At SPARC, we define Fitness as possessing a balance of strength, mobility, cardiovascular conditioning, and healthy body composition. For people with an hour or less per day to exercise, hitting each of these pillars of fitness can seem like a tall order. With proper planning and quick changes, your workouts can be optimized to hit each of the 4 pillars per session. 

Today, we are focusing on 3 quick and easy methods for increasing the cardiovascular demand of your training sessions. Implement these 3 tips immediately to:

  • Increase Heart Rate
  • Increase Caloric Burn
  • Improve Cardiovascular Fitness

Reduce Rest:

The quickest and easiest way to implement a conditioning element to your workouts is by monitoring and reducing rest times. In general, the heavier you lift, the longer you need to rest between sets. Use these rest schemes based on your strength goals:

Endurance (50-60% 1RM): 30-45 sec

Hypertrophy (60-80% 1RM): 60-90 sec

Strength (85%+ 1RM): 2-3 minutes

Want more of a challenge? Limit your rest to 5-10 breaths between exercises. Breathe long and slow, then move on. By your 5th or 10th breath, be ready to hit the next exercise.

Active Rest:

Instead of reducing the rest times, use your recovery periods to work in some active rest. These are low-to-moderate intensity movements that elevate the heart rate but still allow your muscles to recover for the next set. Our go-to active rest exercises are:

Jump Rope

Jumping Jacks



Make sure you are picking an active rest that challenges your lungs, not the muscles you just worked. In other words, performing a plank or carry after a set of squats can ramp up the conditioning aspect. Performing jump ropes or squat jumps right after a set of squats may prevent the lower body from recovering and make your next set worse. In general, your active rest should increase your heart rate, but not place excess demand on the muscles.


Finally, add a 5-10 minute exercise finisher to stoke your metabolism and challenge the cardiovascular system. These can be done on cardio machines, or as a full body, low-weight circuit that can be done quickly with little to no rest. Follow these guidelines:

  1. Keep your heart rate between 65% and 85% of your Maximum Heart Rate. This intensity increases cardiovascular fitness and promotes fat loss.
  2. Use simple, non-technical movements so that you can push harder and faster without risking injury. Medicine ball or bodyweight variations of basic exercises can be quick and challenging.
  3. Incorporate the whole body. Get up and down off the ground, crawl, jump, and combine upper and lower body exercises to keep the body guessing and the heart working.
  4. Alternating between lower and upper body exercises can increase cardiovascular demand and allow for one half of the body to recover while you work the other half. Do not rest between upper and lower body exercises.