Improve your metabolism, burn calories, and increase your heart rate with these workouts. Plus you'll be able to improve skills that will help you improve your overall athletic ability.

There are benefits to doing cardio on a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical, but let’s face facts - these workouts can be mundane and don’t do much else that can help you. If you’re going to commit time to training, then you should be able to see improvements that can translate into other aspects of your training and life.

Fortunately, you can perform such workouts. As a matter of fact, there are five sessions right here that you can add to your own training programs. Not only will these workouts help you improve your metabolism, burn calories, and increase your heart rate, you will be able to improve various skills that will help you improve your overall athletic ability. These workouts aren’t just about show, they will help with “go” as well.

About High-Intensity Interval Training

For those of you that are new to training, High-Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as HIIT, requires the trainee to alternate bouts of high-intensity effort with brief sessions of low-intensity effort or rest. These types of workouts are used to help increase endurance, burn calories, shock the body, and challenge yourself in a shorter period of time than standard moderate effort sessions.

Related: 20 Minute HIIT Workout You Can Do Anywhere

What Makes These Different

The workouts that follow will call for you to perform activities that will help you improve various aspects of your training and performance. There are workouts that can be used by beginners, intermediate, and advanced trainees. One workout will help you master how you control your body while others will challenge you with varying levels of weight. Yes, you can use weights during cardio as well. Pick one or more of these workouts and use them to help you build muscle, lose weight, or increase endurance.

Beginner Bodyweight Basic Workout

Perform this circuit for 5 rounds, rest for 60-90 seconds after each round.

Exercise Reps Rest
A1. Jumping Jacks 25 None
A2. Push Ups 25 None
A3. Prisoner Squat 25 None
A4. Lying Leg Raise 25 None
  • Benefits: Beginner level program, learn to control the body, improve endurance, full-body session
  • Equipment Needed: Bodyweight, open space
  • Time: 20 minutes

These are four basic exercises that you performed in P.E. class in elementary school. If you did these on their own, you may not get much out of it. When you put them together and try to perform all four of them in a row without a break, you will feel a challenge. If you do this workout properly, then you will need no more than 20 minutes to get it done. The best part? You can do it anywhere and anytime. As long as you have enough space to move around, you can do this workout. Intermediate and advanced athletes could use it as a warmup or post-workout session. Beginners will find this one to work well on its own.

Lean athletic female doing sled pushes in the gym

Sled Session Workout

Perform this workout for 3 rounds.

Set Weight Distance
1 Light Weight 50 Feet Walking Forward, 50 Feet Walking Backward
2 Moderate Weight 50 Feet Walking Forward, 50 Feet Walking Backward
3 Moderate Weight 50 Feet Walking Forward, 50 Feet Walking Backward
4 Moderate Weight 50 Feet Walking Forward, 50 Feet Walking Backward
5 Moderate Weight 50 Feet Walking Forward, 50 Feet Walking Backward
6 Light Weight 50 Feet Walking Forward, 50 Feet Walking Backward
  • Benefits: Overall leg training, varying weights, strength for extended periods of time
  • Equipment Needed: Pull sled, weight plates, 50ft of open space
  • Time: 30 minutes

You will need a pull sled with a harness. Start with a weight that you feel is easy to work with and use it for your first set. Add enough weight that you feel would provide a decent challenge, and use it for set number two. Set number three calls for you to start with the heavier weight and strip it down to the lighter amount. Intermediate and advanced trainees will benefit from this one, but don’t do it on leg day. Commit 30 minutes to this, but it shouldn’t take you that long to train. Take the remaining time to re-rack the plates and return the sled.

Kettlebell Swing Workout

Exercise Reps Rest
Kettlebell Swing 100 As needed
  • Benefits: Increase muscular endurance, shoulder and core-focused, coordination
  • Equipment Needed: Kettlebell
  • Time: Fastest time possible, max 10 minutes

The kettlebell swing is as basic of a movement as it gets, yet it can be so taxing on the body after you perform numerous reps. Your hamstrings and glutes will be working, the core will be engaged throughout, and the shoulders are sure to burn. Go light with this one, but don’t go so light that you can do 100 in a row. A weight that results in failure at around the 25 rep mark would be good. Once you reach that point of failure, take a brief break and then pick up where you left off. If you fail at 27, start with 28.

Continue until you reach 100 reps. If you can do it in less than 10 minutes, keep track of the time so you have a goal to beat next time. If you can’t do all 100, track the number you did so you still have a goal to beat. Beginners can try this one if they wish, as long as they can maintain form. If you get to the point that you have to sacrifice form, stop. Everyone else can add this one to their programs when they are tight on time.

Muscular African American man holding a medicine ball on his shoulders

Ball Toss Workout

Perform this circuit for 3-6 rounds, rest for 1 minute after each round.

Exercise Reps Rest
A1. Ball Slam on the Ground 5 None
A2. Ball Toss Behind the Head 5 None
  • Benefits: Explosive power, body control, coordination
  • Equipment Needed: Slam Ball, Solid Ground or Floor
  • Time: 12-15 minutes

This is one to keep in mind if you’re trying to improve power or if you have a bad day. It can help with both. Take the ball in both hands, raise it overhead, and slam it down in front of you as hard as you can. Pick it up, and toss it high behind you. That is one rep of each. Repeat until you’ve done five slams and five tosses. That is one round. You should be able to do three rounds with a minute break. If you have more in you, repeat until you can do six rounds. Once you can do six, work with a heavier ball. 12-15 minutes should be all you need. Any athlete or lifter that wants to get stronger can reap rewards from this.

Vertical Jump Workout

Perform this circuit for 5 rounds (50 jumps total), rest for 1 minute after each round.

Exercise Reps Rest
A1. Weighted Squat Jump 5 None
A2. Bodyweight Squat Jump 5 None
  • Benefits: Leg strength, endurance, vertical jumping improvement
  • Equipment Needed: Open space, weighted vest
  • Time: 15 minutes

After you warm up with some light skips and jumps, throw on a weighted vest. It can be anywhere from five to 40 pounds. Position yourself so you’re in a good position to jump. Get down into a squat position and then jump as high as you can. Once you land on your feet, reposition yourself and jump again. Do not try to bounce. This increases the chances of injury. After you perform five jumps, remove the vest, and then do five more squat jumps. This is ten total. Rest for one minute. Sip some water, put the vest back on, and repeat. If you do five rounds, that is 50 total jumps. Fitness enthusiasts of all levels can benefit from this one. If you don’t have a weighted vest, hold light dumbbells in your hands to your sides. If you go all-out, this should take no more than 15 minutes.