How to get your heart pumping with a cardio workout and circuit training

By Sebastien Raybaud

Hate running? Don't worry, there's a better way to get your cardio workouts. It's time to ditch the dreaded treadmill and set up "exercise stations"

By Sebastien Raybaud |

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Choose an area to set up your circuit.

During the holidays, we’ll be guiding you through a series of exercises that target a particular area of the body.

This week’s workout is all about getting your heart pumping with some cardiovascular (cardio) exercises.

We know cardio can be boring – think running repetitively on a treadmill or track – but it doesn’t have to be. There is another way to ensure a healthy heart: circuit training. This is when you combine a
mixture of high-intensity exercises in one workout. You can even do them at home to save time and money. Not only is circuit training a great substitute for ordinary cardio, it also helps tone your body and
build muscle.

Do make sure that you’re in good physical health before you attempt any of these moves. If you are unsure, consult a doctor, trainer, or other specialist.

Warm-up time

Always take five to 10 minutes at the start of your workout to warm up. You should get the blood flowing to all of your muscles so that you don’t suffer any injury later. Stretch for a few minutes, circling your shoulders to open out your joints. Then, do a few minutes of light jogging.

Begin slowly and never strain yourself. Warm-ups should be gentle.

You can make use of whatever space you have to do circuit training.
Photo: K. Y. Cheng/SCMP

Setting up the circuit

Choose an area to set up your circuit with enough space for a station for each exercise you plan to do. You can create as many stations as you like. Make sure you include upper body (chest, arms, back) exercises as well as those that target your lower body (legs).

Here are some suggestions to start off with:

Jumping jacks – start with your feet shoulder-width apart. As you jump, spread your legs further apart and raise your arms into a “V”-shape. Jump again, and return to the starting position.

Push-ups – lie on your stomach, place your arms shoulder-width apart, and push your body off the ground using your chest and arms.

Squat jumps – start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body by bending your knees and sinking back into your hips. Keep your back straight and your core tight, then launch yourself into a jump.

You can add different moves to your workout, as trainer Au Yeung shows.

Skipping rope – if you’re outside, you can use a skipping rope, but if you’re at home, you can simply jump up and down without a rope. Both will increase your heart rate.

Sit-ups – lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Then, keeping your legs still, lift your upper body off the ground using your core muscles. The more you bend your knees, the easier the action will be, and vice versa.

Dumbbell shadow boxing – if you don’t have dumbbells, you can use cans of food or other items of a similar weight. Begin with your elbows bent and hands at chest height, then extend one arm diagonally across your body. Bring your arm back in, and repeat with your other arm. Eventually, you can add in other moves, such as uppercuts and hooks.

How long should I move for?

According to person trainer Calvin Au Yeung, beginners should take it easy and do each exercise in the circuit for around 30 seconds. Once your fitness starts to improve, you can try do each station for 45 seconds, then one minute, and so on. After you finish the circuit, rest for 30 seconds to a minute then repeat the whole circuit two or three times.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

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