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What is the Best Cardio Workout For Athletes?

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 20, 2022

Whether competing at a professional or amateur level, athletes and hobbyists alike push themselves further in their sport by finding complementary exercises to hone their skills. The problem lies in time management, as athletes have a limited time to train when they are not preparing themselves for their particular sport. This is why every athlete should have a customized workout routine that builds endurance, strength, and explosive power in a short interval.

In this article, we'll go over some of the most common sports, analyze what characteristics are important for excellent performance, and finally, list the best cardio workout for each one.

Cross Training Exercises: Why Is It Important?

In essence, cross-training refers to any other exercise other than running. In the context of this guide, cross-training refers to complementary exercises that can be done to improve your cardio. That is NOT the sport you are training for. The ideal cross-training exercise helps with assisting (stabilizing) muscles, endurance, and strength building while having as low an impact on your joints as possible.

Diversifying your workout routine pushes through a phenomenon called adaptive resistance, where your body has become accustomed to the same exercise over time and no longer responds to it. This not only causes a stalemate in your progression but being on repetitive "autopilot" can be dangerous.

Swimmers, unfortunately, struggle to find great workouts on dry land, as swimming is the best full-body cardio and strength workout with almost 0 impacts, making it easy to exercise even with a bad knee. There are very few substitutes for swimming, as it takes every muscle in your body to propel yourself forward while performing any stroke. With this being said, swimming primarily takes coordination, endurance, and lung capacity, in addition to a potent strength workout routine.

Best Exercises For Swimmers

swimmingSwimmers, unfortunately, struggle to find great workouts on dry land, as swimming is the best full-body cardio and strength workout with almost 0 impacts, making it easy to exercise even with a bad knee. There are very few substitutes for swimming, as it takes every muscle in your body to propel yourself forward while performing any stroke. With this being said, swimming primarily takes coordination, endurance, and lung capacity, in addition to a potent strength workout routine.

Jump Rope HIIT: When thinking about jumping rope as a cross-training exercise, you may first think about boxing. Jump rope is notorious for being popular amongst boxers for a reason, as it improves agility, coordination, and explosive power, making you more streamlined. When combined with HIIT training, jump rope can be a great complementary exercise to swimming in your off-hours. The next time you are jumping rope, take a few minutes to warm up. Perform 7 reps of a 90-second slow jump, followed by a 30-second explosive 100% speed jump. Cooldown for the last five minutes.

Best Exercises For Tennis

tennis ballTennis combines unique movements with some basic principles: move quickly and hit hard. At first glance, running is the best cardio exercise for tennis, but this may not exactly be the case. Tennis players need to keep their eyes on the ball (literally) while moving laterally and vertically at any given moment and have the ability to start and stop on their heels and balls of their feet. If not properly trained in this motion, tennis players can easily injure their ankles.

Best Exercises for Basketball

Basketball is a great complimentary sport, as it utilizes your hands to position and coordinate the ball while having the lateral and "start/stop" movements associated with playing tennis. Playing basketball at a high level is also a strenuous cardiovascular exercise. Basketball, on the other hand, cannot be played on soft ground as it will affect dribbling, making this a high-impact sport on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Caution is advised not to injure yourself in your off time.

Exercises For Snowboarding

Snowboarding is difficult to mimic off the slopes and into a gym. However, snowboarding has a direct land alternative: skateboarding. Skateboarding teaches you to use one leg for coordination, balance yourself on the board, and practice the same tricks that you may be using on a ramp or half-pipe. If you are not a fan of traditional cardio exercises, such as running or jumping rope, skateboarding can be a great alternative.

As with the aforementioned basketball exercise, skateboarding is not low impact. Skateboarders often have lacerations and injuries, with sprains and broken ligaments on the other end. Make sure to wear proper equipment and keep the movements low to the ground to prevent nasty falls and scrapes.snowboarding exercises

Ballet Exercises

Ballet is an elegant sport, but in fact, takes an enormous amount of strength, coordination, balance, and poise. The deceptive nature of this sport often confuses its dancers as to what cardio exercises would be appropriate in mimicking the movement while strengthening stabilizer muscles used in balancing and explosive movement required. While certain low-impact movements can be found at the gym, such as stair-stepping and cycling, they do little for learning balance and poise. Enter: Pilates.

Pilates: Developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, 11 million practitioners have stood the test of time. Pilates is a great workout for ballet dancers as it does not build any bulky muscles, which is inherently detrimental to the balance and appearance of a ballet dancer. Instead, Pilates focuses on functional strength, core definition, and muscular stability and can often mimic the same movements a ballet dancer does during their warm-up exercises. Pilates can't help you stand on your toes and pirouette, but it can help you twirl, leap, fly, jump and catch another dancer.

FAQs

Can I do cardio on rest days?

Rest days are for recuperation of your body after a long cardio or strength routine. The only thing you should do on a rest day is rest!

How can cardio lower blood pressure?

Cardio exercises, especially those with high intensity, train your cardiovascular system, which strengthens the pumping of your heart, blood flow, and strength of your blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure as it takes fewer pumps to circulate your blood throughout your body, with less resistance when flowing.

What cardio exercise burns the most fat?

Cardio exercises that involve your entire body and can be combined with HIIT training burn the most fat in 24 hours. This includes running, cycling, and swimming.


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