Essential Cardio

MAXIM fitness guru ALEXA TOWERSEY shares some essential tips on the cardio you should be doing…

I don’t know about you but I hate cardio, at least in the more traditional sense. However, just because you hate something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. And if you value other qualities like general health and wellbeing, achieving and maintaining a specific body composition or just having the ability to effectively escape in the event of a zombie apocalypse, you should know that you will need to do some sort of conditioning. The good news is that there is another way to do energy systems work that doesn’t involve planting your ass on a stationary bike or plodding along on a treadmill for hours. All you need to do is pick-up something heavy and carry it around.  No tricks, no trends, no machines with televisions attached. This is the cardio for “Real Men (and women)”.



Loaded carries have made their way from strongman circles into mainstream globo gyms, and for good reason. They make the body work in a way that no other exercise does, combining trunk stability, dynamic movement and isometric tension in key muscles. Being able to do heavy carries with good form can decrease shoulder and back pain, improve posture and grip, increase your work capacity, bulletproof your core and make your big lifts even bigger. Muscle gain? Check. Strength gain? Check. Fat loss? Check. You’re  welcome.



These loaded carries can be performed by nearly every level of athlete, overall time under tension being determined by YOUR objective.


Farmer Carry: This is the simplest of the carries. You just pick up a heavy weight in both hands (dumbbell, kettlebell, trap bar…) and walk with it. The key to success is how you walk – think spine tall and focus on really gripping the weights.


Waiter Carry (Overhead): These can be done with one or both hands. While you can’t go as heavy, they’re great for increasing shoulder stability and strength because of the additional scapular activation. Instead of thinking about just holding the weight overhead, focus on actively pushing it up and keeping the forearms in line with the wrist so the weight doesn’t just hang off your hand.


Suitcase Carry: This is where you’re holding a weight in one hand, like you’re carrying a suitcase. Since the weight is offset, you have to work harder to maintain proper posture and position. This also works the core harder because it brings an anti-flexion aspect to the movement.


Rack Hold Carry: Hold the weight at chest level along the anterior delts and upper pecs. This exercise employs two independently moving kettlebells or dumbbells, creating additional unilateral stress upon each of the scapulae. The control and stability needed to rack each of the kettlebells can improve awareness, scapular and core stabilisation, and front rack performance. The positioning of the kettlebells also compresses the diaphragm making this carry variation useful for improving breathing efficiency.


Zercher Carry: Barbell is placed in front of you to sit in your elbow crease. This shifts the load to the front of the body stressing the spinal erectors, lats and core. The limiting factor here is often the discomfort in the elbow, so grab a towel or bar pad as a buffer.


Yoke Carry: If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, this is your chance. This strongman walk allows you to maximally load the spine, ignite the Central Nervous System (CNS) and gain valuable experience and confidence under supra-maximal weights making it a simple yet effective way to improve lifting performance.


Deadball/Stone Carry: These are challenging as there is no easy way to grab and hold a medicine ball. These carries are complex in their simplicity. Just scoop it up, and carry it as best you can. Being that the load is solely in front of you and fairly awkward, it creates a huge demand on your anterior core and stabilisers.


You can choose to do these as individual intervals, in combination with a compound lift (i.e. 5 x Squat + 60m Farmer Carry) or other cardiovascular work (i.e. 10 x 60 secs Air Bike/60 secs Dead Ball Carry) or by putting some or all of the exercises together for a strength endurance circuit.




Min. Distance Max. Distance Ideal Distance Sets Rest
Strength 10m 50m 30m 3-5 2-3 mins
Hypertrophy 50m 80m 60m 3-5 90-120 secs
Resistance 80m 110m 90m 3-4 70-90 secs
Fat Loss 60-90 secs 4-6 1:1 ratio



  1. Pick up and put down the weight as safely as possible. If you’re going to get injured, it’s more likely to be when you’re not paying as much attention like at the start or finish of a set. 
  2. Stay upright no matter where the weight is carried. Get the shoulders, ribs and hips in alignment. They should be stacked over each other. 
  3. Brace your core and pillar (shoulders, core, and hips). Think of having a corset around your mid-section. For really heavy lifts, you could use a weight belt.
  4. Take small steps so that your feet stay underneath you and maintain alignment throughout.

For the full article grab the May 2019 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.

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