The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


There’s More to Workouts Than Just Cardio!

Written by
Karyn Hughes, MEd
Posted in
Move more

Thursday, Jan 28, 2016

Most of us know that in order to be “totally fit” we need a combination of strength, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility but many of us only focus only on the cardio part. We do our running, cycling, elliptical, or walking with little to no regard for resistance training or stretching. Perhaps we justify it because we think we don’t have enough time to work in resistance training. Stretching is all too often an afterthought and is not regarded as being important by some people. What are we compromising in the long run? Think about this: what good is all that cardio if you hurt your low back while leaning over to get groceries out of your car? What good is all that cardio if you pull a hamstring or rupture your Achilles tendon? Have you had to cut back on cycling or inline skating because of a persistent injury that could have been prevented with proper strength and flexibility training?
If you fall into the “cardio only” category like so many others, here are some ideas for how to incorporate additional exercises to round out your exercise routine. If your plan is well-organized, you really won’t spend a lot more time integrating resistance training and stretching. And believe it or not, you may experience improved pedal power, running speed, etc. and thus burn more calories per cardio workout!
Options to Incorporate Strength and Flexibility
Par Course or Fit-Trail: Circuit Training in Parks/Trails
  • Equipment: Chinning bars, parallel bars, slant boards, stretching post
  • Each station along the trail has instructions for exercises that will challenge strength, balance, or flexibility
Tubing or Elastic Resistance Bands for “Fitness to Go”
  • Equipment: Resistance bands come in a color-coded variety with different levels of resistance
  • Place in back pack, bicycle pack, fanny pack, or pocket
  • Anchor the band around a park bench, or by stepping on it.  Consider performing exercises at the halfway point of your cardio workout.
Multi-joint Exercises: Integrates multiple muscle groups in one exercise
  • Equipment: None, or dumbbells, resistance bands, stability ball, medicine ball, or any small apparatusCombine a squat with overhead dumbbell press, lunge with dumbbell biceps curl, lying hip extension with towel hamstring curl, wood chop (for core) with squat
  • Burns more calories, reduces total number of exercises, yet can target all major muscle groups
 Boot Camps/Circuit Training
  • Combines strength, cardio, and flexibility training in a group setting
  • Equpment: None, or dumbbells, mats, tires, ropes, bands, and moreLeader provides motivation, teaches exercises and safety, being in a group promotes socializing
 Small Group Personal Training
  • Meet with other friends/participants to share cost of personal training
  • Equipment: Trainer or club has machines and small apparatus
  • Reduces cost per person, promotes friendly competition and socializing
Finding and Selecting New Exercises
For many individuals, their programs are lacking strength and flexibility exercises because they are just not aware of them or are not sure how to do them properly. If you fall in this category, go to At the top of the home page, click on ‘Fitness: Adult Education.’ Then, click on ‘CIFit Tips’ under the Fitness Resources menu. CIFit Tips include videos and written descriptions of several strength and flexibility exercises including those with/without equipment,  machines, etc. There are ample choices to get you started which incorporate all the major muscle groups. We encourage you to give strength and flexibility exercises a try if they are missing from your workout routine.
Incorporating a few strength and flexibility exercises will provide you with tremendous health benefits. Create a plan and make it a goal to spice up your workouts in 2016! Learn more in our half-day Small Group Training course on February 25.