- Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is important for health and fitness, and doesn’t require running.
- Exercises like rowing and kettlebell swings raise your heart rate to improve stamina and endurance.
- They also build muscle and help protect your knees, ankles, and feet from strain.
You don’t have to go for a jog to improve your cardio, stamina, and overall fitness, according to a personal trainer.
While running has plenty of benefits, rowing and kettlebell workouts can be joint-friendly aerobic alternatives, according to Noam Tamir, founder and CEO of TS Fitness in New York City.
Both can help you boost endurance and build muscle in your core, lower body, and back at the same time, he said, getting a more efficient total body workout.
Rowing can make cardio more fun, build muscle, and protect your joints
Most cardio exercise doesn’t build muscle as effectively as resistance training, since it typically involves a steady exertion of effort over time, rather than shorter, intense periods of work that stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth), experts previously told Insider.
However, workouts on the rowing machine provide an aerobic stimulus as your heart rate is elevated, while also putting your muscles under tension to prompt them to grow, according to Tamir.
“Rowing is great. It’s low impact, strengthens the back, fires up the hamstrings and glutes, and it does build muscle,” he said.
Rowing is also gentler on the joints than running, or even other cardio machines like a stair stepper, because you’re seated and so there’s not as much pressure on your knees or ankles.
It can also be more engaging, allowing you to break up the workout into “splits” since the rower easily tracks metrics like tempo and distance to “gamify” your workout by competing against your previous scores, Tamir said.
To get the most out of rowing, make sure you drive with your legs and avoid pulling too early with the arms, and keep your elbows close to your sides, he said.
is a goal, be mindful that while rowing machines often have calorie counts, they may not be accurate for everyone.
“It’s an estimate and doesn’t take into account anything physiological about you,” Tamir said. To get a more accurate assessment of calorie burn, use a smartwatch or similar device that monitors your heart rate, he recommends.
Kettlebell exercise spikes your heart rate and trains explosive strength and power
Contrary to population belief, you can train cardio with weights, too, experts say.
“Low weight, high volume interval training is very helpful for improving cardio,” Tamir said.
Kettlebell workouts in particular are a great way to tap into endurance and stamina by linking multiple exercises together into a complex or “flow” of continuous movement, he said.
Exercises like kettlebell swings and kettlebell cleans help develop strength and power by engaging the whole body, making them uniquely useful for overall athleticism.
The caveat, though, is that kettlebells have a learning curve for beginners, so you’ll need to perfect your form to avoid common mistakes like holding the weight incorrectly or squatting instead of hinging, according to experts.