Looking to do some cardio? Thinking about going for a run?…or maybe a spin on the bike? Traditional exercises such as running and cycling are usually what first comes to mind when thinking of activities synonymous to improving cardiovascular fitness. Is there another way though? One with a bit more variety and that’s a bit more whole body? We think so – give the routine below a go in place of a typical 5km run:


Metabolic Conditioning Workout:

A:1 – Kettlebell Swings – 60 seconds

A:2 – Alt DB Shoulder Press – 60seconds

A:3 – Rollouts – 60 seconds

A:4 – Kettlebell Goblet Squats – 60 seconds

A:5 – Push-Ups – 60 seconds

A:6 – Bent-Over 1-arm KB Rows – 60 seconds

A:7 – Russian Twist (unloaded) – 60 seconds

Rest 60 seconds & repeat twice more


With a work-to-rest ratio of 7:1, the above routine can easily replace a typical 4-5km run and arguably give you better cardiovascular conditioning in the process. The workout requires minimal equipment that can easily be found in most modern day gyms. You should be able to perform approximately 20 reps for each exercise in the 60sec timeframe – Therefore, let the reps dictate how much weight you will use. As a general guide, external load should be around a quarter of your bodyweight for the kettlebell exercises and around 15% of your bodyweight for the shoulder press.


Exercises and common mistakes:

Below are some pictures of the exercises in their hardest positions. Ensure your technique looks close to these and that you avoid the common mistakes elaborated upon in the notes below.


A:1 – Kettlebell Swings


The Kettlebell swing is a hip hinge exercise where the hips are pushed back horizontally then powerfully extended forward to propel the kettlebell. The swing is NOT a squat – the knees should not bend excessively and the hips should move back and forward (not down and up).


A:2 – Alt DB Shoulder Press


Each arm should move once at a time during this exercise – not up and down simultaneously like a see-saw. This is not an aerobics exercise and the hips and shoulders shouldn’t hike up and down. Keep your core tight and squeeze your glutes at all times when performing this one.


A:3 – Rollouts


Doing a rollout with bent hips and an arched back is the most common of error whilst performing a rollout. The hips should be flattened out and there should be a straight line from knee to head throughout the entire movement (see above pic). A good cue for this exercise is to flatten your hips out and fall like a tree from the knees whilst keeping the trunk stiff (no pun intended). If you are finding this movement difficult then progress with a different implement – master the exercise using a Swiss ball, Ab Roller and Barbell in that order.


A:4 – Kettlebell Goblet Squats


Not going deep enough (i.e. top of hip higher than top of knee in bottom position) is a very common error with most squatting movements. Another error particular to a Goblet squat (and often associated with lack of depth) is not having the elbows inside of the knees in the bottom position. Getting your knees out and ensuring the elbows are on the inside will not only help with depth but glute activation as well.


A:5 – Push-Ups


Overarching through the back, forward neck position and slouched hips are all too common problems experienced during the push-up. These can all be corrected by making your body adhere to one direct order – keep a straight line from head to ankles. Look forwards, vacuum your abs up and squeeze your glutes to correct these common mistakes.


A:6 – Bent-Over 1-arm KB Rows


(Dumbbells can be substituted for kettlebells in this one no problem)

The name of this exercise implies a bend in posture. The problem is that most people bend through the back and not through the hips. Remember to keep your back as flat possible during this exercise to avoid serious injury and enhance the effectiveness of the movement.


A:7 – Russian Twist (unloaded)


Common mistakes during this exercise include moving the arms without the torso and twisting through the lower back rather than through the obliques and abdomen. At all times, keep your back flat and head in line with your hands as you rotate and perform this movement. Minimal external load is required with this exercise when the arms are straight and creating extra leverage – hence, think twice about using added weight until you can master bodyweight variations of the Russian Twist.


Increasing difficulty and adding progression to this workout:

There are a number of ways you can increase the difficulty of this routine. The main disclaimer is that first you must be able to do all the exercises in the prescribed way without technique breakdown before looking to add progression. If you have completed the above routine with sound form then look to do one of the following:

  • Increasing the relative weight used (intensity)
  • Use the same relative weight for more reps and/or sets (volume)
  • Have shorter rest periods and overall workout time for the same amount of volume & intensity used (density)
  • Increase density by having more intensity and/or volume in the same amount of workout time.


After completing the above Metabolic Conditioning routine you should feel invigorated. You will most likely be surprised at the same time with the results you can produce outside of traditional cardiovascular exercise in a relatively small amount of space.