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Hijack Your Cardio In 10 Minutes With the Sugar Cane Workout

Everybody – it seems – is in search of the latest quick fix when it comes to their fitness. The elusive Silver Bullet that will give massive results in exchange for the minimum viable effort.

That’s what we’re told. And it could well be true. I don’t really know, and I’m not that sure I actually care.

But, as any time-poor parent will tell you, we are always slyly looking out for something that will deliver an asymmetrical ‘bang-for-your-buck’ return on your fitness endeavors.

Think: the “sprint & lift heavy” approach recommended by Martin Rooney, founder of Training For Warriors and a man who’s fitness resume includes training NFL footballers and cornering for UFC fighters.

Lift heavy & sprint

Loosely applied, Rooney believes the MVP fitness protocol should focus on sprinting and lifting heavy weights through the compound lifts…these being the things that over-deliver on results whilst taking the least amount of time.

Both are hugely beneficial individually but in tandem they tick off a bunch of necessaries: central nervous system activation, bone density improvements, hypertrophy, improvements in cardiovascular health.

The Problem

However, given that 98% of adults over the age of 30 will never fully sprint again in their lives, the sprinting might be tricky, and probably less than 2% of the population have access to an Olympic barbell, the odds of most of us ‘sprinting & lifting heavy’ twice a week is fairly low. If you can get to the gym a coupla times a week, check out this article (click here).

And so, when I heard, and then read, about the ‘Sugarcane’ cardio workout – a short, sharp, HIIT session recommended by actual fitness professional rather than wannabe influencers – via Dr Andy Galpin on the HuberMan Lab podcast I was intrigued enough to give it a go. [Andy Galpin features at number #5 HERE]

Kenny Kane is credited with coming up with Sugar Cane as a short, sharp HIIT workout aimed at increasing VO2 max in a gamified setting in a way that can be easily tracked & benchmarked.

It has the added advantages of being over quickly and you can use different equipment for variety; basically any instrument of torture for cardio – rower, ski-erg, assault-bike, treadmill, or even running outdoors.

The Sugarcane Protocol

The format goes like this:

Step 1 

Workout hard (i.e. balls-to-the-wall maximum) for 2 minutes and record distance covered.

Step 2 

Rest 2 minutes

Step 3

Round 2 – we’re going to cover the same distance we did in Round 1 and record the time it took us to do so. [this will likely be more than 2 minutes as fatigue kicks in]

Step 4

Rest 2 minutes

Step 5

Onto Round 3 – we are now going to go for the time it took us in Round 2 and try to cover more distance than we achieved in Round 1 [again, fatigue will be our enemy here].

Step 6

Lie on the floor and contemplate your life decisions and / or assess the emotional damage the workout did.


I’ve done the Sugar Cane four times this week, always on the ski-erg machine.

It does exactly what it sets out to do, which is total physical annihilation (just kidding, but not really).

But, and here’s the thing, it does so quickly, in a way that can be easily varied and in a way that gamified which somehow serves as a distraction from the torture that mindless cardio can often serve up.

Give it a red-hot crack and see what you think.

Oh, and you can play around with the number of rounds, the work / rest periods and the machine you use. See what works for you.



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