5 Alternatives to Running for Cardio

Last updated on 28.02.2019 by

Running or ”road work” has been a staple cardio tool for combat athletes. A typical cardio session would be running at a steady pace while pounding the pavement with your feet for hours. Through trial and error and the help of science we now know that there are other ways to maximize aerobic and anaerobic capacity instead of always running. Ways that are low impact, allow better recovery, and just as effective. So, if you are tired of the old ‘’road work’’ give swimming, aerodyne bike, rowing, and hiking a try. Let’s elaborate a bit.


swimming best cardio for bjjSwimming is a very effective way to improve your endurance. It is very low impact which makes it great for someone with a knee injury if normal activities are not an option due to pain. Remaining active will prevent you from becoming deconditioned during the recovery process. Swimming is the right tool for the job. It gives you the option to isolate the injury site and focus on using only your upper body. It also works great for people who are not recovering from an injury. Combat athletes are already putting their bodies through hard days of training and sparring. Swimming is a great way to decrease stress on the body and allow it to recover. Water produces enough resistance to stimulate the muscles so you can still get a great training session.  

Aerodyne bike

5 Alternatives to Running for Cardio 1 5 Alternatives to Running for CardioIf you have not tried one of these already, put it on your bucket list. This is the ‘’devil’s tricycle’’. The big fan in the front of the aerodyne works by increasing resistance the harder you work. You push hard it pushes back harder. This makes it a great conditioning tool. Very low impact compared to running. It is great for interval training and long steady cardio. Another great feature that the bike has are the already programmed interval buttons. You can choose between 10-20 seconds work to rest ratio or 20-10 seconds. Pick your poison.


Rowing for bjj cardionRowing will not only improve your endurance but strength as well. If rowing outdoors is not an option you can find indoor rowing machines. The rower machine works the same way as the aerodyne bike does. It makes great use of the fan in the front of it. This is a great conditioning tool for grapplers since it is a combination of push and pulls. You will be pushing with your lower body and pulling with your upper body.


5 Alternatives to Running for Cardio 2 5 Alternatives to Running for CardioPeople tend to underestimate the power of hiking. A two-hour hike will push your aerobic capacity without the unnecessary wear and tear on your joints. Hiking also works great for recovery. Part of the recovery aspect is the benefit of being outside in nature. If you want to make things more interesting, add a 30 lb. pack or more on your back, and ‘’go ruck’’.

Kettlebell circuits

Kettlebells are a multipurpose tool and they can also be used to maximize your cardio. A key thing to remember is to avoid using weights that are too heavy. You should be able to move the weight fast, safe, and with great technique. Pick 5-8 exercises that you would be able to do without setting the kettlebell on the ground. They can be squats, swings, lunges, single leg squats, overhead press, cleans, snatch, rows, and floor presses. The choices are endless. Combine the listed exercises for time and rounds.


Give these a try. Your performance, recovery, and cardio will improve. Having alternatives to running will keep you motivated. Running is great, but people tend to abuse it. Try to use the right tool for the job. Adding more weapons to your arsenal gives you the option to make better choices, so choose wisely.

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