Build Your Own Military Workout: 5 Minutes Cardio, 5 Minutes Resistance

Marines do flutter kicks.
U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron conduct flutter kicks during a squadron physical training event at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, July 26, 2019. (Lance Cpl. Lauren Brune/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

If you need a way to create an unlimited supply of workouts but you also prefer some type of organization, try this Build Your Own Workout that mixes calisthenics, weights and cardio in a balanced method.

You can limit this workout to just upper body or lower body and cardio, or do a full-body workout. Or if you need an easy day, you can work non-impact cardio into a stretch and foam-roll session.

Here are all the options you can do with this five minutes cardio, five minutes resistance (or stretching):

5 minutes cardio, 5 minutes upper body: This is how the structure can look if you want an hourlong workout. If you only have time for 30 minutes, do not repeat two times and instead do it only once, totaling 15 minutes of cardio and five minutes of each push, pull and core exercise:

Repeat 2 times:

Cardio of choice 5 minutes

5 minutes push exercises

Cardio of choice 5 minutes

5 minutes pull exercises

Cardio of choice 5 minutes

5 minutes core exercises

Sample options:

*Push: push-ups, dips, military press, bench press, burpees, lateral raises, triceps, etc.

*Pull: pull-ups, pull-downs, rows, biceps curls

*Core: sit-ups, flutter kicks, plank poses, rollouts, knee-ups, crunches, leg levers, farmer walks

*Optional challenge: pick on exercise and do it for five minutes with minimal stops to rest. See how many reps you can in the time allotted.

Five minutes of cardio options are also yours to decide as a mix of several options, or just pick the only one you have (walk/run). Some ideas for cardio can include bike, elliptical, rowing machine, swimming, running fast, jogging slow, doing sprint intervals, shuttle runs, Tabata intervals on cardio machines, or resistance-level pyramids, making each minute harder than the previous minute by increasing resistance levels 1-2 each minute.

5 minutes cardio, 5 minutes lower body: The same structure of the workout above, but you only do leg exercises. You can add in a core activity if you prefer or repeat three times with the cardio/leg exercises to equal 30 minutes.

Repeat 2-3 times:

Cardio of choice 5 minutes (pick hills, high-level bike resistance, swimming with fins = leg day)

5 minutes leg exercises

Sample options:

*Legs: squats, lunges, heel raises, jumps, step-ups, walking up and down stairs, leg press, leg extensions, leg curl machines, deadlift, weighted squats, weighted lunges with barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.

It is not a bad idea to mix in some core activity as an “active rest” after the set of legs for five minutes.

5 minutes cardio, 5 minutes mobility: Never neglect a cycle or an entire workout of just non-impact cardio, stretching and foam rolling. A mobility day is life-changing -- really. Here is the way I recommend it:

Repeat 5 times

5 minutes non-impact cardio options (bike, row, elliptical, swim)

5 minutes stretch or foam roller

For each of the five sets of five minutes each, pick a section of the body and stretch or foam-roll that section thoroughly. I prefer starting with the feet (lax ball massage) and then foam-roll or stretch the calves and shins. During the next five minutes, stretch and foam-roll the thighs and hamstrings. For the third set, get the hips and buttocks. For the fourth set of five minutes, stretch and foam-roll the back. And for the fifth set, foam-roll and stretch the chest, lats and the arms.

The five minutes on, five minutes off program is a guide that enables you to work what you need to work, with a balance of cardio options mixed together.

If you are looking for something new and easy to follow, try it and get creative with your choices. You can make this one as hard or as easy as you prefer or need it to be.

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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