Cardiovascular exercise is necessary for any athlete. Cardio is vital for heart health, plays a key role in fat loss, and helps with endurance.
Unfortunately, the thought of stepping it out on a treadmill or riding an elliptical just isn’t that appealing. There are other options like classes, riding a bike, or running outside, but in the eyes of many lifters, cardio is pretty boring. Many zone out and watch TV or listen to music just to get through it.
I present to you an alternative plan. A plan that will help you reap all the benefits of cardio, but with the intensity and excitement of throwing around weights. You'll not only put in serious work and get that same feeling you get when you’re preparing to lift, but you might even get excited about doing cardio. It’s 60 intense minutes so bring a water bottle and towel. You’re going to need them.
This is your “Power Hour.”
What You Will Need
- Pair of Moderate-Heavy Dumbbells
- Tractor Tire OR Battle Rope (if you can't do the workout outside)
Warm Up (5 Minutes)
First, you need to get warmed up and prepare the entire body as well as the mind for what’s about to take place. All three exercises that you will do will challenge the entire body so you need to warm up accordingly. Perform 10 reps each of push ups, bodyweight squats, and hold a plank position for 10 seconds. Once you finish all three exercises, take 45-60 seconds to stretch the entire body. You’ll repeat this cycle for no more than 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes of warming up, set up your tractor tire and sledgehammer.
Part 1: Hammer Time (15 Minutes)
As soon as you’re ready to take the first swing of the hammer, you’re on the clock for 15 minutes. Take a few swings with each arm so you can check form and prepare the body for what’s about to happen. Make sure you can swing the hammer with both a right handed and a left handed swing because you’ll be doing it both ways.
The best way to swing the hammer is to have one hand at the bottom of the handle and your dominant hand at the top near the hammer head. So if you’re swinging left handed, the left hand should be near the hammer head. Bring the hammer over your head and use as much force as you can to drive the hammer down toward the tire. The hand that is at the top near the hammer head should slide down the handle to meet your other hand while the hammer is going down.
Once you’re ready to go, you will alternate swinging with your right hand and with your left hand, striking the tire. Don’t just hit the tire. Remember, this is about intensity. Try to drive the hammer through that rubber with all you got. Repeat that pattern of right hand swing, left hand swing for 60 seconds. Make each swing more impactful than the last.
Once you've done this for 60 seconds, take a 30 second rest to catch your breath, sip water, and re-focus on your next round of swinging. After your first couple of minutes warming up, you should be able to complete somewhere between 6-8 rounds by the time your 15 minutes is up. When the clock reaches 15 minutes, take a two minute break and prepare for your next workout.
Part 2: Farmer's Walk with Dumbbells (15 Minutes)
Note: If your gym has farmer’s walk equipment, use that instead of dumbbells.
While you’re taking that two minute breather, mark out where you can walk for a relatively long distance. If you have to do this inside your gym, find a place where there won’t be many people walking around so you won’t have to worry about stopping. Wherever you decide to go should allow you to take at least 30 steps.
Grab a lighter pair of dumbbells. At this point, your next 15 minutes will begin. Walk the distance you set for yourself with the light dumbbells and back. Send those weights back to the rack and grab a pair that is moderately heavy. If you want to use a pair of lifting straps, you can have them with you, but you can’t start with them. Begin this workout with just your bare hands and go as long as you can without having to use them.
Don’t pick a weight that will allow you to complete 15 minutes without stopping. Challenge yourself with serious weight. This is supposed to be intense so bring it and push yourself.
Take your weights in each hand and start walking your route. Go from the start to the finish and back again. When you get back to the starting position, don’t stop. Keep going as long as you can until you can’t hold the weights anymore and are forced to put the dumbbells down.
Once you have to drop the dumbbells, your first 30 second rest will begin. Make sure you’re mentally reminding yourself that with each step you’re improving and this still beats walking on a treadmill.
Once that 30 seconds is up, grab your weights and get back to it. Repeat by going as long as you can without dropping or stopping. For those of you who have straps, once you can no longer hold the weights for more than a few seconds at a time, you can then go to your straps so you can hold them longer and focus on the cardio effect of this workout.
Keep an eye on that clock because once 15 minutes has passed, you get another two minute break to rest and transition to the final challenge of Power Hour. Are you having fun yet?
Part 3: Tire Flipping (15 Minutes)
Note: If you don’t have the space for tire flipping, skip to the alternative below which is the battle rope.
Go back to that tractor tire. Take a minute to master the form of flipping it because you’ll be doing it a lot. At this point, you’re on the clock for another 15 minutes. Once you feel like you’ve got it and you’re ready to begin, start flipping the tire. Count the flips because the goal if you ever do this again will be to do more total flips next time than you do this time. Flip it from one end of your space to the other and back again. Keep going until you can’t flip it anymore. Once you reach failure, take a 30 second break.
Here’s some advice. Don’t sit. It will be tempting to sit on that tire but don’t do it. While you’re already active and moving the last thing you want to do is stop your body. Remember that phrase “an object in motion stays in motion”? It applies here.
Once that 30 seconds has passed, get back to flipping and pick up the counting where you left off. So if you did 25 flips, start with 26. Repeat until failure and rest for another 30 seconds. Keep going until you’ve reached 15 total minutes. Write down your total flips so you have that mark to try to beat next time.
Part 3 (Alternative): Battle Rope (15 Minutes)
Take your rope and stretch it as far back as you can. Hold an end in each hand. You’re going to do power flips of the rope. Take each end and lift them up over your head and slam them down toward the floor without letting go of them. You should see a wave go down each end of the rope to the end where it is hooked. When you start checking the form, you’re on the clock. Once your form is mastered, perform as many of those power flips as you can until you can’t do any more.
Make sure to count them. Once you reach failure, rest for 30 seconds. After that rest period, pick up where you stopped counting and continue. So if you stopped at 25 flips, you would start next time with 26. Keep following this protocol until 15 minutes has passed. Write down your total number so you can have that goal to beat next time.
Cool Down (4 Minutes)
You should have somewhere around three or four minutes left at this point in your Power Hour. Don’t just leave. A cool down provides great benefits to kick start recovery. Take this time to walk around, catch your breath, stretch, and mentally recap what you’ve just done.
This was a challenging and intense workout and if you finished it, you should be proud of that. You should also be thinking about how you will do better next time.