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Are Push Ups Cardio?

author image Heather Hitchcock
Heather Hitchcock has been writing professionally since 2010. She has contributed material through various online publications. Hitchcock has worked as a personal trainer and a health screening specialist. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science.
Are Push Ups Cardio?
Woman doing push ups Photo Credit kissenbo/iStock/Getty Images

Pushups are one of the most basic exercises. They require no equipment and can be performed in a variety of ways to suit your individual fitness level. However, pushups are not a cardio or aerobic exercise. They are an anaerobic exercise that works to improve muscular endurance in the upper body.

What is Cardio?

Cardiovascular exercise, also referred to as aerobic exercise, primarily works to strengthen your heart and lungs. Aerobic exercise is long-duration activities, lasting more than a few minutes and requiring the use of oxygen for sustained performance in activities such as walking, jogging or cycling. Anaerobic exercise is short-duration activities not requiring oxygen to fuel activities such as pushups, weight training and sprinting. Anaerobic activities use muscle glycogen — stored glucose in the muscles — to create energy for the activity. However, a byproduct of this energy is lactic acid, which can build up in the muscles and bloodstream.

Muscular Endurance

Pushups are muscular endurance exercises. Muscular endurance is the ability of a single muscle group or multiple muscle groups to perform repeated movements over a period of time until muscular fatigue is reached. Activities performed with a steady cadence of repetitions are all considered muscular endurance activities. Besides pushups, muscular endurance exercises include situps, pullups and lightweight or body-weight squats.

Circuit Training

Including pushups into a circuit training routine is one way to improve both your aerobic endurance and muscular endurance simultaneously. Circuit training involves performance of a series of exercises one after the other with little-to-no rest between exercises. This allows you to train many muscle groups in a reduced amount of time. Additionally, circuit training taxes the cardiovascular system, because your heart rate remains elevated throughout the workout.

Sample Workout

Include pushups in your cardiovascular routine. Warm up for five minutes on a bike or treadmill before completing the exercises in the following order: dumbbell squats, pushups, situps, incline walking, lunges, close-hand placement pushups, bent-over dumbbell rows, reverse crunches, jumping jacks, straight leg deadlifts, military presses and biceps curls. Perform these strength exercises for 15 repetitions each. Follow strength training with cardiovascular exercises — cycling, jumping rope, walking and jumping jacks — for two minutes each. Rest for one minute and repeat the entire workout one to two more times.

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