As long as you’re not training for an endurance sportOpens a New Window., it’s more than feasible to replace traditional cardio Opens a New Window.with liftingOpens a New Window.. However, the exercises you choose, while important, are not the main factor in determining the cardiovascular training effect; the key is how you perform them.

A lot of guys who go to the gym really can’t stand the notion of hopping onto a treadmill and watching reruns of Full House. If you’re one of those who prefer to avoid conventional cardio training, here are some lifting exercises you can do that help build your cardio endurance without keeping you stationary and bored out of your mind. Follow these guidelines to turn your lifting program into a fat-burning frenzy.

1. Use Basic, Multijoint Exercises

Use squats, deadlifts, bench presses and bent-over rows to involve as much muscle mass as possible. Some non-traditional exercises used by strongman competitors, like the tire flip and farmers walk, are other great options.

2. Train in Circuits

Alternate upper and lower body exercises to spread the fatigue to your entire body. Minimize rest between sets to keep your heart rate up and to force your body to switch from using the anaerobic energy system, which normally supplies energy for lifting, to the aerobic system.

3. Make Each Circuit 2-5 Minutes Long

It takes two minutes for the aerobic system to kick in, so sets need to last at least that long. Use 6-8 exercises for 10 reps each with a controlled, even tempo. Each set should last about 45 seconds. At the end of the circuit, take a 2-3 minute rest; this will make the workout similar to interval trainingOpens a New Window. on the treadmill or bike. You will need 20-30 minutes of work time to see cardiovascular benefits, which translates into 6-10 circuits, three times per week.

4. Reduce Weight

Use lighter weight than you normally would when lifting for strength or mass in traditional fashion. And don’t go to failure on each set, as this causes too much fatigue and likely won’t allow you to complete the circuit. Choose a weight that will leave you 2-3 reps short of failure. You’ll be able to gain strength and size with this rep range once your endurance and cardiovascular fitness improve.

5. Get Your Priorities Straight

If developing strength and size are your chief objectives (as opposed to burning fat), this style of training is probably not the best option for you. Straight sets are far more effective for those goals.


  • Style: Full-body circuit
  • Circuits: 6-10
  • Exercises per circuit: 6-8
  • Reps per set: 10
  • Frequency: 3 times per week
  • Exercises: Multijoint exercises