4 Kickin’ Iron-Cardio Routines

You can set up your iron cardio workouts in a number of ways. You can either use more traditional set/rep schemes using very short rest periods between sets, or you can go with an extended set. Several examples of each are provided below. Remember to start off low in both weight and time.


One of the drawbacks to using weights for cardio is the fatigue that’ll limit your reps and ultimately the duration of your workout. Hence, this workout is based on decreasing the number of reps you do per set as you fatigue and is good for the barbell or dumbbell (bilateral) clean and jerk or snatch. Keep the rest periods between sets to less than 60 seconds and work on decreasing that rest interval over time. Start with a light weight with which you can get 20 reps and increase the weight when the workout becomes too easy. For the clean and jerk, be sure to follow a 4:1 pattern of power cleans to fully clean and jerks or your delts will die long before the rest of your body. The workout should take about 20 minutes.

Descending Sets Routine

  • 1 set 15 reps (warm-up with bar)
  • 2 sets 15 reps
  • 2 sets 12 reps
  • 2 sets 10 reps
  • 2 sets 8 reps
  • 2 sets 6 reps
  • 2 sets 5 reps
  • 2 sets 4 reps


With straight sets, you pick one rep range and attempt to hit it with each set. Good exercise choices are the barbell or dumbbell (bilateral) versions of the clean and jerk or snatch. For the cleanse, be sure to go with the 4:1 power cleans to clean and jerks scheme. This workout gets exceedingly more difficult as fatigue sets in, so you’ll need to choose a weight with which you could get about 10 more reps than your rep range goal. You also may need to rest a little longer between sets, but since this is iron cardio, you’ll need to limit that to no more than 90 seconds in the beginning and work at getting it under 60 seconds. Start with only three sets and slowly build to six.

Straight Sots Routine

  • 5-6 sets 15-20 reps

This workout can also be done using the one-arm dumbbell clean and jerk or snatch. Alternate arms with each rep, which will allow you to get more reps each set. You should also follow the 4:1 scheme for the clean and jerk.

One-Arm Straight Sots Routine

  • 4-5 sets 20-30 reps


If you hate the idea of high reps, you can attack the same concept from the reverse. This means you do lots of sets for very low reps. Good exercise choices are the barbell or dumbbell (bilateral) versions of the clean and jerk and snatch. Use a weight with which you can get 10-12 reps, even though you’re doing only three reps. Keep rest time between sets to less than 60 seconds.

High-Set, Low-Rep Routine

  • 15-20 sets 3 reps


This version is the most like typical cardio in that it’s nonstop. Here, you have no sets or reps, just time. To prevent your weaker upper-body muscles from fatiguing early, use the one-arm dumbbell versions and alternate sides. Follow the suggested 4:1 scheme for the cleans to save your delts, too. Pick a light dumbbell and shoot for 10 minutes. Work to first increase your time to 15-20 minutes, then increases your weight.

Extended Set Routine

  • 1 set 10-20 minutes

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