5 Movement Combinations to Get a Great Burn

Strength and lifting-focus days can be tough on the psyche. You come to feel like you’re working too little and resting too much between sets. What if you could get a good cardio burn while maintaining the power and focus on your lifts? Well you totally can! Here are five awesome movement combo’s the will get your heart rate up while not taking away from the focus of your strength sessions.

Squats + Pull-ups

Squatting movements primarily work the quadriceps, glutes, and the muscles of the calves. Conversely, the pull-up primarily works the trapezius, latisimus dorsi, and biceps. Since the focus is on the squatting motion, you can safely work the pull-ups to your full ability without sacrificing performance on the squats. Here’s a sample routine:

  • 3 sets of 8 Back Squats @ 75% of your on-rep max.
  • After each set of squats, perform as many pull-ups as you can to failure.
  • If you want to up the ante, after every set of squats do a set of max rep strict pull-ups, followed immediately by max reps kipping pull-ups.

Deadlifts + Burpees

The deadlift is a great movement for most of the muscles of the body, with particular focus on the muscles of the posterior chain (traps, rhomboids, lats. glutes, and hamstrings in particular). The oblique muscles and quadriceps get hit pretty hard as well. The burpee works similar muscle groups and supporting groups, but at a much lower weight. They’ll help exhaust the muscles you don’t hit in the deadlift, and the motion of the burpee is a cardiovascular blast for anyone. For example you could do:

  • 5 sets of 3 deadlifts at 85% of your one-rep max
  • After each set perform 3 burpees immediately and then rest.
  • To up the ante, perform two burpees after every one deadlift rep.

Bench Press + Kettlebell Swings

The classic bench press works the pectorals (major, minor), deltoids, and triceps, with assistance from surrounding muscles and the abdominal wall. In contrast, kettlebell swings hit the posterior chain (lower back, upper back, hamstrings) much like the deadlift, with assistance from the quadriceps and arms (primarily the gripping muscles of the forearms). Combining the two is a good way to work on the strength of the chest while still maintaining the complementary muscles of the posterior body. You could try this:

  • For 10 minutes, do as many rounds as possible with good form of…
    • 8 bench press at 70% of your one-rep max
    • 8 kettlebell swings at 26-44lbs (choose based on what is mildly challenging for you)

Bent Over Barbell Rows + Push-ups

This is another combination of movements that work the complementary muscles of the anterior and posterior chains (chest & back). The barbell row targets the trapezius, deltoids, lats, and spinal erectors, while the push-up works the pectorals, deltoids, triceps, and abdominals. The only mild overlap is in the deltoid region, but the difference between a pulling and pushing motion are such that you can superset them easily. Here’s one way you could combine them:

  • You will perform 10 rounds of the following work, beginning at 1 rep of each movement, and adding an additional rep every round:
    • Bent Over Barbell Row at 70% of your one-rep max
    • Plyo Push-up (push-up with an explosive “hop” at the top of the movement)

Barbell Cleans + Rope Skipping

Our last combination begins with Barbell Cleans, which are primarily working the upper back muscles and gripping muscles of the forearm, as well as the explosive power of the hips. Add to this the cardiovascular conditioning of vigorous rope skips, and you get a great blast anyone can benefit from! Here’s a good option for adding them in:

  • Perform 3 sets of 10 barbell cleans at 65-70% of your one-rep max
  • Between each set of cleans, do a “rest set” for 1 minute of rope skipping (single unders, double unders, whatever works and is fun).