The Truth About Bodyweight Cardio
By Craig Ballantyne
The truth about Bodyweight Cardio is that it has the worst
name in Turbulence Training history.
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I put that label on it,
but I’m not 3 workouts deep and pretty much stuck with it.
A better physiological description would be, “Bodyweight
Interval Training” or “Bodyweight Metabolic Conditioning”.
I call bodyweight circuits a hybrid of strength and interval
training. The bodyweight exercises used in these particular
workouts are not so intense that they will cause you to gain
muscle, but neither would you be able to work as hard as you
can during sprint training.
You won’t burn as many calories in 30 minutes of bodyweight cardio
as you would in 30 minutes of running at a fast pace. Truth
be told, only kettlebell training has the ability to burn as
many calories within a workout as running at a hard pace.
Think about this…each pushup you do must burn less than 1/3
of a calorie. After all, if you do 100 pushups in 3 minutes
(that’s my score in the Martin Rooney 3-minute pushup test),
there’s no way that I’m burning more than 15 calories per
minute (not when running at a fast pace only burns 16-20
calories per minute).
So in terms of “within workout” calorie burning, bodyweight
cardio does not beat regular cardio.
That said, because bodyweight cardio is a combination of resistance
training and interval training, you should get greater
post-workout calorie and fat burning benefits.
And knowing what we know today about metabolic resistance training,
and based on Alwyn Cosgrove’s description of the two types of
MRT that he gave us, it is easy to place bodyweight cardio in
the metabolic conditioning category (higher reps, less
soreness from a session, sustained high heart rate).
As Alwyn said, “Your body doesn’t really know what it’s doing, all
it knows is that it gets your heart rate up.”
So the key and challenge is to create bodyweight cardio workouts
that put the greatest demand on our cardiovascular systems
(to burn a lot of calories within the workout) while taking
advantage of the depletion results from the interval-like and
resistance properties of bodyweight training to increase the
between-session calorie burn (like we get from regular weight
To do this, we should use the non-competing exercise rule we
use in our TT workouts. If creating a circuit, going from a
lower-body exercise to an upper-body exercise is most appropriate,
as is focusing on as many single-leg exercises as possible.
The “Big 5” circuit approach works well for this:
Squat, Push, Pull, Single-Leg, Total Body Ab, as does the Big 6
(addition of a jump exercise at the start) and Big 7 (further
addition of a sprint type exercise at the end of the circuit).
Bottom Line: Bodyweight cardio will help you get that lean,
athletic look, even when you don’t have access to any equipment.
You won’t build a lot of muscle, but you can burn quite a few
calories and lose body fat almost as fast as with any other
TT workout (of course, there will always be people who respond
to this workout at extreme levels – and that’s why you need
to experiment and find out what works best for you).
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