Strength and cardio hybrid exercises put the “active” in active rest

Heather Doherty demonstrates step 4 of the Incline Pushup Climber sequence for Matt Parrott's Master Class. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey 10/25/23)
Heather Doherty demonstrates step 4 of the Incline Pushup Climber sequence for Matt Parrott's Master Class. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey 10/25/23)

Some of my all-time favorite exercises are not necessarily considered pure "strength" movements, but they also couldn't be classified as "cardio." This cool class of exercises features components of both categories, so they maximize workout efficiency.

Integrating these "hybrid" movements into an existing routine has real benefits. This week I'm sharing a fantastic one that I use regularly.

For me, the best workouts include an elevated heart rate, respiration rate and constant movement. I like to use active rest periods during which certain muscles can recover while others are working. During active rest, I'll often use hybrid exercises that challenge muscular endurance while keeping my heart rate elevated.

A burpee is one good example of a hybrid exercise that meets the criteria.

Hybrid exercises are most effective when the upper and lower body are engaged. I've found that the heart rate and respiration rate stay elevated, which is great for maintaining intensity and focus. At the same time, it's easy enough to slow down the pace if needed.

This morning, for example, I performed a pull-down exercise and followed it up with a cable biceps curl. The biceps are active in both movements, so I needed a break after the second one. I chose to perform 10 burpees, which helped to keep my momentum going while allowing the biceps and back muscles to recover a little bit. After a quick drink, I performed the same three exercises again -- one after the other.

I like to create little "pods" of three exercises like this. The first movement is usually a large-muscle activity (e.g., bench press, pulldown), the second is often a smaller, more focused exercise (e.g., biceps curl, triceps extension), and the third is a hybrid movement.

Another advantage of this type of training is flexibility. If certain muscles are sore or tired, it's very easy to exchange one exercise for something else. Using the pod approach, exercises can be interchangeable to create the workout experience that's perfect for each individual's goals and fitness level.

This week's exercise is a great hybrid movement. The Incline Pushup Climber only requires a bench, which is often available and usually in close proximity.

1. Position an exercise bench lengthwise in front of you. You should be facing the long side of the bench.

2. Place both hands on the edge of the bench, and walk your feet back until you're in the "up" phase of a pushup.

3. Slowly lower your chest until it almost touches the bench, then press yourself back up.

4. Perform 10 mountain climbers by bringing the right knee up toward the chest, then the left.

5. Continue alternating until you have completed 10, then do another pushup.

6. Repeat this pattern until you've done five pushups and 50 mountain climbers.

For beginners, this exercise can also be performed against a wall, or using a Smith press bar. The bar height is adjustable on the Smith Machine, which comes in handy if the bench is too low for some exercisers.

It's a great movement that will definitely keep the heart rate moving. Let's get to work!

Director of business development and population health solutions for Quest Diagnostics, Matt Parrott began this column Jan. 6, 2003, at Little Rock. He loves to hear from readers. Write to him at:

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