How to Combine Leg Day and Cardio Workouts During Your Fitness Training

An air traffic controller out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., executes a Romanian deadlift.
Sgt. Joshua Morris, an air traffic controller with Marine Air Control Squadron 1 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., executes a Romanian deadlift at the station gym aboard MCAS Yuma, Oct. 28, 2015. (Pvt. George Melendez/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Mixing leg day with cardio workouts is a way to get quick, effective workouts if pressed for time and prepare the legs for more endurance-based training, such as running, rucking and swimming with fins. The workout below incorporates all of the above options, but if you need to replace it with nonimpact cardio, you can add a quick and challenging bike workout to your cardio leg day.

Warm up with a short jog between air squats, progressing each set by doing the following:

Squat Pyramid 1-10 warm-up with a 100-meter jog between sets (stop at 10)

It looks like this:

  • One squat, run 100 meters (reminder this is an easy warm-up jog, not a sprint)
  • Two squats, run 100 meters
  • Three squats, run 100 meters ... keep going up the pyramid until you get to Set 10 and stop.

This equals 1,000 meters of jogging and 55 squats in about 5-10 minutes.

If you lift moderately heavy in this workout, you can opt for a barbell, hex bar or kettlebell version of the deadlift or Romanian deadlift (RDL). Focus on good form and technique and follow up the lifting set with a hanging knee to decompress, stretch and continue challenging the grip.

Repeat three times.

  • Deadlifts 5 or kettlebell RDLs 10
  • Hanging knee-ups 10-15

If you have a little more time to mix in some higher-intensity running, try a moderately fast pace (not full sprint) with the following circuit to continue to work faster movement and muscle stamina in both the legs and core system.

Repeat five times.

  • Run 200 meter fast
  • Chest-carry lunges 20/leg (carry sandbag chest height)
  • Farmer carry 50 meters (carry a kettlebell in each hand and run 2 x 25 meters fast)
  • Kettlebell swings 20
  • Kettlebell squats 10

The above section is a relatively quick workout that can be accomplished in 30 minutes if you move through it with minimum rest periods. But if you have more time, rest more if you need it between sets.

If you have another 30-60 minutes, mix any cardio to top off any leg day with one or two of the following options:

Ruck or run four miles or swim 2,000-3,000 meters with fins -- nonstop for time. Or if you need a nonimpact cardio activity, consider the bike or stair-stepper workout for 30 minutes. (Try pyramids, Tabata intervals, the BRICK workout and one minute fast/one minute slow intervals for that time on the bike.)

Cooldown: Don't skip your cooldown session. If running short on time after all of the above, consider a few minutes of the 10 minutes below and save for later in the day, if needed, to loosen up tight leg muscles.

  • Bike, row, use the elliptical machine or walk for five minutes.
  • Stretch/foam-roll for five minutes.

Enjoy the cardio leg day combination. This workout is more designed for durability training than a strength or running workout alone.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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