S.A.Q.: The Underappreciated Cardio

Maurice Williams | 10 Mar 2020

Cardio exercise has changed over the years. I can remember when people wanted to improve their aerobic conditioning and they did it in one of four ways: an aerobics class, going for a long walk, swimming at the local Y.M.C.A., or going to their local gym to do cardio on a piece of cardio equipment.

Nowadays, when people want to improve their aerobic conditioning, they perform cardio quite differently. Some stay at home and use the Peloton. Others may go to their local cycle studio and " ride away" with their neighbors. Then, some go to a rowing studio and "row away" with an instructor telling them 500 more meters left.

All of the above are excellent forms of cardio exercise. But, there are some individuals who do not care for these forms of cardio. These folks are the ones who hate cardio. They would rather stand outside in the heat in a jacket on a hot August summer day in Phoenix, Arizona than go for a run, swim, or row!

As fitness professionals, it is our job to make sure that our client's heart and lungs are efficient at supplying oxygen-rich blood to their skeletal muscles during exercise.

A non-traditional and more fun way of doing this could be using speed, agility, and quickness (aka: S.A.Q.) drills in your client's programming.

What is S.A.Q.?

Traditionally speaking, S.A.Q. stands for speed, agility, and quickness. In the sports world, they are used to develop an athlete's ground forces that project the body at a higher rate. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine's (NASM) Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th ed. Revised, S.A.Q. stands for:

S: Speed is the ability to move the body in one intended direction as fast as possible.

A: Agility is the ability to start, stop, and change directions quickly while maintaining proper posture.

Q: Quickness is the ability to react and change body position with a maximal rate of force production in all planes of motion and from all body positions.

So, if you've ever watched someone moving fast using ladders, cones, and some cord or bungee attached to them, you probably saw them going through S.A.Q. drills.

Why is it the Underappreciated Cardio?

Although doing S.A.Q. drills are considered a non-aerobic exercise, it's still regarded as cardio because it does have an interval component to it. Research shows that by performing short, repeated bouts of high-intensity activity, one can improve such things as decreased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes, to name a few.

Also, S.A.Q. drills enhance functional capacity and fat/weight loss when compared to traditional moderate-intensity, long-duration exercise (i.e., going for a 15-30 min. run outside).

For these reasons is why S.A.Q. is the underappreciated cardio. However, the hope is by educating you on it, and you will start to incorporate them into your client programming.

Suggested S.A.Q. Programming

Since most clients come to us for fat and weight loss, the following exercise protocol is for them. The following drills keep the heart rate elevated to increase fat and calorie burning. Complete the following exercises in a circuit fashion.

Beginner Client:

  1. Ladder One-Ins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em63lCvm9CM (2-3x)
  2. Cone Shuffles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omvckxoF9OI (15-20 seconds)
  3. Jumping Jacks (15-20 seconds), Modified Box Drill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Mc3PLs1-9w (2x)
  4. Rest 60 seconds, repeat one more time.

Intermediate Client:

  1. Ladder In-In-Out-Out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SybJ4cCnR64 (3-4x)
  2. Cone Shuffles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omvckxoF9OI (30-35 seconds)
  3. Jumping Jacks (30-35 seconds), 5-10-5 Drill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwi--xfD4s0 (3x)
  4. Rest 45 seconds, repeat two more times.

Advanced Client:

  1. Ladder Ali-Shuffles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tc751vW_lM (4-5x)
  2. Cone Shuffles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omvckxoF9OI (30-35 seconds)
  3. Sagittal Plane Jumping Jacks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNCA6JpG3MI (30 seconds)
  4. L.E.F.T. Drill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SbchIe5OWk (3-4x)
  5. Rest 60-90 seconds, repeat three more times.


Cardio has undoubtedly changed over the years. Despite the recent changes with the popularity of the Peloton and rowing/cycling studios, there are still clients who hate cardio. However, they do like S.A.Q. drills built into their strength training. Since research shows they can work just as well as regular cardio, why not incorporate these drills into your client's exercise programming?


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Maurice Williams

About the author: Maurice Williams

Maurice Williams offers a rare combination of advanced academic training, personal experience as a competitive athlete, and twenty years of experience in personal fitness and training. That combination –- a strong understanding of exercise and sport science and clinical exercise physiology, the determination of a competitive athlete, and broad fitness experience –- makes Maurice uniquely effective in helping his clients meet their health and fitness goals. He has a BS in Exercise/Sport Science from Elon University and an MS in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Ohio University.

Experience that makes a difference for you
Recognized as a Master Personal Trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and an Elite Personal Fitness Trainer by IDEA, Maurice can help you no matter what your age, condition, or fitness goals. He works with women between the ages of 35-50 who are looking to regain the energy and look that they had in their 20’s and 30’s so they will not be frustrated and upset with themselves when they look in the mirror. He also is certified as a Personal Fitness Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Performance Enhancement Specialist, Senior Fitness Specialist, Weight Loss Specialist & Fitness Nutrition Specialist by NASM, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), a Barefoot Training Specialist-Level 1 through EBFA, a Fitness Nutrition Coach-Level 1 through Precision Nutrition and a Master Instructor for NASM & Most-Fit. As a fitness educator with his own education company, Move Well Fit Academy, Maurice teaches the Certified Personal Trainer course through NASM.

Smart Training that Produces Results
Maurice exercises his clients through the concept of functional training – focusing on everyday body movements, not muscles, in a progressive fashion to allow for optimal improvements in everyday activities, such as walking and lifting, as well as helping contribute to weight loss, increased stamina and strength. Maurice has helped people match exercise to their specific health challenges, too, including diabetes, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, lower back pain, pulmonary issues, and pregnancy. His personal training studio, Move Well Fitness, specializes in 30-minute, semi-private (3-5 people) personal group training sessions that action packed with results driven programs. 

The Right Values
Maurice believes “Everyone has fitness is them, the challenge is bringing the fitness out.” His current workout includes resistance training, cardio and yoga. A former high school and collegiate athlete, Maurice grew up in South Carolina with roots that reach back to Brooklyn, NY. An avid sports fan, he still roots for Elon and his favorites, the Miami Hurricanes and the UNC Tarheels. A leader in his church, husband with a beautiful wife (just ask him) and father of four children, Maurice brings the right values to his work and his clients – a shared commitment to good health and fitness, an honest determination, and an understanding of what it takes to meet difficult challenges.

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