Why Cardio Sucks… And What to do Instead

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

sled pushingI hate doing cardio.

There are very few things I find less appealing than the thought of getting on a stair master and huffing away for thirty minutes straight.

I’d imagine five rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime to be less painful.

Going for a long walk or bike ride a few times per week at a low intensity is a great idea and I think everyone should do it.

Pounding your joints on a machine at a high intensity for 45 minutes, five times a week? Horrible idea.

When I opened Renegade Gym back in the early 90′s it was devoid of cardio machines. That’s because I wanted my clients to be strong, athletic and lean. They weren’t gonna get there by me sticking them on a cross country ski thingy.

To get ripped and build functional strength endurance you need to train like fighter, not an 85-year-old chess champion.

So, instead of treadmills and rowers, I filled my gym with sleds, tires, battling ropes, sandbags, kettlebells, farmers walk handles, jump ropes, medicine balls and various other implements.

We mix and match these training tools, along with a variety of bodyweight exercises, into a 5-10 minute circuit that’s performed as a “finisher” after your main strength-training workout has been completed. It burns fat like crazy and dramatically improves your conditioning.

Sometimes we’ll even include one of these short sessions on an off day or in hotels when traveling. Since they only take ten minutes they give you no excuse for not being able to get a workout in.

This style of training is what I call Renegade Cardio.

Too Much Traditional Cardio Makes You Small & Weak

Renegade Cardio burns fat far more effectively, spares your joints of the typical overuse injuries, and doesn’t cause the excess cortisol production traditional cardio does. That means you’ll actually get to keep or improve your strength while leaning down instead of getting weaker.

A recent study at the University of Tampa showed that adding jogging to a weight-training program decreased strength gains by 50%!

When you’re getting weaker you’re losing muscle. And if you’re losing muscle your body fat percentage is going to be on the rise. Neither of those is a desired outcome of training. At least amongst the people I’ve worked with.

That’s why I do Renegade Cardio. It’s nowhere near as detrimental to your gains nor is it anywhere near as lame and boring. It’s actually quite fun; especially when you have a training partner or two that you can challenge and compete against.

So How Do You Implement Renegade Cardio?

Simple; after you finish your main Renegade strength training workout, you pick one of the 52 fast, fat blasting workouts I’ve put together for you, get the equipment you need, get a timer and do work!

Here’s a sample workout for you to try using bodyweight only:

1a) Deck Squat* – 2-3 x 30 sec. on x 0-30 sec. rest

1b) Mountain Climber – 2-3 x 30 sec. on x 0-30 sec. rest

1c) Seal Jack – 2-3 x 30 sec. on x 0-30 sec. rest

1d) High Knee Sprint in Place– 2-3 x 30 sec. on x 30-60 sec. rest

*These will be too hard for most people to do down to the floor so you can use a 4-6 pad as shown below.

Try to move through the circuit from one exercise to the next with as little rest as possible. If you do three rounds with no rest between the first three exercises and thirty seconds after the entire circuit it will take you seven and a half minutes. But don’t feel the need to do that. Do whatever you are capable of and strive to improve over time.

Here’s a sample workout using a variety of training tools:

1a) Kettlebell Bootstrapper Squat– 2 x 10 x 0-30 sec. rest

1b) Jump Rope- 2 x 50 turns x 0-30 sec. rest

1c) Slalom Jump Burpee- 2 x 10 x 0-30 sec. rest

1d) Kettlebell Swing- 2 x 20 x 0-30 sec. rest

1e) Medicine Ball Slam– 2 x 10 x 45-90 sec. rest

Again, take as little rest as possible, but don’t make yourself sick. Do the best you can and try to do a little better next time.

Give those a try and let me know you like them.

PS. Want 52 more fast, fat blasting finishers and 10 bonus hill sprint and strongman workouts? Grab your copy of Renegade Cardio HERE.

Leave a Reply

16 Responses to Why Cardio Sucks… And What to do Instead

  1. Curt Brownlee December 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Jason, I like the routines. I do mine prior to the workout, rest 2-5 minutes and use it as a warmup. So far so good. My question on cardio training relates to cardio endurance and can it be developed using these type of routines? Would the effects translate to being able to run a mile in under 7minutes for example?

  2. Jarkko Helenius December 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Good stuff. I have one mainly conditioning day in my current routine and I tend to stick to stuff like sprints or pushing some heavy shit. I also do tempo work during rest days – as far as cardio go you can do them pretty much freely without any detriment at all. If anything the volume will do good, and it works as good active recovery too.

    Speaking of course from place of not really knowing anything, just doing what feels good :) Gotta try out the routine you gave at some point myself.

  3. Liam December 2, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    I use two of those exercises to warm up before a workout. Do you think this is ok? Also whats a seal jack?

  4. Nate Anglin December 2, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Man, I feel you on the cardio. I love any kind of cardio besides something such as running for 30 minutes. It’s SO freaking boring, but I also feel like it stales my gains. Excellent mixes in this post. I like burpees as well. Thanks for the share.

  5. Alexandra December 2, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Hi Jason,

    I actually bought Renegade Cardio a few weeks ago. I train at home and will be using mostly the bodyweight finisher since I don’t have ropes, etc.

    As with all your programs, it looks great; however, the only negative is that there are no links to exercise demos or even descriptions. Many of the exercises are unfamiliar to me and although I could do a YouTube search, I can’t always find demos because your exercises are often times unique. Any plans on modyfiying the manual to inlcude links? Or, should I (and others that may be in the same boat) just email Customer Service with questions on how to perform the exercises we have questions about?

    however, I’m unfamiliar.

    • Eric December 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm #


      Same question here. Purchased Renegade Cardio and love it, but not familiar with some of the exercise descriptions, particularly in the bodyweight and kettlebell sections. Any easy resource to find these in?

      Thank you.


  6. Becky Fox December 2, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Great ideas to try thanks!! ;)

  7. Kevin December 2, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Jason, I recently took up mountain backpacking but really only plan on 2 to 3 trips a year. The first one killed me, lost a lot on scale and poundages for my lifts and was quite winded with all the steady incline hiking. My question is are these short interval or circuit type cardio workous still best for being conditioned for these hikes? My plan is just to do regular walking with a weighted vest a few times a week and maybe do two of these finishers in each week. Do you think this will suffice? Thanks man


  8. Pedro December 3, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    Yesterday I purchased, The Renegade Diet, The Renegade Recipes & Renegade Cardio e-books. I have to say, I’m seriously impressed, from the Information, the practicality of it, all the way down to the graphics and layout. Coach Ferruggia’s reputation for over delivering is well earned! I highly recommend his programs! Can’t wait to implement them!


  9. Matt December 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    This topic is the most important part of my training b/c I have been concentrating heavily on fat reduction for about the last three years. I do virtually no stairs these days and want to shrill at the mere thought of a treadmill. However, I do love running outside and consider it far better cardio than typical cross fit type exercises. At 41, I’m running 1.5 miles 2x per week at a 10 minute pace with no pain anywhere (at altitude (Denver)). B/c of your awesome advice and website, I have considerably reduced running and the other stuff you mention in this blog. But I did want to mention this as devil’s advocate and protect my long love of running. It can be done in moderation and is nowhere near boring. A marathon, yeah, could be boring. 1-2 miles not so much.

  10. Brian Meisenburg December 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm #


    Awesome exercises. Some pretty kick-butt movements. As always great info!!


    Brian Meisenburg

  11. Mo December 4, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    Cardio should be super intense,take 20 minutes max and should not interfere with recovery from weight training.No more than 2 sessions are needed a week and should be done 24 hours after weights optimally.
    Tabata works well as well as sprinting or hiit. Burpees,jump squats,etc can be incorporated,

  12. Pasadena December 11, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Like most, I hate long and boring cardio. I also think your Renegade Gym is my ideal gym. Just a bit too much on the wrong side of the country :-p

    Anyway, I like those super intensive, short and hellish “finishers” – whether as finishers or full workouts. Your version seem interesting (I found out about it from Girls Gone Strong), but I have one question :

    How does this relates with this : http://jasonferruggia.com/it-aint-strength-training-unless-youre-gettin-strong/ ?


  13. Javi December 13, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Agreed — 100%.

    Do all the women train without shirts? That’s tight, I have to get to Cali. It’s the first thing I noticed — sorry in advance if it’s someone’s wife/girlfriend.

  14. Phil September 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    What weight medicine ball would you recommend using for medicine balls slams? Thanks

  15. Annette January 5, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    Could you provide a link to the University of Tampa study about jogging decreasing strength gains? I would like to refer some runner friends to it. Thanks.