Sounds almost too good to be true, but according to fitness researchers it's not. A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism tested traditional treadmill cardio against a fast-paced bodyweight workout.
Twenty two college-aged, active women split into three groups and did four workouts per week for a month's duration.
Group A did 30 minutes of treadmill running at 85 percent maximum heart rate.
Group B did eight rounds of 20 seconds of a single exercise (burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, or squat thrusts) with 10 seconds of rest between rounds.
Group C did nothing, they were the non-training control group.
The participants enjoyment and the likelihood of them continuing the workout plan were also examined prior to and after training.
Following training, both Groups A and B increased their aerobic fitness levels by the same amount, 7-8 percent. The much shorter bodyweight workout got the same aerobic results as the more traditional 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill. However only Group B, the bodyweight workout group, saw an increase in muscle endurance in common exercises like leg extensions (plus 40 percent), chest presses (plus 207 percent), sit-ups (plus 64 percent), push-ups (plus 135 percent), and back extensions (plus 75 percent). Group B got much more bang for their buck, not only improving cardiovascular endurance, but also drastically improving muscle endurance as well.
The researchers concluded that, “although improvements in cardiovascular fitness are induced by both, whole-body resistance training imparted an additional benefit in the form of improved muscle endurance.” Fast-paced bodyweight training can improve cardiovascular fitness just as well as running on a treadmill, and give better improvements in muscle endurance. All this in just 4 minutes. The best part was that the participants enjoyed the bodyweight workout more and intended to continue the training program over the treadmill running.
Total body movements should be the foundation for any fitness programs, whether it is for fat loss, athletic improvement or gaining size and strength. Traditional cardiovascular exercise is great if you like to run although if you want to improve your aerobic fitness and look better at the same time, try adding some bodyweight exercises. You might actually like it.
McRae G, Payne A, Zelt JG, Scribbans TD, Jung ME, Little JP, Gurd BJ. Extremely low volume, whole-body aerobic-resistance training improves aerobic fitness and muscular endurance in females. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012 Dec;37(6)