Cardio is great for weight loss, but it’s not the only way to lose weight. Cardio workouts increase your heart rate and burn calories, but they don’t always lead to optimal fat-loss results. If you’re looking to trim your waistline and build more muscle, it’s important to combine cardio with strength training.
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Gym Cardio Workout For Weight Loss
Cardiovascular, or cardio, exercises are any exercises that increase a person’s heart rate. Cardio exercises can be beneficial to people who want to reach or maintain a moderate weight or stay healthy.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), an adult should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise per week.
Benefits of cardio
Cardio exercises can have many beneficial effects on a person’s body. A 2015 study found that people who completed a 4-week cardio exercise program had:
- an increased sense of well-being
- a decrease in psychological distress
- a decrease in perceived stress
- less emotional exhaustion
Cardio exercises may also be helpful for people who would like to lose weight. Researchers found that female participants who attended a Zumba class for 8 weeks had statistically significant effects in:
- body fat mass reduction
- body weight loss improvement
- body mass index improvement
- fat percentage reduction
Top gym cardio exercises
There are many cardio exercises a person can do to reach or maintain a moderate body weight or improve their health. Before any exercise, a person should take time to warm up their muscles to reduce the risk of injury.
All recommended exercises in this section are guidelines only. A person wanting to start any new exercise should do so gently and at their own pace.
Once a person becomes familiar with a form of cardio exercise, they can try to increase the intensity, volume, duration, resistance, or technique to make the exercise more challenging.
If a person chooses to do cardio workouts at the gym, they can consider the following exercises:
The elliptical machine can provide the cardio benefits of walking or running, with reduced impact on a person’s joints. Elliptical machines are beneficial to those with joint issues, such as arthritis.
The stair climber strengthens the lower body. A person using a stair climber should make sure they maintain good posture throughout the exercise.
It can take a while to build stamina with a stair climber, and so a person should take their time and focus on increasing the duration of the sets.
The exercise bike is useful for people who have joint issues, as it places less stress on the joints than other cardio machines. The exercise bike works the leg muscles, and a person can choose their pace.
A person using a treadmill is essentially running but with less impact on their joints. The treadmill is also easily adjustable for each individual’s needs.
A person using a treadmill should start at a pace that suits their fitness level.
The rowing machine offers a total body workout. Additionally, it has the benefit of being impact free, and it does not involve bearing weight.
- Sit in the seat and strap the feet to the platform.
- Bend the legs and pull the knees in.
- Keep the arms straight and grip the oars.
- Push against the platform with the feet while moving the body up and the arms back.
- Fully extend the legs, then pull the arms back and bend the knees.
Swimming has many health benefits. According to Australia’s Department of Health and Human Services, swimming:
- increases heart rate but reduces impact stress on the body
- builds endurance, muscle strength, and heart fitness
- helps maintain healthful weight
- keeps the heart and lungs healthy
A cardio exercise in a swimming pool can involve completing lengths. A person should build their swimming strength at a pace that suits their needs.
Top home cardio exercises
Jump rope is an effective form of cardio exercise. Jumping rope strengthens calf muscles and improves the elasticity of surrounding tendons and connective tissue. Jump rope also uses the arm muscles, as well as the muscles of the abdomen.
- Lightly grip the handles of the jump rope.
- Relax the shoulders and keep the elbows close to the torso.
- Gently bend the knees.
- Rotate the rope from the wrist and keep a smooth arc as the rope passes overhead.
- Jump low to reduce impact on the knees and ankles.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend 15 minutes of jump rope exercises as part of a person’s daily moderate intensity exercise.
Jumping jacks involve the entire body and are a good way to work the heart, lungs, and muscles in one exercise.
- Standing straight, spread the arms to the sides and the legs wide apart.
- Jump, returning the arms to the sides of the body, and the legs to the midline.
- Jump again, extending the arms and legs out.
Burpees are an intense exercise, as they use the arms, legs, and core.
- Stand upright.
- Squat, placing the hands on the ground.
- Jump the legs back so they are straight.
- Jump the legs to return into the squat position.
- Stand up.
- Jump in place.
Running in place
When running in place, a person moves their body as if they were running, but they stay in one spot.
A 2015 study found that running in place can reduce muscle fatigue, improve aerobic exercise ability, and strengthen muscles. Researchers also note that it improved flexibility, gait, and lumbar stability.
Running in place can be part of an interval workout. This is where a person completes repetitions of different exercises in a set time. An example of an interval workout that includes running in place is the following:
- Run in place for 2 minutes.
- Increase speed for 1 minute.
- Rest for 1 minute.
- Jog in place for 3 minutes.
- Rest for 1 minute.
Squat jumps involve the same movements as a regular squat, with the addition of a jump. Squat jumps target the buttocks, thighs, and hamstrings. Squats also help increase flexibility of the knee, hip, and ankle joints.
- Stand with the feet apart and the arms along the sides of the body.
- Squat until the knees are at a 90-degree angle, swinging the arms back.
- Swing arms forward and jump.
- Land and repeat.
High intensity interval training (HIIT)
HIIT is a series of workouts that involve short high intensity bursts, broken up by lower intensity recovery periods. HIIT training uses the body’s energy reserves, increasing metabolism and calories burned.
According to the American Council on Exercise, a person should do 1 minute of high intensity exercise for every 2 or 3 minutes of recovery. At home, a person may choose to do intense exercises, such as sprinting or burpees, followed by gentle jogging on the spot.
Tips on getting the most out of cardio
A person who wants to get the most benefit out of cardio exercise can try the following:
- making sure they warm up before and cool down after every workout session
- giving their body time to recover between workouts
- eating a healthful, balanced diet
- creating a weekly exercise routine
- setting realistic goals
- starting slowly, and gradually building up strength and stamina
There are many cardio exercises available for a person who would like to reach or maintain a moderate weight or become healthier.
A person should be aware of their limits and make sure not to push themselves too far. If a person has any concerns with regard to their exercise routine, they should speak with a doctor.
It is important to note that being healthy and reaching or maintaining a moderate weight requires a combination of a balanced diet and exercise.
5-Day Gym Cardio Workout Plan
When it comes to cardio workouts, there’s no one type of exercise that works for everyone. The cardio training plan you choose largely depends on your goals and preferences. However, for a varied routine, try the following five-day plan at the gym. It’s challenging, fun — plus, you can get it done anytime.
Regardless of which type you choose (or whether you opt for body-weight cardio), your workout can be further categorized as either interval training or steady-state cardio. Both types have their place in a cardio workout plan, and you can combine them throughout the week to meet your minimum activity requirements, per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines call for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) spread throughout the week.
Interval training refers to any kind of training that involves alternating between periods of work and bouts of recovery. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and Tabata are two forms of interval training. The difference is the length of the intervals and recovery. Whereas HIIT can be any length, Tabata involves 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest or low-intensity exercise, repeated for four minutes.
In contrast, during steady-state cardio, your maintain a consistent speed and intensity level for the duration of your workout. This form of exercise is performed at a more moderate pace than interval training. By engaging in both moderate and intense activity as part of your gym cardio workouts, you’ll more easily meet your requirements without over-stressing your body.
Day 1: 30-Minute Treadmill HIIT Workout
For day one of your five-day cardio workout plan, start with high-intensity intervals on the treadmill. Why HIIT? You can finish your workout in 30 minutes or less, making it idea for people with busy schedules. HIIT is also effective at helping you break past a training plateau and improve aerobic efficiency — both of which can help you perform optimally if, say, you’re training for a race or other athletic event.
If you’re looking to lose weight, HIIT workouts may also help boost your weight-loss efforts, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Not only do HIIT workouts help you torch calories quickly, but they also allow you to burn calories after a workout is done due to the oxygen demands placed on your body.
Ready to hit the ground running? Do this 30-minute HIIT workout on the treadmill (or elliptical, stair stepper or stationary bike if you prefer).
- Warm up by walking at a moderate pace with a slight incline for three minutes.
- Increase the incline by 5 to 15 percent and continue walking for three minutes.
- Bring the incline to flat and increase your pace to a run or sprint for one minute.
- Repeat the cycle six times.
- Cool down by walking flat for three minutes.
You can switch up this simple treadmill routine by adjusting the incline up or down or varying the length of the intervals. For example, you could decrease the length of the rest periods and/or increase the length of the sprints.
Day 2: 45-Minute LISS Bike Workout
Hop on a stationary bike (or venture out into the great outdoors) and ride at a consistent pace and effort for 45 minutes. Low-intensity, steady-state (LISS) cardio generally needs to be performed for longer periods to gain the full benefits — roughly 30 to 60 minutes — especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
ACE notes that because steady-state cardio allows you to work below your maximum heart rate, it’s an effective way to improve cardiovascular health and aerobic capacity. It generates less metabolic waste and cellular damage than HIIT workouts and also may help your body efficiently burn fat for fuel.
If you’re training for an endurance event, such as a marathon or triathlon, steady-state cardio will help you prepare, especially if you use the opportunity as a cross-training workout (picking a mode of cardio that’s different from regular training). Be cautious not to overdo it on this type of training, as it may increase your risk of repetitive stress injuries due to the lengthier sessions.
Day 3: 4-Minute Tabata Elliptical Workout
A traditional Tabata workout follows a specific training protocol consisting of 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for a total of four minutes.
For day three of your cardio workout plan, use the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or stair stepper to perform intervals at a 2-1 work/recovery ratio for 30 minutes. Choose a different machine than you used on the first day so you can continue challenging different muscle groups throughout the week. So if you’re on the elliptical, your workout may look like this:
- Warm up for three to five minutes at a moderate pace with light resistance.
- Increase the resistance and up your pace to your maximum effort for 20 seconds.
- Take off the added resistance and slow down your pace to recover for 10 seconds.
- Repeat eight times total.
- Cool down with three to five minutes a moderate pace with light resistance
To be a true Tabata workout, you have to push yourself to your max with each and every speed interval. It’s a short workout but it should be intense.
Day 4: 30-Minute Body-Weight Circuit Workout
Circuit training typically includes several different exercise stations. You complete the exercises one station at a time without resting in between. You can set up as many stations as you like to complete one or more circuits within 30 to 60 minutes.
Circuit training is fun yet challenging, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the time flies by. Plus, they’re big calorie burners: A 30-minute session burns about 300 calories for a 155-pound person, according to Harvard Health Publishing. You can also create a variety of different circuits and even incorporate different types of equipment, such as resistance bands, dumbbells and kettlebells.
It might not always be possible to set up a bunch of different circuits at the gym, depending on space and the availability of equipment. If you can do it, though, you can perform a simple circuit that includes both aerobic and strength exercises. Some gyms also offer group circuit training or personal training that incorporates circuits.
For your day-four circuit, you’ll alternate brief bouts of cardio exercise with strength exercises that you can complete using your own body weight. Pick any cardio machine and follow this workout:
- Warm up for three to five minutes with cardio drills and dynamic stretches.
- Hop on your chosen cardio machine and go for four minutes at a steady, challenging pace.
- Get off the machine and perform 60 seconds of a body-weight exercise (push-ups, mountain climbers, lunges, squat jumps, plank up-downs or burpees).
- Repeat the circuit six times or more, using a different body-weight exercise each time.
- Cool down with three to five minutes of static stretching.
Day 5: Cardio-Based Group Workout Class
Make day five your “fun day” of your gym cardio workouts with a cardio-based group workout class at your gym or at a boutique studio. Most classes are about an hour long and are set to music. Here are a few possibilities:
- Zumba: Great for anyone who enjoys dance, this class combines movements from a variety of dance styles.
- Water aerobics: This workout involves performing exercises in waist-high water, sometimes using weights.
- Indoor cycling: Using a stationary bike, you’ll likely alternate between periods of intense effort and rest, climbs and flat roads as your instructor guides you to increase or decrease resistance.
- Kickboxing: Perform punches, kicks and other high-energy movements, with or without a punching bag.
Many people thrive on the group-fitness atmosphere, where you have a live instructor teaching you proper form and technique. You also have fellow students there to help inspire you. You might even meet a few new friends by attending a favorite class regularly. In fact, Harvard Health Publishing notes that working out in a group setting may help you stick to an exercise plan.
Cardio Gym Workout Plan For Beginners
Going to the gym for the first time doesn’t need to be daunting. Adam Hameed, personal trainer at Nuffield Health, offers some beginner workouts to help you feel confident and get the most out of your gym time.
Everyone has different reasons for joining a gym. And lots of people are worried about using the equipment if they’ve never worked out in a gym before. These beginner gym workouts are ideal for various goals, whether you want to lose some weight or burn fat, build muscle and strength or improve your fitness.
And don’t forget, your gym membership will include an induction with an expert personal trainer, so make the most of this time with them. Gym staff are really helpful and friendly so they can show you how to do the exercises and answer any questions.
As a beginner, how long should I do the workout for?
Set a goal to continue with the workout programme for 3 months. Creating a long-term exercise routine is all about forming positive habits, which means giving your mind and body the time to adjust to doing something new.
Each workout should take 45 minutes to 1 hour and you should always leave 48 hours between workouts to rest and recover properly. So a Monday-Wednesday-Friday routine works well for most people.
How much weight should I lift?
As a beginner, the best thing you can do is start at the lower end of the weight spectrum and work your way up until you reach about 60/70% of your max limit (the most amount of weight you can lift for 1 repetition with good form ). That will give you a rough idea of what to start on and you can slowly increase the weight little by little every week.
What are reps and sets?
A rep is how many times you repeat a specific exercise, whereas a set is how many rounds of reps you do. So if you lift 10 times on a bench press, that would be ‘one set of 10 reps’. If you took a short break and then did the same again, you’ll have completed ‘two sets of 10 reps’.
How many reps and sets you go for depends on what you’re trying to achieve. More reps at a lower weight would improve your endurance, while fewer reps at a higher weight would build your muscle mass.
When it comes to sets, people usually aim for between three to five, depending on how many you can complete without compromising your form.
Tips for each workout
- Go slow – focus on your technique
- Rest 60-90 seconds between each set
- Keep moving when you’re resting – a gentle walk around the gym floor will keep your muscles warm and your heart rate up
- Ideally perform the workout in the order listed, but if equipment is busy then switch the order for convenience.
Beginner gym workout for females
This workout for females is designed to tone the whole body, with a slight emphasis on the legs and glutes (bottom). It’s a myth that women will become bulky if they lift weights. Weight training in fact helps women become stronger, leaner and more toned.
- Seated leg press (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Seated shoulder press (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Close grip lat pulldown (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Bodyweight lunges (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Full/kneeling press ups (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Plank (30 secs x 3)
- Leg raises (10 reps x 3 sets)
Beginner gym workout for males
This workout is designed to help men gain strength and lean mass. This is a full body beginner workout with an extra focus on the arms and core. You’ll find by the end of this plan that all your numbers (reps or amount of weight lifted) on the exercises should increase nearly every week and you will have noticed changes in your body shape.
- Seated chest press (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Seated rows (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Wide grip lat pulldown (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Seated leg press (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Dumbbell seated shoulder press (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Dumbbell bicep curls (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Close grip tricep press ups (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Cable rotations/twists (10 reps x 4 sets)
- Reverse crunches (10 reps x 4 sets)
Beginner gym workout for strength
The rep range for strength training is 4 – 6 reps and the idea behind this plan is to exert more energy for less reps (which will mean lifting heavier). If it’s your first time lifting for strength, don’t go too heavy – use a manageable weight for the first few weeks and then increase the load as the weeks go on. Once you think you could lift for 8-10 reps on the same weight, it’s time to increase the weight.
- Barbell push press (6 reps x 4 sets)
- Goblet squat (6 reps x 4 sets)
- Dumbbell single arm row (6 reps x 4 sets)
- Shoulder lateral raise (6 reps x 4 sets)
- Bench press (6 reps x 4 sets)
- Pull ups/assisted pull ups (6 reps x 4 sets)
- Barbell bicep curls (8 reps x 4 sets)
- Cable overhead tricep extensions (8 reps x 4 sets)
- Rotating plank (30 secs x 4)
Beginner gym workout for fat loss
This workout is designed to raise your heart rate and get you sweating. The purpose behind this is to push your cardiovascular fitness – when your heart rate is higher you burn more calories. It also has the added benefit of burning extra calories after you’ve finished the workout, as your body is still working hard to recover back to its normal state of function. So you’re essentially burning more while resting just for training your heart a bit harder during your workout.
- Plate thrusters (15 reps x 3 sets)
- Mountain climbers (20 reps x 3 sets)
- Box jumps (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Walk outs (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Renegade rows (full plank/kneeling) (10 each side x 3 sets)
- Press ups (full plank/kneeling) (15 reps x 3 sets)
- Treadmill 10 min run/steep incline brisk walk (no hands)
- Supermans (full plank/kneeling) (10 reps x 3 sets)
- Crunches (10 reps x 3 sets)
Beginner gym workout for cardio equipment
This mix of steady and interval cardio session with different pieces of equipment will help mix up your workout and stop you getting bored. Applying intervals to your training can really push that cardiovascular fitness and make your heart stronger and efficient. It’s a good way to prep yourself for a HIIT class from a breathing point of view.
- 5 min treadmill brisk walk (optional incline)
- 5 min rower (steady)
- 1 min run/1 min walk treadmill x 10(easy)/15(medium)/20(hard)
- 10 min stair master (steady)
- Cross trainer (maintain one pace) – 1 min low effort level/1 min high effort level x 10(easy)/15(medium)/20(hard)
Beginner gym circuit programme
Circuit training is a great way to expend more calories and target multiple areas at once especially those with a time limit on their sessions. You’ll find yourself incorporating weights, high cardiovascular fitness, time efficient, muscular strength, muscular endurance, faster recovery and beats boredom.
- 2 min rower
- Alternating side plank (45 secs)
- Bicep curl to shoulder press (45 secs)
- Benched tricep dips (45 secs)
- Squat jumps (45 secs)
- Press up into superman (full/knees) (45 secs)
Exercise principles to help reach your goals
There are many ways of training and they can all be beneficial depending on your goals.
How ever you choose to train, there are some basic things you can do to help get the most out of your workouts.
- Pay attention to what you eat – if your goal is fat loss just remember the basic principle is move more than consume, this is the simple formula which a lot of people complicate when it comes to weight loss. If you’re training for muscle gain, the types of food you eat are also very important, for example, foods high in protein. And what you eat before and after your workout can also help with performance and recovery.
- Think about your job – lots of people spend most of their day sat down. So when it comes to exercise, standing rather than sitting will have multiple benefits and really help free up any areas that perhaps aren’t getting the movement through the restrictions of your work.
- Warm up properly – when it comes to warming your body up at the start of training, movement-based (also known as dynamic) stretches are best. This means anything that involves not standing still or bringing your heart rate down, for example, lunges, walk outs, simple yoga movements or cardiovascular work such as walking, cross trainer or stair master.
- Don’t forget to cool down – static/slower movement stretches are much better for this part of the workout, it’s a great opportunity to try and unwind and release some of those stiffer areas that you just struggle to get to loosen up.
Starting out at the gym, like doing anything new, can be nerve wracking. By following a workout routine from day 1 and getting a bit of support from the fitness experts at your induction, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.