Workout of the Week: Cardio Pentathlon (Some Options and Challenges)

A Luke Thunderbolt performs a kettlebell swing during the Trojan Warrior Workout.
A Luke Thunderbolt performs a kettlebell swing during the Trojan Warrior Workout at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 27, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham/U.S. Air Force photo)

After writing the Adding Cardio article a few weeks ago, many people commented on some of their go-to cardio events they prefer instead of "just going for a jog."

This mix of cardio events can be done as several options to the cardio section of your workout or challenge yourself and try what we are calling our cardio pentathlon. This group of five cardio events challenges all energy systems as well as multiple elements of tactical fitness (speed, agility, endurance, muscle stamina) and will get your heart rate elevated.

Speed/agility challenge: Doing a fast sprint in the 40- to 100-meter range is always a tough but quick and relatively painless way to start this challenge (after a good warmup, of course). We prefer mixing in some agility in this quick test, such as the 5-10-5 pro agility test or the Illinois Agility Test. Pick one.

300-yard shuttle run: This can be done several different ways, but there are two more common methods. The 6 x 50-yard run is a good choice, but the 12 x 25-yard option is also a popular 300-yard shuttle run challenge.

Five-minute kettlebell swing: Many opt to get their cardio conditioning from using kettlebells. A five-minute swing or snatch option is a tough, full-body event that challenges the heart, lungs, legs, arms and grip as well. How many swings or snatches can you do? Just for reference, the Secret Service uses a 52-pound kettlebell for a 10-minute max rep snatch test.

Timed run: Depending upon the timed running event for which you are preparing or have to take as part of your job, do it. Runs of 1.5 miles, two miles and three miles are the typical military events, depending upon the branch of service. If you are preparing for the special-ops side of military training, the longer four- and five-mile runs will be seen quite regularly in a variety of selection programs, both before and during. How fast can you get the military timed run events done? Training for Timed Runs.

Timed swim or ruck: Depending upon your fitness/training goals, the longer distance events of the cardio pentathlon can be selected between a one-mile swim with fins (any stroke) and a four-mile ruck with 50 pounds. Once again, depending upon the military branch or event challenge you want to try, you can swim or ruck. If you really want to push yourself, try both options and turn the last three events into a Special Ops Triathlon (run, swim, ruck).

Rest between events. If you are selecting multiple events or challenging yourself with all five options, rest as needed between the different cardio exercises. You also can do the entire pentathlon for time, with minimal rest between events, and turn these options for cardio into a 60- to 90-minute event.

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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