Cardio The State of Fitness Way

Some of us love cardiovascular (cardio) training, and some of us don’t. The common trend is that if you don’t like it, you don’t do it. And if you love to feel the cardio “burn” or “high,” then that is all you want to do. I think from just those two statements you can probably agree with me that each type of person should probably meet in the middle and do both. When it comes to exercise there isn’t just one thing that can do it all. Strength training comes close but doesn’t have it all.

I am well known for advocating that people lift heavy objects to change their body composition. So much so that it has become the cornerstone of my training philosophy here at SoF. The simple reason is that it provides the most bang for the buck. Strength training can do such a multitude of things and enhance so many physical qualities more than any other form of exercise. From building muscle and burning fat to improving bone density and strength, it does it all.

At SoF, we perform what is called “metabolic strength training workouts” for the majority of our Semi-private and Private training workouts. Research has shown this to be more efficient at burning fat and building muscle than traditional cardiovascular work. It also helps us regular folks (non-mutant D1 athletes, you know, people in the Olympics and stuff) to build more muscle efficiently.

While this type of strength training has been shown to boost cardio benefits, I feel, and research shows that each of us may need a little more cardio work. Strength training doesn’t necessarily help your aerobic system to its entirety. This gap in training is where our Conditioning sessions at SoF come in.

rogue, sledsWe are always looking to optimize our training protocols.  Over time we have found that combining aerobic-based movements (Ski Erg, Rower, Bike), with large movement (sled pushes, ball slams, wall ball shots, kettlebell swings, thrusters), produces amazing results at both burning fat and improving the aerobic system.

Now let’s be clear here. We are not talking about a boring steady state. If you are going to do that, go outside for a walk or bike ride. Don’t do this in the gym. If you are going to watch TV while you workout or read your Ipad, you are doing it wrong. Now, it’s OK to do some steady-state cardio; it has some great benefits. But the actual benefits of low-intensity movement come from enjoying the outdoors and doing some active play.

So, we spice our cardio up a bit in our Conditioning sessions at SoF. You cannot simply do the machine weight circuit and hop on a cardio machine and do steady-state cardio. Science and has shown that this is not the most efficient way to lose body fat, fast. In recent years we have found out that workout protocols such as HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and the world-renowned Tabata interval method can burn body fat efficiently, effectively and faster than traditional training methods.

So… What Do We Do?!?!

One of the least talked about training methods is workout density, which is the amount of work you do in a given time frame. The greater your density, the greater your caloric expenditure. The best way to increase workout density is to decrease rest periods as you do in HIIT and Tabata training. The longer you drag out your workout, the less likely you can keep up the intensity.

Simply set a time limit of say 20-30 minutes, and try to get as much of your workout done in that time frame. Each time you do that workout, try and beat your previous time. So if you are trying to lose body fat, get out of the mindset that you have to work out for hours and hours. The harder you work in less time will equate to a higher metabolism and a much more effective weight loss program. Keep it short and sweet, yet intense.

What About Aerobic Training?

Since HIIT and Tabata programs will not help your body improve oxygen uptake, you do need some basic aerobic training to balance it out. Running is one of the best options to improve aerobic capacity and oxygen uptake improvement, but it comes at a cost. The joints take a good beating from all of the poundings at almost three times your bodyweight with each impact. This is where low-impact movements become your friend in aerobic training. The Ski Erg, Rowing Machine, and Air bikes fit in. They are solid carryovers to basic functional movements and intensity can be determined by each individual. As a result, don’t be surprised if you come into one of our Conditioning sessions and do 5-minutes at each machine plus some other HIIT and Tabata work mixed in. The blend is a perfect recipe to hit both the anaerobic and aerobic systems.

 Why Does High-Intensity Interval Training and Tabata Training Work?

Ok, back to some more HIIT and Tabata stuff. To burn body fat, you need to burn fatty acids by doing workouts that have a high metabolic cost and the best way to do that is to add HIIT and Tabata’s to your workouts 2-3-days per week. Hormone Sensitive Lipase is crucial for inducing this process because it mobilizes free fatty acids from adipose tissue, releasing fat into the bloodstream. Then, carnitine transports the free fatty acids into the mitochondria and the fatty acids are burned for energy.

This is the main thing that people are confused about when it comes to exercise and fat loss. You need to produce a robust metabolic cost for this process to happen. Jogging, Yoga, and even sports like tennis and volleyball just don’t do this.

The most recent study, out of Australia, reported that a group of females who followed a 20-minute HIIT program consisting of eight-second sprints followed by 12 seconds of rest lost an incredible six times more body fat than a group that followed a 40-minute cardio program performed at a constant intensity of 60% MHR.

And of course, there is the Tabata study. This study was groundbreaking research that encouraged people to start moving harder and faster to lose fat and increase conditioning.

In short, the Tabata study showed that by doing eight rounds of 20 seconds of hard work and 20 seconds of rest, you could increase fat burning and Vo2 Max more efficiently and effectively than steady-state type cardio.

Example Workout Protocols

Keep in mind that there are almost endless workout options when it comes to HIIT, aerobic base, and even Tabata (exercises can vary, not protocol). For this reason, head trainer Jessica and I have come up with hundreds (literally!) of different workouts. These are just some examples to hit home the point and provide you with some kick-butt workouts for you to try on your own!

These workouts are intense so, you will need proper recovery. You should also note that everyone has an individual level of intensity. Start slow and build up as you see fit. As always, consult with a physician if you have any health issues that may hinder you from doing more intense exercise.

HIIT  Cardio Machine-Based HIIT Workouts

When it comes to cardiovascular exercises that produce the most results with the least time invested, sprint-type cardio workouts reign supreme.

The actual act of sprinting on two feet can be tough for many. If you are not a runner or a sprinter, I advise you to proceed with caution and build up to proper sprinting.

If you have a lower-body injury or have had one in the recent past that hinders you from running, actual sprints may not be for you.

So, instead, I like the air dyne/assault bike or concept 2 rowers. These two pieces of cardio can have a great bang for the buck without injury if you are looking to keep your body healthy but get the tremendous benefits from sprint workouts.

Concept 2 Rower or Ski Erg 

Sprint workout week 1: do ten 100-meter sprints at 90% intensity, resting 60s between each sprint.

Sprint workout week 2: do six 300-meter sprints at 80% intensity, resting 90s between each sprint.
Sprint workout week 3: do eight 200-meter sprints at 90% intensity, resting 75s between each sprint.

Sprint workout week 4: do eight 200-meter sprints at 100% intensity, resting 75s between each sprint.

Airdyne Bike

Sprint workout week 1: do ten 10-calorie sprints at 90% intensity, resting 60s between each sprint.

Sprint workout week 2: do six 30-calorie sprints at 80% intensity, resting 90s between each sprint.
Sprint workout week 3: do eight 20-calorie sprints at 90% intensity, resting 75s between each sprint.

Sprint workout week 4: do eight 25-calorie sprints at 100% intensity, resting 75s between each sprint.

NOTE: In a group setting like we have at SoF, one partner would be rowing or on the Ski Erg while the other partner is just chilling during the rest period then transition places.

Tabata style Workouts

For a recap on Tabata intervals, it’s a high-intensity interval training protocol originally created by Japanese researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata. Each Tabata interval consists of 20 seconds of high intensity (as hard as you can go) exercise followed by a 10-second rest. This is repeated for 8 rounds, totaling 4 minutes time. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase your total work capacity and workout density in a short amount of time. I prefer strength-based exercises such as goblet squats, kettlebell swings, push-ups, TRX rows, farmers walk and ball slams.

Tabata Workout #1

NOTE: In a group setting we would make each one of these Tabata intervals a station for equipment and space needs.

Perform each exercise for 20 seconds as hard as possible and then rest 10 seconds. Repeat this sequence for 8 total rounds. Rest 2-4 minutes as needed between exercises.

Wall Ball Shots 20 seconds on/10 seconds off for 8 rounds

Rest 1-2 minutes

Sled Push 20 seconds on/10 seconds off for 8 rounds

Rest 1-2 minutes

Ball Slams 20 seconds on/10 seconds off for 8 rounds

Tabata Workout #2

Perform each exercise for 20 seconds as hard as possible and then rest 10 seconds. Repeat this sequence for 8 total rounds. Rest 2-4 minutes as needed between exercises.

Kettlebell Swings 20 seconds on/10 seconds off for 8 rounds

Rest 1-2 minutes

Rope  20 seconds on/10 seconds off for 8 rounds

Rest 1-2 minutes

DB Thrusters 20 seconds on/10 seconds off for 8 rounds

Aerobic Base Workout

6 minutes on the Ski Erg

Rest 1-2 minutes

6 Minutes on the Airdyne Bike

Rest 1-2 minutes

6 Minutes on the Concept 2 Rower

Cool down

Time to Get Some REAL Cardio On! 

No matter what, strength training will ALWAYS be my go-to for programming. The act of lifting weights has quite literally changed my life and has also helped me change other peoples. The power of moving better and getting stronger all the while changing the way you look and feel is an amazing thing. But we do need to pay attention to our ticker, increases oxygen consumption, take days off of lifting to recover, and as a bonus lose some extra body fat. A Conditioning session at SoF or on your own will complement your strength program and do a body good.


 

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