When someone mentions cardio, you may think "necessary evil," but take a step back and withhold judgment for just a moment. As reluctant as you might be to hop on that treadmill—worried it'll be boring or that it'll zap your gains—give cardio a chance. When properly paired with weight training, a good cardio plan will lead you to an ideal world of fat loss and help you carve a great, shapely figure—which, of course, includes great glutes.
The trick is figuring out which movements will put you on the fast path to meeting your goals. Hint: You can kiss mind-numbingly slow walks on the treadmill goodbye. I've found four effective movements that will work wonders for your cardio routine. They're my favorites because they pump some much-needed variety into your workout plan and produce results you'll love.
1. The Stairmaster
The stairmaster is my first and favorite cardio choice for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it targets your glutes and thighs and it's guaranteed to make you sweat. Think about it: When's the last time you saw somebody not covered in sweat after ten minutes of climbing?
The stairmaster's also great for fat loss. In fact, if you get into a really aggressive mindset, you can almost feel the fat melting off you. The key is intensity. Don't treat your time on the stepper as you would a typical jaunt on the treadmill or stroll in the park. Crank up the intensity a bit, and get to work.
I usually do 20-30 minutes of stairmaster two to three times per week. I love how versatile it is. You can do both high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS). Both styles deliver great results.
One effective method is to alternate styles throughout the week so your glutes and thighs—as well as the rest of your body—get the best of both worlds. Be prepared to be challenged, no matter which version you pick. Always push your limits. During my LISS cardio, I also like to incorporate glute kickbacks to really target my rear. It's a superb way to bring out your bum during your cardio routine. You'll definitely be pleased with the results.
In my experience, plyometrics are on the opposite end of the spectrum from your standard, bored-to-tears cardio workout. Plyometrics are challenging: They get your heart pumping and require a go-getter's mentality.
Plyometrics are also easily adaptable. If you're new to the movements, you can get away with fairly basic body-weight-only exercises like jumping jacks. They're convenient and portable, so you have no excuses. Quick: Dive into one of my favorite plyometric exercises—the "Jumping Jack Attack!"
It's like my twist on Tabata—you do as many jumping jacks as you can in 20 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Here's the kicker: When you repeat the process, increase the time to 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds. Then move on to 40 seconds. Repeat this cycle three times for a quick and effective cardio workout!
This may not be a glamorous choice, but running outdoors has always been a favorite of mine—even if I do occasionally have to hop on the treadmill during the winter months. Running is obviously a key cardiovascular exercise, but I've always found it to be a great stress reliever, too. If you lead a busy lifestyle, a good run may be exactly what you need to relax. Put your headphones in, throw on some music, and start running toward your own personal Zen zone. Before you know it, you'll have hit the reset button on your stress levels, leaving you recharged and back on track.
Running's also a great tool for fat burning, especially when utilized with these other movements. When I'm on the treadmill, I set it to a high incline and do 15-second sprints with 45 seconds of rest for 12 rounds. This is a surefire way to elevate your heart rate and speed up the fat-loss process.
4. Jumping Rope
For added variety, I like to throw a jump rope into my workout. Sometimes I'll even make it a stand-alone workout. It's great if you're pressed on time and need to work up a sweat quickly. You can use a variety of speeds, frequencies, and rest periods to put together a unique program each time. Plus, it's convenient and can be done just about anywhere—all you need is a rope.
When I incorporate my jump rope cardio session into my workout routine, I like to jump for a prescribed number of jumps or amount of time between exercises. I do 50-100 jumps or jump for 30-60 seconds between exercises. It's a fantastic way to keep my heart rate up while I'm working out.
An increased heart rate speeds up fat loss, keeps things interesting, and gives you one heck of a workout in the process.