensity of CrossFit for full-body hits that will turbo-charge your metabolism. CrossFitters tend to be in good shape, after all.

You know the score by now: perform the three workouts in order with at least a day off in between each one. If you’re working hard enough, you should need a break before the next session, to be honest. Complete this level, though, and you’ll emerge with better aerobic fitness, extended stamina and the knowledge of your true capabilities.

Gym Workout #1: Stamina You Can Rely On

Time: 21 Minutes | Level: Hard | Benefits: Fat-Loss, Stamina

This heart-pumping EMOM workout will force you to maintain a high intensity. You’ll perform burpees in minute one, row in minute two and skip with speed in minute three, repeating for 21 minutes. The clock doesn’t stop, so neither should you.

EMOM: This means ‘every minute on the minute’. Begin the reps at the start of each minute and complete them all before the end.

Gym Workout #2: Reach Top Gear Faster

Time: 15 Minutes | Level: Medium | Benefits: Fat-Loss, Speed

Maxing out in the gym needn’t take hours. Throw yourself into our rapid 21-15-9 workout, deployed across CrossFit boxes worldwide, for swift advances in your speed, endurance and calorie burn. Though the reps may drop, your intensity should not.

21-15-9 Definition: This is the rep structure you’ll follow. Perform 21 reps of each move in the first round, 15 in the second and nine to finish.

Gym Workout #3: Make Each Breath Count

Time: 20 Minutes | Level: Hard | Benefits: Willpower, Stamina

For the ultimate endurance test, turn your gym into a competition course to bump up your VO² max. This will be a true measure of the athleticism you’ve built so far. Make sure you give it everything to clock a time you can be proud of.

vO² max: An indicator of aerobic fitness, this is your maximum rate of oxygen uptake. The higher it is, the further you’ll go.

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