Tag Archive | "cardio"


Learn to Skip Like a Pro!

Jump rope tricks

Jumping rope is an effective and convenient cardio workout: You can jump rope almost anywhere and anytime. Jump ropes are cheap, long lasting and readily available which makes jumping rope a very accessible form of exercise. If you want to shake up your jump rope routine, try these basic tricks once you have mastered two–footed jumping on the spot. To minimize your risk of injury, always wear cushioned and supportive sports shoes and avoid jumping rope on unforgiving surfaces such as concrete.

Also known as the boxers’ skip, heel–toe is an easy trick to learn. Without using your rope, begin jumping on the spot. Make your jumps small and light. As you land, pull the toes on your left foot up so that your heel hits the floor as your right foot lands. In your next jump, reverse your foot positions so that your right heel hits the floor as your left foot lands. Continue alternating until you feel comfortable with this heel–toe action. When you are ready, introduce your jump rope back into the movement. Don’t worry if you initially catch your feet. Stop. Reset your feet and try again. You’ll soon be jumping rope like a boxer!

Knee Lifts
This next progression is a step on from heel–toe. Begin jumping rope and establish a good heel–toe movement. Instead of grounding your heels, bend your knee and lift your leg up so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Make sure you keep your body upright. If you find this exercise difficult try performing a two footed jump and then lift your left knee, another to footed jump and then lift your right knee. Lifting your knees while jumping rope will increase your heart rate significantly.

Knee Lift Sprints
This is a simple but challenging jump rope variation that will get your heart rate high and increase your fitness. Jump rope using an alternating heel–toe action. When you are ready, progress onto jogging on the spot. Over the next few rope turns begin to lift your knees higher. Pick up speed and raise your knees higher still. When you feel ready, lift your knees up to hip–level and sprint on the spot as fast as you can. With practice you will be able to spin the rope and lift your knees at great speed which will give you an effective workout.

Crossovers are a handy way to release the tension that builds up in your shoulders and are also a cool looking trick! Start off by performing two footed jumps at a slow to moderate pace. Establish a good rhythm. When you feel ready, quickly cross your hands to form a loop in your rope as it passes over your head. Jump through the loop and immediately uncross your hands. Continue jumping rope and then try again. With practice you will be able to cross and uncross your hands on alternate rope turns. Try crossovers while jogging on the spot or performing knee lift sprints for a trick combo.

Double Unders
Not such an easy trick but impressive when you pull it off. Jump rope with your feet together. Gradually build up speed until you have a fairly fast rhythm established. When you are ready–maybe after counting yourself in–jump a little higher than normal and turn the rope much faster and try and perform two rope turns in a single jump. This is called a double under. On landing return to your single turn per jump cadence. Once you can perform a double under on demand, try linking multiple double unders together. Start off with two or three and build up to 10, 20 and eventually 50 for a really intense workout. Remember to whip the rope around faster when performing double unders and jump only a little higher.

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treadmill burger

You Can’t Outrun a Bad Diet!

Week in, week out I see the same people doing the same cardio workouts. Minute after minute, hour after hour they spend cycling, rowing, running or attending group exercise classes and yet very few of them seem to lose any weight. What gives? Regardless of whether you are a high intensity interval training advocate or prefer a more sedate cardio zone workout, we all know that prolonged cardiovascular burns fat so why then are these people not losing weight? The answer is, quite simply, they are trying to outrun a poor diet and failing miserably to win the race.

On average, an hour of cardio will burn around 600 calories—yes I know that depends on bodyweight, intensity, exercise modality etc but it’s a pretty fair average. So, you do that hour of cardio five times a week to total around 3,000 calories of expended energy. A single pound of excess body fat is worth around 3,500 stored calories so, with all things being equal, someone performing five hours of aerobic exercise should lose a little under a pound a week. Surely then, after a few months of consistent cardio exercise, there should be a significant and noticeable weight loss. Shame this generally isn’t the case.

In very simple terms, if your diet is excessively calorie dense i.e. you are eating more than you need, you are going to have to do more than plug in your i-pod and trot on the treadmill if you want to lose weight. It doesn’t matter that you are in your so-called fat burning zone—if you are eating more than you need, you won’t lose weight and are probably merely reducing your rate of weight gain.

Surely it would make more sense to combine a moderate amount of exercise with eating a little less? All that endless cardio without dietary interventions is like running on the proverbial hamster wheel…you just end up going nowhere. Of course there is nothing wrong with exercising for prolonged periods if you enjoy it or because your sport e.g. long distance running requires it but if you want to see weight loss, as apparently 4 out of 5 exercisers do, surely you want the best results possible for your investment of exercise time? Interestingly, recent studies indicate that prolonged cardiovascular exercise increases  cravings for carbohydrates and appetite generally so, it would seem, no sooner have the calories been ”burnt off” than our bodies want to replace them quick-smart!

Amazingly, you need relatively little exercise to develop a good level of fitness, strength and enjoy the health benefits associated with working out. It’s the intensity of your exercise that triggers most of the positive responses associated with exercise and not the duration. Studies by Dr. Izumi Tabata have demonstrated that a 4 minute high intensity interval training session (yes – four minutes…that’s not a typo) produces improvements in anaerobic and aerobic fitness. For more details on Tabata’s training protocol check out this article… http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=612 Another short but sharp cardiovascular training protocol is GXP which stands for Graded Exercise Protocol which promises improved aerobic fitness in 12 minutes or less. For information on GXP visit http://www.ageless-athletes.com/aerobics_and_health.php

So— to summarize…you can’t outrun a bad diet. Weight management is, to quote fitness and nutrition author Mark Sissons, 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. If you are performing hours and hours of cardio for weight loss and not seeing the results you want (and deserve) your diet is the problem and not your exercise routine. Say no to hamster cardio and do the best weight management exercises known to man— the table push away and the fork put down!

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running legs 2

WOW Mondays Workout – 30/09/2013

Short and sharp, the Indoor Biathlon workout will challenge your heart, lungs and legs while burning lots of calories!

Duration: Against the Clock
Equipment: Rowing machine, treadmill
Method: Storm through the following run/row/run sequence as fast as possible. Keep transitions between exercises to a minimum and go for the best time you can. The second run will probably be slower than the first but that’s okay – keep saying to yourself “it’s only a mile; it’s only a mile…!”

•          Run 1 mile
•          Row 2000 meters
•          Run 1 mile

running legs 2

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Cardio for fat loss – what’s best?

treadmill legs


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When it comes to using cardio to burn fat and lose weight, there are 2 schools of thought…

In one camp we have the long, slow, distance approach or LSD for short. LSD is all about selecting an exercise and performing it for extended periods of time at a comfortable pace. Heart rate is kept around 60% of maximum so you are slightly out of breath but comfortable for the duration of your workout. You can chat to anyone nearby should you so choose and almost all of the energy you are using is coming from fat being burnt. LSD is almost 100% aerobic (meaning with oxygen) and very little lactic acid will be produced in your muscles so it’s quite comfortable to perform. On the downside, although fat is the main source of energy in LSD type exercise, you won’t be burning much of it as our body’s are very efficient at making fat go a long way.

In the other camp we have interval training which describes periods of high-intensity exercise alternated with periods of rest e.g. sprinting for 60 seconds, walking for 120 seconds, repeated 5 times. Interval training is more anaerobic (without oxygen) than LSD and generally tougher to do as there is lots of lactic acid produced which can be uncomfortable. However, the production of lactic acid produces an effect called EPOC (Excessive Post exercise Oxygen Consumption) which means that after the workout has finished the body uses oxygen at an elevated rate to clear out the lactic acid in your blood. This means more calories are burnt even though your workouts will be shorter when compared to LSD.

Which is better for fat burning? Interval training wins hands down for economy of training time but LSD training is certainly less demanding. The answer is probably to do a mixture of the 2 and get the best of both worlds!

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Cardio Confusion – your guide to CV exercise Part One


Cardio. CV. Aerobics. Energy system work. So many names for the same thing! And with so many cardio options available, it’s tough to decide which method is best. Much of what is written about cardio exercise is biased towards one approach or another and is often based on the authors’ preference and back ground. In this article I’d like to provide you with an independent view of cardiovascular training so that you can make an educated choice as to which method is best suited to your goals.

What is cardiovascular exercise?
For exercise to be truly considered cardio, it should consist of steady-state activity which uses large muscle groups in a rhythmical manner and elevates your heart rate to somewhere between 60-90% of your maximum heart rate. Generally, activities such as jogging, running, power walking, cycling, swimming, group exercise classes, rowing, and using a skipping rope are the mainstay of aerobic activities but ultimately, any activity which significantly elevates the heart rate for an extended period of time can be considered aerobic training. To be honest, the modality used makes very little difference and you should choose the one you like most/dislike least!

How hard?
Cardio training is normally performed for an extended period of time so it’s important to choose an exercise intensity that is hard enough to be beneficial but not so hard that it becomes necessary to stop. It is generally accepted that the benefits of aerobic exercise are gained from working at between 60-90% of an individual’s maximum heart rate (MHR) and many people rely on monitoring their heart rates as an indicator of exercise intensity. You can calculate your Heart Rate Training Zone (HRZ) by performing the following calculations…

Simple Karvonen Theory
220 – your age in years x 60%
220 – your age in years x 90%

e.g. HRZ for a 40 year old
220 – 40 = 180 x 60% = 108 bpm
220 – 40 = 180 x 90% = 162 bpm

Heart Rate Reserve (takes into account elevated fitness levels associated with a lower resting heart rate)
220 – age in years – resting heart rate x 60% + resting heart rate
220 – age in years – resting heart rate x 90% + resting heart rate

e.g. HRZ for a 40 year old with a resting heart rate of 60 bpm
220 – 40 = 180 – 60 = 120 x 60% = 72 + 60 = 132 bpm
220 – 40 = 180 – 60 = 120 x 90% = 108 + 60 = 168 bpm

These numbers represent the lower and upper range of your HRZ. Going below 60% will essentially negate many of the benefits of exercise as it will be too easy where as going above 90% will take you into the anaerobic zone where lactic acid will start to rise and you’ll be forced to slow down and stop…and it hurts too! We’ll look and anaerobic training later though as it’s a very useful exercise tool. To keep an eye on your heart rate while exercise you have a number of options available…you can use a heart rate monitor, you can take your pulse manually at either your wrist (radial pulse) of at your neck (carotid pulse) or, if using gym-based cardio equipment, many machines have built in hand sensors which measure your heart rate although some are more accurate than others.

However, the calculations above are not infallible – some people don’t fit into either of these systems and may find that their HRZ makes exercise either too easy or too hard. Luckily there are a couple of other methods we can use to monitor exercise intensity…

The Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale
The Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE for short) was designed in the 1960s by Gunnar Borg – a Scandinavian exercise expert. He devised a scale with which to prescribe aerobic exercise to his athletes based on how they felt while training.  The original RPE scale went from 6 (absolute rest/inactivity) to 20 (maximum exercise intensity). Why a scale of 6 – 20? Borg’s athletes had an average resting heart rate of 60 bpm and an average maximum heart rate of 200 bpm so he just knocked of a zero. It was found that, with some practice, it was possible to estimate how hard an athlete was working based on how they felt and this corresponded quite accurately to their corresponding heart rates. For many people, the classic 6 – 20 scale is a little awkward to use so it has been simplified and adapted to suit the general exerciser…

  1. 1.       Inactive/at rest
  2. 2.      
  3. 3.       Very light
  4. 4.      
  5. 5.       Moderate
  6. 6.      
  7. 7.       Heavy
  8. 8.      
  9. 9.       Very heavy
  10. 10.   Maximum

As a general rule of thumb, steady state cardio should be performed at an RPE of 4 – 7 for maximum benefit. Exercise below this level won’t cause much in the way of fitness or health benefits and above will mean approaching the anaerobic zone.

The Talk Test
Our final method for assessing exercise intensity is the talk test. Quite simply, while exercising in your aerobic HRZ you should be able to hold a conversation with regular pauses for breath every couple of sentences. If you can only manage single word responses then it’s likely you are working too hard and if you can manage whole paragraphs without pausing for breath then you’re probably not working hard enough. Combine RPE with the talk test and you should have no problem making sure you are working at the correct intensity to get the maximum benefits from your exercise.

How long? How often?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 3 bouts of cardio exercise per week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session at between 60-90% of MHR to a) improve fitness and b) reduce mortality. Doing more is not necessary for health purposes but if performance enhancement (elevated fitness levels) is your goal then increased frequency and duration are likely to be necessary. Even rust-stained iron pumpers should make sure they get their 20 minutes 3 times a week for protect themselves from the likes of CHD and other diseases of the cardiorespiratory system.

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WOW – Thursdays Workout 29/08/2013

For today’s workout, all you need as a stopwatch and some wide open space…

Warm up by jogging for 3 to 5 minutes and then performing some dynamic stretches. Round off your warm up by doing 2 to 3 50 – 75% effort sprints for 10 to 15 seconds.

From your start point – e.g. a tree, park bench or street lamp, sprint out for the prescribed time and then slowly walk back to the beginning. As soon as you reach your start point, start your next rep. If you feel like you need a longer rest, walk back more slowly!

Set One – 10 seconds sprint, walk back to recover
Set Two – 20 seconds sprint, walk back to recover
Set Three – 30 second sprint, walk back to recover
Set Four – 40 second sprint, walk back to recover
Set Five – 50 second sprint, walk back to recover
Set Six – 60 second sprint, walk back to recover

Finish your workout with some light jogging and static stretching.

Sprint 1

The author practicing what he preaches!

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WOW – Mondays Workout 12/08/2013

Todays workout is an equipment free muscular endurance/cardio blast that you can perform just about anywhere…so no excuses for missing your workouts!

Warm up with 5 to 10 minutes light cardio and stretching

Perform one set of the following starting every 2nd minute – the faster you go, the longer you get to rest…

  • 5 Burpees
  • 10 Press ups (Push ups)
  • 15 Squats
  • 20 Mountain climbers – see video

Perform each exercise with good form but as fast as possible with no rest between exercises. On completion of the hill climbers, rest until the next 2 minute mark and repeat. Scale this workout to suit your fitness level by adjusting the reps, rest periods or total number of sets.

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Obesity is it really a disease?

According to the World Health Organization, obesity is now classed as a disease. With as many as a third or more of all adults being so overweight that their health is affected, it’s no wonder that the powers that be are at panic stations. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be more overweight people than “normal” people and that statistic sadly includes not just adults but children too.

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To label obesity as a disease mean that medical resources are more likely to be directed to treating the symptoms rather than the cause…..

While it’s great that the WHO has taken such an interest in obesity, I have to question the labelling of obesity as a disease. There is no doubt that being significantly overweight is bad for just about every aspect of your health but surely obesity and its associated conditions is the SYMPTOM of overeating and too little activity. To label obesity as a disease mean that medical resources are more likely to be directed to treating the symptoms rather than the cause – the cause being eating too much, eating the wrong foods and being too sedentary.

This attitude to obesity and its disease status is indicative of Western medicine in general. Western medicine is, by and large, allopathic. This simply means that when you go to see your doctor, he or she will ask you what is wrong and give you medication that controls your symptoms. Got high blood pressure? You’ll be prescribed beta blockers, diuretics and ACE inhibitors. Can’t sleep? You’ll be offered medication that helps knock you out for the night. Feeling stressed? No worries – there is a medication for that too. None of these medical interventions deal with the cause of what ails you – they simply control your symptoms. Come off the medication, the symptoms return. The condition has not been cured but merely managed with pharmaceuticals.

Conversely, Eastern medicine is more homeopathic in nature. Where Western medicine treats symptoms, Eastern medicine treats causes. A homeopathic approach to lowering blood pressure would probably combine diet modifications, exercise, and stress management techniques to address the cause of the symptoms and not just how your body responds to problems within.

Of course, sometimes Western medicine does have the answers and if I was ever diagnosed with a serious disease or suffered a traumatic injury, I’d put my faith in my doctor 100 percent but as for treating obesity medically – I have serious misgivings about that.

Firstly, you can’t “catch” obesity. While some unlucky individuals do have a predilection for gaining weight easier than others, this does not explain why so many individuals are overweight. I remember watching a science news programme a few years ago on which a revered geneticist announced he had discovered the “fat gene” that was responsible for the current obesity crisis.

Hundreds of hopeful overweight people waddled into his practice to see if they had this gene so they could blame their fatness on something other than their lifestyles. Incredibly, out of the hundreds tested, only a statistically insignificant number actually possessed the required genetic marker. The disappointment of the test subjects was palpable and as one fellow said, “Guess it’s my fault I’m overweight then”. Damn straight.

Labelling obesity as a disease removes culpability. Humans love nothing more than to say, “it’s not my fault – I’m a victim of circumstances beyond my control”. The truth of the matter is, in the vast majority of cases, the responsibility for being overweight lies with the person who IS overweight. Of course, there are mitigating circumstances like injury that prevents exercise or essential drugs that promote fat storage but these circumstances are far rarer than most of us realise. Gluttony and laziness are, however, far too common.

Then, consider this – if obesity is a disease, drug manufacturers are going to be pulling out all the stops to find a cure. They’ll be scouring the rain forests, exploring the ocean depths and synthesising lord-knows what in secret laboratories all around the world in search of the magic bullet that will “cure” obesity. As praiseworthy as these endeavours are, don’t forget – the winner of this particular race will make so much money from their discovery that their children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children will never have to work a day in their lives unless they want to! The wonder drug that cures obesity is the pot of gold at the end of the Leprechaun’s rainbow to the power of a hundred.

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(continued from Fitzine)

Also, don’t forget, many governments are going to throw huge amounts of money at funding the search for the cure to obesity and while I believe that’s misguided, I can understand why – obesity is a huge drain on the resources of any country’s health care system and the sooner it’s eradicated (if that is at all possible) the better.

So if obesity isn’t really a disease and shouldn’t be treated with drugs, what is the solution? I hate to sound like a broken record but it’s simply a matter of eating less, eating better and moving more.

While simple enough on paper, the nuts and bolts of these interventions can become incredibly complex when you start to scratch below the surface. What type of exercise is best, what should your heart rate be, how many times a week should you do it, how long should each session last, what about weight training, should I go low carb or low fat, should I eat three larger meals or six smaller ones, should I try intermittent fasting or what about the Paleo diet…? Talk about not being able to see the woods for the trees!

At the end of the day, while some interventions may be slightly more effective than others, eating less, eating better and moving more is the answer and sometimes “experts” make it all so complex-sounding that individuals looking for answers end up suffering paralysis by analysis and doing nothing to change their diets of lifestyles. If you want to see BIG changes, you have to make BIG changes and while knowledge is power, action is more powerful still. Like internet phenomenon and fitness personality CT Fletcher says (and I paraphrase because he swears – a lot!) “Forget range of motion; just get your BUTT in motion!” Oftentimes, simple is best.

Turn back the calendar 50 years or so and the UK was counting the cost of the second World War. As tragic as that period of history was, from the standpoint of controlling obesity – it was nirvana. Food and petrol were strictly limited by rationing and as a result, there was not as much food to eat, people had to walk more and jobs were generally more physical. It was like a forced diet and exercise programme for the entire nation! The result – very few overweight individuals and obesity was virtually unheard of.

Did you know that typically, we spend 32 years of our lives dieting!?

Fast forward and per capita, British people are amongst the biggest spenders on “health foods” and leisure activities in the world and gym membership is at their highest. Yet, the country is getting fatter year on year. We know more than ever about food and exercise but knowing and doing are completely different things. Did you know that typically, we spend 32 years of our lives dieting!? That’s a depressing statistic that goes to show that modern interventions aren’t doing jack for the obesity crisis.

What is the answer to the obesity crisis? Man – that’s a complex question to answer but this is my take on it. Along with ‘eat less, eat better and move more’ becoming a national slogan and drummed into every child and adult across the country, I’d like to see free educational programmes that are compulsory for anyone overweight. I’d introduce penalties for medical treatment for anyone purposely overweight requiring non-essential medical treatment, a tax on sugar and junk foods in general, compulsory two-mile traffic free areas around schools so kids have to walk more, using Smartphone technology to ensure everyone does at least 10,000 steps of walking a day, gyms in all places of work and education, excess baggage charges on planes for obese people… that’ll do for now.

Of course, I know that many of these interventions could be seen as being draconian, big brother-esque and oppressive but it’s clear the touchy-feely approach to curing obesity isn’t working. The carrot approach has proved ineffective so maybe it’s time for the stick?

Bottom line – whatever is being done at the moment to eradicate obesity is ineffective. The solution is complex, requires education and effort and a paradigm shift if we are ever going to reduce the ever growing obesity statistics. The one thing I am sure of is that labelling obesity as a disease and looking for drugs to treat the symptoms is like putting the cart before the horse and about as useful as a handbrake on a canoe!

Wishing you a happy, healthy and active weekend,

Patrick Dale

ultra-FIT contributing editor and author of “Military Fitness” and “Live Long, Live Strong”

Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you at [email protected]


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Vince DelMonte & Obi Obadike – Talk Fitness Modelling

Vince DelMonte & ultra-FIT cover model and columnist Obi Obadike talk fitness modelling

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Summer Shape Up workout – YouTube


ultra-FIT’s Paul Mumford show you how to Shape up for the summer (if we get one) with this high-powered workout. At least the workout will get you hot!

GREAT £ SAVING SUMMER SUBS OFFER Subscribe for just £24 and save £22.75 on the shop price!

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