If you want to get ripped, cardio exercise is a necessity, especially if you have extra layers of fat. Cardio workouts burn calories, which helps with weight loss and maintenance, giving you a lean, toned look. Cardio exercises can also strengthen different muscle groups, depending on the type of cardio you do. Running, for instance, will build your leg muscles, whereas swimming strengthens more upper body muscles.
Cardio exercise elevates your heart rate for a sustained period. Cardio workouts burn calories, which can help you lose excess fat that hides muscle definition. Most people cannot get ripped doing strength training alone because excess fat will cover your muscles, no matter how big they are. Aerobic activities range from low-intensity -- such as walking -- to high-intensity -- such as swimming or running. Most cardio workouts fall somewhere in the middle. Other popular cardio exercises include cycling, hiking, skiing, using an elliptical machine, dancing, skating and playing sports such as tennis, soccer and basketball.
How Much Cardio
The American College of Sports Medicine advises doing moderately intense cardio workouts for 30 minutes a day, five days a week or vigorously intense cardio for 20 minutes a day, three days a week to stay healthy. If you want to go beyond staying healthy, however, you can add intensity or time to your workouts to burn more calories and get in better shape. Once you have built a base of following a regular cardio routine for at least a month, add intervals or circuits to your cardio program to help you get ripped.
Interval workouts involve short bursts of intense effort alternating with periods of rest. You can do intervals with a variety of cardio exercises, including walking, running, cycling, swimming, elliptical training and skating. As a basic guideline, allow yourself periods of rest that are twice as long as your interval times, advises The Runner's Resource. The number of intervals you do and your intensity will vary, depending on your fitness level and goals. To make your intervals high intensity, add speed or resistance to your workouts by increasing the difficulty on cardio machines, running or cycling faster or climbing up hills or steps.
Circuit training mixes cardio and strength exercises to burn fat and build muscle. Unlimited options are available for doing circuit training, but the basic guidelines include doing high-intensity cardio exercises between sets of strength training. A sample circuit training plan includes two minutes of sprinting followed by 20 pushups, three minutes of jumping rope, one minute of squats, two minutes of jumping jacks, two minutes of crunches, three minutes of cycling and two minutes of lunges. You can add or substitute exercises as needed to work different muscle groups or make the routine more or less challenging.