Cardio Sucks (and How I Stay Lean Without Doing it)

I sort of hate cardio.

I don’t hate many things (except for ketchup and people blowing their noses at the table), so to sort of hate cardio is saying a lot.

But you guys know this already. Lifting heavy stuff is my thang. To be honest, I prefer lifting to cardio because I simply get BORED out of my mind if I have to do any one thing for more than a few minutes. (Not so coincidentally, this same attention deficit is why I don’t blog as often as I’d like.) In fact, you will rarely see me perform more than 5 reps of a lift and never see more than 10.

Unfortunately, if I want to get–and stay–super lean, and be able to hang with my 6 year old when he wants to play tag (somehow I am always “it”), I have to get metabolic sometimes. I mean, there is no possible way I would have been able to get this lean if I wasn’t doing some form of conditioning exercise:

But I hate cardio, remember? Enter the FINISHER. 

A metabolic finisher is something you do at the end of a lifting session that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat like a mother. It usually involves an interval format and can be in the form of a complex or circuit. The great thing about finishers is that they only take 5-10 minutes (12-15 if you’re feeling crazy) and they are super effective.

Why?

Well, the answer is simple:

1. You work harder, not longer. So you get a lot of intense work done in a short period of time. Great for people like me who run several business and have kiddos to feed. 

2. This whole “EPOC” thing. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or after burn, is a fancy science term that basically means you will continue to burn calories–and in some cases even subcutaneous fat–for several hours after you’re done exercising. Studies have shown that EPOC is highest after anaerobic exercise (lifting) and high intensity intervals. 

Finishers are my primary form of “cardio” and what have helped me juggle work, school, writing, and mommy-hood while still getting in a good workout. Since I have kettlebells at home, I can even do them when I don’t have time to get to the gym.

My home gym

You can get really creative and do all sorts of different circuits and complexes with implements or even just your bodyweight. One of my absolute favorite finishers is this kettlebell squat and clean ladder:

What I did there was perform 1 clean followed by 1 squat, then 2, 3, 4, 5. This ladder is a killer. I can usually only do it for 3-5 sets before my legs are jelly and my lungs are burning. Ladders like this one are incredibly effective and yet I only spend about 10 minutes doing them. I’ll do a workout similar to this after a lifting session or even on its own if I want to get some extra metabolic work in (aka if I ate too much Ben and Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk).

I often get asked what kettlebell workouts I do and how I structure my “cardio” sessions, and the answer is always different. I usually create circuits and finishers on the fly out of my own creativity and it comes from years of experience as a coach. But what can you do if you don’t have experience designing workouts and really don’t want to spend the energy figuring out? Wouldn’t you rather spend that energy burning fat?

That’s where Jason Ferruggia comes in. One of the world’s most influential strength coaches and a fellow member of the Schwarzanegger.com Fitness Advisory board, Jason is a dude who really knows what he’s talking about. His no nonsense approach to training has helped thousands of people get lasting results and enviable physiques. His most recent eBook, Renegade Cardio, is a ridiculous compilation of 52 metabolic finishers (including kettlebell circuits!) that will get you burning fat and in some cases, even building muscle.

I read the eBook this week and did one of the kettlebell workouts, and was seriously impressed. Jason has done the work for you with bike intervals, multi-implement circuits, battling and jump rope workouts and more. All you have to do is follow the workouts; no thinking about what to do next or how long to rest or even how many reps to perform. It’s all listed in the eBook and gives you one less excuse not to get metabolic.

There are even barbell complexes, which, if you follow me on Facebook you know are my absolute favorite. I just got down with some barbell complexes last night and was in and out of the gym in less than 30 minutes–that includes pull-ups and a full dynamic warmup.

If you like the workouts I post here then you will LOVE Renegade Cardio. You need to get metabolic if you want to see those abs and truly embody fitness, and Renegade Cardio helps you do just that minus the boredom of 45 minutes on a treadmill. You guys know me; I don’t eff around and I can tell you that I am seriously pumped about this eBook. I’ll be using it to help me prepare for a huge video shoot I have next month, that I can’t wait to tell you all about. Click below to pick up your copy NOW and start your journey to the body you deserve TODAY.

  • Jorda

    I somehow stumbled upon your blog – damn woman, you look incredible! I am working up my nerve to start learning to lift heavy at the gym, I’m 31 single mom of 1, and just joined a few weeks ago. Been doing HIIT on elliptical but I want to be crazy strong and get the most bang for my limited minutes available to work out! Look forward to reading and watching your video clips more :) Thanks

    • neghar

      Aw, thanks! That put a smile on my face. I know all about the single mom life, and I’m proud of you for getting after your fitness goals. Keep checking the site for more workouts and ways to stay fit with time constraints.

  • http://www.facebook.com/team.oberg Michelle Oberg

    I feel like we are long lost sisters….I have an irrational disgust for ketchup and loathe cardio. When people ask what I do for cardio I tell them, “I just lift weights faster”

    • http://www.facebook.com/neghar.fonooni Neghar Fonooni

      Ketchup is the WORST!

  • Anders

    Hi Neghar,
    1) You should probably not over-emphasize the effects of EPOC… Most studies show the EPOC effect to be far less than 100 calories, even for long high-intensity work. More typical numbers are 30-80 calories, which is sort of within the margin of error for someone training hard.

    2) I fully understand that you want to commercialize your blog, but this blog post read like a long ad for the “Renegade cardio” ebook. Some of the paragraphs even give off the same smell as typical spam. I might just be the picky type, but it sure puts me off… The whole piece felt rather contrived as just a way to get commission and did not really give off the same vibes as your previous blog posts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/neghar.fonooni Neghar Fonooni

      Hey Anders,

      Sorry it put you off. Most people actually really liked it but you can’t please everyone!

      Jason is a friend and colleague and I really believe in his product. So to that end, yes, this post is intended to promote something that I think is great and that my readers could benefit from. That is, after all, why I have this site-to spread good information.

      In case you missed it, I included a lot of FREE information in the blog, including what I do for conditioning and videos of my workouts. I have been providing endless amounts of free content on the internet for over 3 years, so I cannot imagine that most of my followers would be put off by promoting a product here or there. In fact, most people want resources they can purchase to further their training.

      In the end, every single thing I write-whether it’s a product promotion, recipe, workout or piece from the heart-is written exclusively by me, in my voice and by my hand. Even when I recommend a product, I do it because I’ve tested it, I believe in it and I want my readers to benefit from it.

      Again, sorry you didn’t like it, but I stand behind it!

      • Michelle Melvin

        Maybe Anders was having a bad day because I decided to re-read your post 3 times looking for what in the heck he was talking about…..and uh no sorry it’s just a normal post with the added benefit of you promoting a product you like. I for one appreciate that because how else are we supposed to find out all kinds of cool information unless people we respect talk about it? What am I going to listen to the girls at the desk in my 24hr Fitness Gym, um no they’re nice in all but they only do cardio sooooooo. Seriously though even your comment on EPOC was just that a comment and you put that studies have shown it to be effective not THIS STUFF IS AMAZING for everyone!! Trust ALL science! lol Anders I’m sorry but you read WAY to much into this post. Relax Neghar’s got our backs ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Aguirre.591 Aguirre Cinco Nueve Uno

    I don’t hate cardio but I enjoy learning new stuff and finding out how different
    routines, drills and techniques adjust to my mind and body. Small details, pointers
    and advice by experienced people can make a great difference, and through her
    videos and posts, Neghar has always proven to be experienced and knowledgeable, apart from the fact that her body and strength clearly demonstrate she not only talks the talk but walks the walk. I will try finishers and if I find them good I’ll keep on doing them, and if I consider getting a book on them, certainly Renegade Cardio will be among my top choices since someone I respect and like recommended it. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/neghar.fonooni Neghar Fonooni

      Wow-thank you SO much for your incredibly kind words and the depth of the respect and gratitude. I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart to know that you feel this way and that I am able to make an impact.

      Thanks again!

      • http://www.facebook.com/Aguirre.591 Aguirre Cinco Nueve Uno

        Ah! What warms your heart is most probably the fact that you know it’s all true. We could start one of those circular thanks circles but ultimately I’d trump you. Your “Turkish get up” video got me to overcome my long standing reticence (I’m a climber) concerning gyms, and I’m happier for it (and also less injury prone).

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  • Danny McLarty

    Neghar,

    You clearly don’t know your stuff… ketchup is good, mustard is horrible! ;)

    I also hate cardio. I haven’t done more than a minute straight of ANYTHING in the gym for probably 15 years. Battling ropes to heavy ropes to boxing to the slide board, etc etc. My ADD is getting worse… I thought it was supposed to get better as I “matured” and aged.?!. :)

    Keep up the good work.

    Danny

    • neghar

      Ketchup is the worst thing ever.

      Love me some battling ropes!

    • http://www.facebook.com/neghar.fonooni Neghar Fonooni

      No way. Ketchup is the worst thing EVER!

      But, battling ropes are legit.

  • Jessica

    Hi Neghar…I happened upon you through Roman’s blog and am completely digging your stuff! Just curious…I have a handful of kettlbells (12, 14 & 16kg) and am looking to purchase one or two so I have doubles. Which do you recommend? My goal is strength and leanness (I would love to have your abs!) and I primarily do Roman’s suspension trainer workouts, mixed with some KB stuff and sprints once-in-a-while.

    Any suggestions would be truly appreciated!

    • http://www.facebook.com/neghar.fonooni Neghar Fonooni

      I would def recommend a pair of 12′s if you are at beginner strength levels and a pair of 14′s if you are intermediate. I find the 12′s have the most versatility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/ʚϊɞ-Hanna-ʚϊɞ/538337778 ʚϊɞ Hanna ʚϊɞ

    are u doing those workout with kettlebells and barabell after ur weight lifting sessions??

    • neghar

      Sometimes post lifting and sometimes on their own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/md.snyder.75 MD Snyder

    I can only do about 50# rows max but much more for legs. Should I just do the 50#? Would that sacrifice my leg workout?

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  • elizabeth_TMFP

    As a fellow barbell complex enthusiast and cardio loather, I’m so psyched to try this complex you posted! I never would have thought to include rear lunges, but it would definitely be a way to switch things up for me. And I’m digging the clean and squat ladder–this is easily one of the actually helpful lifting websites I’ve come across in a really long time–you’re definitely going in my reader!

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  • Jennifer

    Question, So are you referring to a HIIT cardio as a finisher or finishers like the two videos you posted with weights?? I have recently went from just running to HIIT running- definitely helps me have less dread to the cardio aspect. I do do a LOT of cardio mixed in with my weight training, high knees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc- but thats probably not enough to make a significant difference is it?
    I too despise cardio and know I could progress a lot more toward my fitness goals if I wouldn’t neglect it so much. So I just wanted to clarify which you mean. Thank you!

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