When you can’t run – it’s like your body freezes up like an old laptop; you don’t know how to fix it and you don’t know what else to do!
This is exactly what happened to me back in 2007 when I dislocated my knee whilst playing sport. All my life I enjoyed a wide variety of sporting activities and then all of a sudden I got injured, and I was extremely limited with what I could do to still lose fat without running.
In order to stay in shape without cardio I had to think outside the box and find an alternative to running. I came across these little gems known as fat loss complexes. These are 5-10 minute, fast paced, high intensity workouts that incorporate 1-6 exercises in a circuit fashion and are placed at the end of a strength training workout. This is just one of the available options for when you can’t run.
Today, I’m going to give you 4 variations of fat loss complexes as well as 5 other options for when you can’t run…
Option 1 When You Can’t Run – Kettlebell Complex
For a kettlebell complex you can either use one or two bells. Both have their positives, however, I like using double bells since the sole purpose of a kettlebell complex is to cause the greatest amount of stress to the body so you can lose fat without cardio.
A great example of a kettlebell complex is:
High Pull x 5
Snatch x 5
Presses x 5
Front Squat x 5
So, you would perform 5 double high pulls, 5 double snatches, 5 double presses, and 5 double front squats all in a row without setting the bells down. Rest for 90-120 seconds and repeat for 3-5 sets.
Since I’m in love with kettlebells these are always my number one preference for when you can’t run.
Option 2 When You Can’t Run – Barbell Complex
The barbell complex is another great alternative for when you can’t run or don’t have access to kettlebells.
Just like the kettlebell complex example, you will pair up a few big bang exercises in a row and make sure that they flow from one exercise to the next. Making your complex ‘flow’ is very important because if it doesn’t, it will result in a very ineffective and frustrating complex.
Give this one a go…
High Pull x 5
Hang Cleans x 5
Push Press x 5
Reverse Lunge x 5 each leg
Rest for 90-120 seconds 3-5 sets.
So, you would perform 5 high pulls, 5 hang cleans, 5 push presses and 5 reverse lunges x 5 each leg in a row without setting the barbell down. Rest for 90-120 seconds between each set; complete 3-5 sets.
Option 3 When You Can’t Run – Dumbbell complex
A dumbbell complex is the third option for when you can’t run.
A favourite of mine looks something like this:
Renegade Row x 3 each arm
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift x 3 each leg
Double Clean & Press x 3
See Saw Press x 3 each arm
Double Front Squat x 3
Rest for 90-120 seconds and perform 3-5 sets.
So, you would perform 3 renegade rows each arm, 3 single leg Romanian deadlifts each leg, 3 double clean & presses, 3 see saw presses each arm and 3 double front squats. Rest for 90-120 seconds between each set; complete 3-5 sets.
Trust me, this will bring anyone to their knees.
Option 4 When You Can’t Run – Body weight complex
Last of our complex options for when you can’t run is a body weight complex. Obviously this will suit everyone because these can be done anywhere and at any time, which is always a bonus.
The single biggest mistake most people make when it comes to their body weight complex is that they don’t do anything other than high reps. As I have explained a million times before… high rep training is not the best way to burn fat without running so we have to use harder variations of bodyweight exercises.
Here’s a killer body weight complex:
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Rest when you need to.
So, you would perform 10 pull ups, 10 push ups, 10 squat jumps then 9, 8, 7 and so on…until you get all the way down to 1; rest when you need to.
For some of you, 10-1 might be a bit too much, so the other alternative is to do 10, 8, 6, 4, 2; this is just as hard (as demo’d in the video below).
So, there are your 4 complex options for when you can’t run. Here are another 5 alternatives you can use…
Option 5 When You Can’t Run – Swimming
The best thing about swimming is that it’s low impact, so for those who can’t do any weight bearing exercises, this is your only option. For the first 2-3 months after doing my knee, this was also my only option.
For some of you just swimming 5 x 50m laps will be enough, especially if you’re a terrible swimmer like me. But this is a good thing because it gives you something to improve on and work towards.
There are a million and one ways to set up your sets and reps, however, I’ve found going hard for 50 metres and then resting and repeating the process for a total of 20 minutes is the best way to go about it.
As you get more efficient at swimming, your objective should be to complete more laps within the 20 minute timeframe. When you start breaking records and it’s physically impossible to swim any more laps without being invited to compete in the Olympics, it’s time to switch to 100m laps and complete as many as you can within 20 minutes.
This is the method I used when I couldn’t run and it worked like a Saturday night treat.
Option 6 When You Can’t Run – Skipping
As I’ve mentioned many times before in previous articles, “If it’s good enough for boxers, it will be good enough for you.”
Boxers do not take their training lightly and they never waste their time on anything that doesn’t work.
The other benefit of skipping that Gray Cook pointed out to me is that skipping is far better than running from a posture point of view.
When most people run they slump over and drag their feet. However, hand that exact same person a skipping rope and get them to skip and magic will happen in front of your very eyes without giving them one single cue.
The ‘skippy’ will instantly push their chest out, pull their shoulders back and force them to stay on the mid-balls of their feet; this is the appropriate posture required for running.
Skip hard for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat the process for 10 minutes. This will get you totally gassed.
Option 7 When You Can’t Run – Battling ropes
You’ll see these little bad boys in most ‘underground gyms’ simply because they are not for the public gym crowd. They’re too hard and will often have them running to the puke bucket.
The great thing about battling ropes is that only your arms are required; this is great if you have a lower body injury and can’t run, yet the exercise still taxes the whole body.
There are a variety of battling rope techniques that you can use, such as:
Rope snaps: Snap both ropes at the same time.
Circles out: Start with your hands together, then make both hands draw big circles in the opposite direction to each other and meet back in the middle.
Circles in: The opposite direction to circles out.
Slams: Start with both ropes on one side of your body, then throw your hands over your head and slam the ropes to the ground on the other side of your body.
Star jumps: Perform star jumps whilst holding the ropes in your hands.
All of the above exercises can be performed whilst sitting down or whilst standing on a band and holding onto it with one end in each hand.
Option 8 When You Can’t Run – Walking On an Empty Stomach before Breakfast
Believe it or not, walking for 20-30 minutes on an empty stomach before breakfast can provide a huge fat burning effect. Bodybuilders have been practicing this for years in the weeks leading up to their contest as part of their preparation.
There are a few reasons why it works. The main benefit is that the intensity is too low to cause an elevation in cortisol. Cortisol is a crappy hormone that stops fat burning and breaks down muscle, and one of the biggest influences on cortisol is high intensity endurance training.
Again, because walking is so easy on the body, you can walk often without any side effects.
I know it sounds too good or easy to be true, but I recommend it to all my clients and all of them that do it report back with positive results.
Option 9 When You Can’t Run – Medicine Ball Slams
Ok, the last one I have for you today is medicine ball slams.
These look quite simple, but don’t let them fool you; once you give them a go you lose respect and the medicine ball gains it all back.
Simply grab the medicine ball, slam it into the ground as hard as you can, pick it up and go again.
Simple, but very effective!
At my gym I usually get my clients to do 30 seconds of slams with 30 seconds rest for 5-6 sets.
As with most of these options I’ve given you today, this takes the lower body out of the equation so if you can’t run due to an injury, or any other reason, these are a perfect alternative.
Now you have access to my top 9 alternative options for when you can’t run.
Plug some of these into you current workouts and let me know how you go.
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