The Best Gym Cardio Workout Plans
Creating a gym cardio workout plan can be challenging, especially if you aren’t a fan of conventional cardio exercises like running or cycling. Fortunately, there are many ways to get your heart rate up, so you can get all the benefits of cardio in a way you enjoy.
In this blog, PureGym Cambridge Grafton Assistant Gym Manager and PT Zach Kingsbury looks at the benefits of cardio and shares three cardio workout plans for the gym. Whether you’re new to the gym and looking for cardio workout plan for beginners, or you’re a seasoned gym goer looking to switch it up, you’ll find everything you need below.
Why Follow A Cardio Workout Plan?
Cardio workouts have multiple health benefits, such as:
Burns calories. Cardio workouts use up a lot of calories and can help with weight loss and weight management.
Improves cardiovascular fitness. Regular cardio will improve your overall cardio fitness, which means your day-to-day movement, such as walking up the stairs or running for the bus, will be easier.
Greater VO2 max. Cardio improves your VO2 max, which is how well your body takes in and uses oxygen during exercise. The higher your VO2 max, the harder you can work out, and the quicker you recover. This means more powerful workouts, and less time needed to recover between exercises and after your workouts.
Reduces risk of mortality. Regular cardio exercise reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic diseases like cancer, and overall mortality.
Boosts mood. Cardio releases endorphins, the feel good hormone, and can help to reduce overall levels of stress hormones.
Improves energy. Working out can boost your energy during the day and improve your sleep, leading to even more daytime energy.
If you struggle with getting enough cardio exercise in, cardio workout plans can help to keep you accountable and ensure you are ticking off your weekly activity. They are also a great way to monitor your progress, as you can compare time, distance, or even effort level, to see how you improve week on week.
How Much Cardio Should You Do Each Week?
The NHS recommends 75 mins of vigorous or 150 mins moderate intensity exercise, on top of strength-based workouts. Moderate intensity exercise includes activities like brisk walking, cycling at a leisurely pace, and hiking, while vigorous exercise includes exercises like running, spin classes, and sports.
Adding a 10–20-minute vigorous intensity cardio session to the end of your workouts is a great way to reap the benefits of cardio exercise and meet the recommended guidelines, without dedicating huge chunks of time to it.
If you go down this route, remember to perform your cardio after your weight training, not before. Both cardio and strength training uses up glycogen, but there will be more of a negative impact on your workout if you perform cardio first.
Outside of the gym, brisk walking is a great way to bump up your overall weekly exercise. Just 20 minutes a day brings you around the 150 minute mark for moderate activity.
What Type Of Exercise Should A Cardio Gym Workout Plan Include?
There are two types of cardio workouts – LISS (low intensity steady state cardio) and HIIT (high intensity interval training). LISS workouts are performed over a longer period of time, at the same effort level, while HIIT workouts combine short periods of all out effort with periods of low effort or rest, for a shorter duration. You can learn more about LISS vs HIIT here.
A gym LISS workout will typically involve 30-60 minutes on a cardio machine. Most gyms have a variety of cardio machines to try, including treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines, ski ergs, ellipticals, and stair masters. If you dislike one machine, there’s no need to stick to it! Try them all and see what you prefer, as enjoying an exercise is key to staying consistent.
If you don’t enjoy any of the cardio machines, you can still get cardio workouts at the gym. Bodyweight endurance exercises like squats or burpees can be turned into a cardio workout by following a HIIT format, so if you hate traditional cardio you can always turn your favourite exercises into a cardio workout! You can learn more about HIIT workouts here.
Cardio Workout Plan For At The Gym
Below, there are three HIIT gym cardio workouts you can try if you want to mix it up from a LISS workout.
Workouts 1 and 2 are suitable for all levels, as the pace is dictated by your fitness. Workout 3 is more advanced and recommended for those with a good level of cardio fitness or experience with HIIT workouts.
If you find any of these workouts too easy or too challenging, you can change the times or distances to make them more suitable.
Workout 1 - treadmill intervals
- 5 minutes moderate walking
- Pre–running dynamic stretches (optional)
- Run for 2 minutes at your average 5k pace + 0.5km/h (You can calculate your running pace here, but if you’re unsure you can use a pace that you can run comfortably at for at least 5 minutes).
- 1 minute steady walk, focusing on deep breaths to lower your heart rate
- Repeat 5 times, increasing the speed by 0.5km/h for each running interval
- 5 minutes moderate walking
- Post-run static stretches
Workout 2 – 1500m rowing intervals
- 5 minutes moderate cardio on the elliptical or rowing machine
- High intensity rowing for 200m as quickly as possible
- Low intensity rowing for 100m
- Repeat 5 times
- 5 minutes light cardio on the elliptical or rowing machine
- 5 minutes full body stretching
Workout 3 – concept bike and burpees
This is a ladder workout, which means you start with a high distance on the bike and climb down to a low distance over the rounds, while starting on a low number of reps on the burpees and climb higher reps each round.
- 1 minute jumping jacks
- 1 minute jump squats
- 3 minutes moderate cycling
- Round 1: 500m concept bike as quickly as possible, followed by 2 burpees
- Round 2: 400m concept bike as quickly as possible, followed by 4 burpees
- Round 3: 300m concept bike as quickly as possible, followed by 6 burpees
- Round 4: 200m concept bike as quickly as possible, followed by 8 burpees
- Round 5: 100m concept bike as quickly as possible, followed by 10 burpees
- 5 minutes light cycling
- 5 minutes full body stretching
Adding one (or all!) of these workouts a couple of times a week will boost your fitness and help to improve your mental and physical health.
Ready to incorporate these workouts into your weekly routine? Find your nearest gym here. If you’re looking for cardio workouts you can do outside of the gym, check out these HIIT workouts you can do at home.