In a comment I was told:

What you want to do is focus on higher intensity cardio. That will both strengthen your heart making your body more effective at transporting nutrients/oxygen during lifting and also help you better process the byproducts of anaerobic metabolism (ie the type that creates 'the burn'). Fewer byproducts = less soreness.

I can think of running as fast as possible for a short time, and repeat. Is that basically it? Are there alternatives? If possible, some exercises I can do at home.

  • To figure out where your anaerobic range lies. There's no definitive answer because it's different from person to person and changes with your fitness level. I outlined some detail about heart ranges and how to find your anaerobic threshold here fitness.stackexchange.com/a/1021/501. Nov 14, 2012 at 23:37

2 Answers 2


Interval training of any kind would count: swimming, sprints, barbell exercises, et cetera. So would high-intensity exercises done for short periods, whether you repeat or not.

Twenty-rep barbell squats, for example, certainly count as high-intensity conditioning. So do burpees, and kettlebell swings, cleans, or snatches done for time (e.g. 5 minutes) or reps (e.g. 20 with a heavy bell or more with a lighter one).

Couplets, Triplets, and More

Another method of adding intensity is to switch exercises as you go. This allows you to continue to demand activity from your cardiovascular system without slowing down too much or failing due to local muscular fatigue. This might look like a set of pull-ups immediately followed by a set of air squats. In that case, since there are two exercises, it would be called a couplet. A triplet is alternating between three exercises, e.g. push-ups, sandbag cleans, and a sprint. (More than three exercises doesn't get a specific name.) Generally you repeat the set several times.

Crossfit is big on this kind of thing. For instance, the mainsite workout for last Friday was a four-exercise interval:


Four rounds for time of:

  • 250 pound Deadlift, 8 reps
  • 16 Burpees
  • 15 foot Rope climb, 3 ascents
  • Run 600 meters

If all the exercises involve one weight--say, a sandbag, barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbell--it's called a complex. People do complexes for the same reason as intervals, but generally the focus is a little more on strength and power.

My favorite barbell complex is clean, press several times, front squat several times, then repeat. With kettlebells, I like to swing, clean, and snatch (once each, repeating, or several times each and repeating). I also like to clean, press until I can't, push press until I can't, then jerk a few times before repeating on the other side. I like to integrate sandbag complexes with other work, such as sprints.

  • +1, it's so nice when I have an answer to a question start materializing in my head, only to see it better than I envisioned it one screen down.
    – tmesser
    Nov 14, 2012 at 17:01
  • @YYY definitely toss in your own answer; multiple answers (even if they agree) are helpful just to get different perspectives, phrasing, and to fill in gaps. Nov 14, 2012 at 17:07
  • 1
    +1 Swimming is iffy, unless you're swimming sprints. Crossfit sounds fun, makes me wish I had a climbing rope. I didn't realize that the 'complex' was a concept. I've been doing one lately with a barbell that combines front raises, overhead raises, curls, deadlifts, split squats. Nov 14, 2012 at 23:32
  • Nice answer, I guess I can do those type of exercises at home.. I'm just imagining my wife and daughter giving me a funny look while doing burpees.
    – Luciano
    Nov 15, 2012 at 2:06

Besides Dave Liepmans answer, I would like to add:

High intensity cardio is when your physcial exercise is so hard that oxygen isn't sufficient for the energy demands, that is, you create an oxygen deficit, see EPOC . Typically, this can't be done for longer periods of time and is stressful. If you overdo this and doesn't balance it with lighter workouts, you are likely to be overtrained.

For example, here is my "R-R" heart rate and calculated EPOC for a work out (a VIPR class at a local gym) I did a few weeks ago. The printout is from the Firstbeat Athlete software and the heart rate is captured with a Suunto Memory belt.

At my age and level of fitness, I only want to this kind of workout perhaps once a quarter. It wasn't my intention to work this hard but I got carried away during the class. I should have stopped when my pulse watch told me that my training effect was a level 3 or 4, now it maxed out at level 5.

So in addition to the other answer, my point is to listen carefully to your body when you do high intensity cardio. Especially if you have a background in sports and have aged or not trained for some time.

There are many other Q&A regarding high intensity training on this site, see Tag: high-intensity. One popular and very effective protocol is tabata, i.e. work for 20s-rest for 10s a number of times. Especially with burpees, see this Q&A. This is easy to do at home or at vacation/business trips.

enter image description here

  • For a moment I read your peak heart rate at 224!
    – jontyc
    Nov 15, 2012 at 8:41
  • No, then this would not have been written :-). 224 is the estimated EPOC in ml/kg, see the right axis.
    – FredrikD
    Nov 15, 2012 at 8:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.