5 Ways To Up The Intensity In Any Cardio Workout

by | Mar 5, 2019 | Fitness

Cardio day feeling a little stale? It’s time to up that intensity. When you do the same workout over and again, your body starts adapting. That’s good because it means you’re getting fitter (yay!). But it also means you won’t see the same results that you used to (ugh). Fortunately, you don’t have to overhaul your workout entirely. You can up the ante just by shaking things up a bit. These tricks will have you sweating so much you’ll need to up your antiperspirant game as well!

1/ Active Rest

The fitter you get, the faster your recovery rate. In other words, when you take a rest break, your heart rate drops much faster than it once did and, before you know it, you’re breathing easily and way behind on you Discovery points. Active rest is a way to bring your heart rate down enough to catch your breath, but not all the way down to resting. It’s also a way to inject a dose of cardio into your strength training days and keep the intensity levels up.

Try it: Between sets, bounce side to side or take a slow jog around your training area. Good at skipping? Do one minute at a slow pace.

2/ Monitor Your Heart Rate

Since your recovery rate is quicker the fitter you get, you won’t need your rest breaks to be as long as they were when you first started exercising. But when you’ve been doing the same workout for a while, it’s easy to go onto autopilot. So you may be resting for much longer than your body needs and lowering the intensity of your workout. Monitoring your heart rate is a way to figure out how much rest you actually need.

Try it: Wearing a heart rate monitor is a quick and convenient way to track your heart rate. But if you don’t have one, just find a clock with a second hand (or use the timer on your phone) and monitor your heart rate with index finger and ring finger on the inside wrist of your opposite arm and count the number of beats in ten seconds. When the number of beats starts decreasing rapidly, you’re good to go again.

3/ Get Explosive

Plyometric (a.k.a. explosive) exercises are a great way to up the intensity of a workout. They require sudden bursts of energy that force your body to use anaerobic energy systems to fuel your muscles. The energy stores used by these systems get depleted quickly and your body has to work hard to replenish them. This spikes your heart rate and creates “oxygen debt” – a state where your body is still replacing those energy stores after your workout has ended, boosting your metabolism in the process.

Try it: On your next run, find a landmark about 100 metres away, like a prominent tree or house. Sprint towards it with everything you have, then slow down to a walk or slow jog to recover before sprinting again. In the gym, add jumps to your workout – skipping, box jump, squat jumps and even OG star jumps are good plyometric exercise.


That stands for “as many reps as possible”. Instead of doing a predetermined number of reps of an exercise, you choose a period of time (say, a minute) and do as many reps as you can with good form before the time is up or you lose form. You may find that you can actually do many more reps in a set than you thought you could. You’re also inherently going to want to beat your score each time, so you’ll work harder, making the workout more intense.

Try it: Get a timer that counts seconds (e.g. on your phone). Using simple body-weight movements (e.g. squats, push-ups, jumping lunges) do as many reps as you can of each move in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds before going again.

5/ Divide It Into Intervals

The prospect of a long, intense workout can seem daunting. You don’t want to push hard in the beginning and risk peaking too soon. Plus the idea of working so hard for so long just feels unpleasant so you hold back. Interval training is a way to get around this because you have the promise of regular little rest periods throughout your workout. So you can go all out, knowing you have a rest coming. Bonus: this style of training also taps into explosiveness and active rest so you enjoy the benefits of those types of training, too.

Try it: Divide your regular steady-state cardio sesh (e.g. running, cycling, swimming, elliptical, stepper) into periods of work and periods of active recovery. Say, four minutes’ work; one-minute recovery. During your work period, push hard. During the recovery period, keep moving, but take it slow and easy. Then go again. Continue repeating that pattern.

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