We’re huge fans of running. It allows you to get a stress-reducing, endurance-boosting workout with just a pair of shoes and an open road. It also burns calories, of course. At a 10-minute-per-mile pace—roughly the average guy’s marathon pace—you’ll fry about 10 calories a minute. That’s a solid number, and if you run faster, you can burn even more. But if running isn’t your favorite cardio activity, there are plenty of other modes of exercise that can help you torch calories at a lightning fast rate.
This explosive cardio exercise works the big, powerful muscles around your glutes and quads, and sends your heart into overdrive, according to research from the University of Wisconsin. In the study, participants burned 20.2 calories a minute and their average heart was 93 percent of its max for the course of a 20-minute workout. “The kettlebell swing works you so hard because it’s not a movement you’re used to,” says Dan John, a strength coach in Salt Lake City and the author of Intervention. “You’re not super efficient at it, which taxes your body.”
A 185-pound guy can burn 377 calories during 30 minutes of vigorous rowing, or about 12.5 calorie per minute, reports a Harvard University study. And because you need to utilize the muscles in your arms, legs, and back for efficient strokes, it’s a great total-body trainer. Want to row like an Olympian and burn even more calories on the rower? While there are body types favored in competitive rowing, when it comes to personal fitness, indoor rowing is an excellent choice for all ages, fitness levels and body types.
A 180-pound person burns about 1.43 calories per burpee, says exercise scientist and Spartan Coach Jeff Godin. So if you can hammer out at least seven a minute you’re in the double digits. But you should shoot to average at least 10 every 60 seconds, or a rate of 14.3 calories per minute. Why? Performing just 10 reps at a fast pace can rev your metabolism as much as a 30-second, all-out bike sprint, according to a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, and that makes the burpee a killer cardio exercise.
AIRDYNE BIKE SPRINTS
It sounds downright crazy, but Gym Jones manager Rob MacDonald proved that it’s possible to blast 87 calories in one minute on this stationary bike that increases its resistance as you pedal harder. The key: Give everything you have in that 60 seconds. Note: This was by no means a scientific experiment, and relies on the accuracy of the built-in AirDyne monitor, which calculates calories by converting revolutions of the fan into physical work.
Moderate-intensity rope jumping—about 100 to 120 skips per minute—burns about 13 calories a minute, according to the Compendium of Physical Activities. This cardio exercise uses more muscle groups than jogging, and challenges your balance and coordination—especially if you practice drills that require extra hand and foot skills. Even jumping at a very moderate rate burns 10 to 16 calories a minute. Work your jump rope exercise into three 10-minute rounds and you’re looking at 480 calories in half an hour. According to Science Daily, 10 minutes of skipping rope is about equivalent to running an 8-minute-mile.
If you haven’t tried this fast-growing cycling sport, you should. You can burn up to 1,500 calories an hour—or nearly 25 calories per minute—pedaling the heavy, hard-to-turn monster bikes and tackling all types of terrain, all year round, says Mike Curiak, record holder for the 1,000-mile Iditasport Impossible, a fat tire biking race. Reality check: That kind of calorie burn depends on your fitness and strength levels, and your skill. But regardless, it’s sure to be one hell of a cardio workout.
This CrossFit Workout of the Day (WOD) burns an average 13 calories per minute, according to scientists at Kennesaw State University. It’s effective because it pairs three exercises—5 pullups, 10 pushups, and 15 air squats—that work different major muscle groups, and you do as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes. So if you’re in amazing condition, you can go all-out for each one, without slowing down or stopping to recover in between. If you’re somewhat less than amazing (read: like most people), you simply rest when needed. For example, you don’t move on to the pushup until you’ve completed 5 reps of the pullup, even if you have to stop and start. “Any routine that takes you from standing, down to the ground, and back up to standing again is an amazing calorie burner, because it really spikes the heart rate,” says John.
Zipping along on skis delivers a better cardio workout compared to running at about the same pace, thanks to the fact that the sport requires you to push with your lower-body and pull with your upper. In fact, a good cross-country ski session can burn more than 12 calories a minute, according to the Compendium of Physical Activities. That explains why Nordic Skiers consistently collapse in exhaustion at the finish line of Olympic races. (No fresh snow? Look for the new Concept2 SkiErg machine at your gym.)
TABATA JUMP SQUATS
This four-minute miracle drill burns major calories both during a workout and after. In an Auburn University at Montgomery study, participants who did eight rounds of all-out jump squats—20 seconds of hard work, separated by 10 seconds of rest—burned 13.4 calories per minute and doubled their post-exercise metabolic rate for at least 30 minutes.
In a recent College of New Jersey study comparing various workout styles, battling-rope exercises came in first in terms of total oxygen consumption and an average calorie burn of 10.3 calories per minute. With battle ropes, you can instantly change from working both your legs and shoulders, to working your biceps and abs. That’s four different muscle groups in one set. Throw in some squats, lunges, or lateral shuffles with your upper body moves and you’ll be tapping out in no time. Sign me up!