Cardio is an important tool for any athlete or bodybuilder wanting to optimize fat loss, fitness, long-term health and their physique. Depending on whom you ask, some people will tell you cardio is great, others will tell you to avoid it like the plague, under the misguided belief that any amount of cardio will make you small and fat.
However, as with most things, cardio is a TOOL that can be used for great success, if you implement it correctly. Just like anything, if you use it incorrectly, it won’t work; the key is learning when and how to use cardio to complement your main gym sessions.
Here are several techniques you can use to maximize fat loss benefits from cardio:
Cardio was a popular option before or after the workout to serve as a warm up. However, in recent years people have become afraid to do this because research on concurrent training had shown it may blunt your gains.
Concurrent training describes a phenomenon where an individual does a large amount of both cardio and resistance training. Yet there are several studies showing they can almost cancel each other out.
However, the big issue with these studies and their application to the fitness world is specificity: basically, the protocols in the study are radically different to what most Bodybuilders would do. Of course 99% of people don’t know this and just read titles, thinking all cardio blocks muscle.
In actual fact, these studies are basically putting people on full high intense running routines and weight training plans, yet this does not come close to replicating a lower intensity warm up or steady state session most gym machines. It’s like finding a study that shows walking 20 miles a day blocks muscle growth, so from now on you never walk for more than 30 seconds. As you can see, the situations are completely different.
Cardio can still be used effectively, there’s even research to prove it provides benefit around the workout.
In one study, they measured the use of low intensity cardio and High Intensity Interval Training on anabolic hormones and muscle growth. Published in the prestigiousJournal of Sports Medicine, researchers had participants perform 12 weeks of either:
Before and after the study they conducted several methods to assess maximal force / strength, muscle growth (by looking at the muscle fibers) and aerobic fitness.
As you may have guessed, the weight training only and the combined (cardio + weights) groups increased strength by around 24%. For muscle growth, surprisingly the group doing BOTH cardio and weight training together had the greatest muscle growth!
They found an11% increase for combined,6% for strength only and2% for endurance only. The concurrent group and strength also improved maximal power output. Based on this study, cardio certainly isn’t detrimental and may actually help you grow!
Other studies have also found cardio to benefit around the workout, showing it can even improve protein synthesis and anabolic hormones (Lundberg et al., 2013; Lundberg et al., 2014).
If you want to implement cardio around the workout, try out different methods. Some people like to do just 10 – 20 minutes as a warm-up, and to get in the “zone”, followed by more after. Just remember, the priority is still the main resistance session. Don’t go overboard and cause fatigue, as you still want to be able to maintain 100% output during the main session!
HIIT is a well-known fat loss tool that can provide rapid fat loss in only a few minutes of exercise per day. While it can work well for some around the workout, for others it can be too demanding and impact the main gym session.
For this reason, you may wish to place HIIT in the morning or evening away from the main workout. Another popular method to maximize cardio and HIIT together is perform HIIT first and then cardio after.
This helps you maximize fat loss by burning some of the stored fat that the HIIT training releases. As low intensity cardio has been shown to maximize fat oxidation (burning) levels, it’s a powerful combo for maximal fat loss. Remember, to lose fat you need to release the stored fat from your fat cells out into the blood and then burn them off, before they are stored again.
Here’s an example:
5 – 10 Intervals, 100% effort, lasting 20 – 60 seconds.
20 – 30 minutes low intensity cardio on any machine (5 or 6 out of 10 for intensity).
For more information on HIIT and example protocols you can read a full article HERE<<<insert one of the HIIT article links?
Remember, cardio is just a “tool” in your toolbox. How you use it, schedule it and your diet / recovery will dictate if it’s beneficial or not. If you use it wisely, as discussed in this article, it’s a key tool for long-term fat loss, health and fitness!
1. Aagaard P and Anderson J. Effects of strength training on endurance capacity in top-level endurance athletes.Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.20(2): 39-47, 2010.
2. Leveritt M, Abernathy PJ, Barry BK & Logan PA. Concurrent strength and endurance training: A review.Sports Medicine.28(6): 413-427, 1999.
3. Baar K. Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training.Sports Medicine.44(suppl 2): S117-S125, 2014.
4. Akimoto T, Pohnert SC, Li P & et al. Exercise stimulates PGC-1alpha transcription in skeletal muscle through activation of the p38 MAPK pathway.Journal of Biological Chemistry.280: 19587-19593, 2005.
5. Schenk S, McCurdy CE, Philp A, Chen MZ, Holliday MJ, Bandyopad- hyay GK, Osburn O, Baar K & Olefsky JM. Sirt1 enhances skeletal muscle in- sulin sensitivity in mice during caloric restriction.Journal of Clinical Investi- gation.121: 4281-4288, 2011.
6. Rodgers JT, Lerin C, Haas W, Gygi SP, Spiegelman BM & Puigserver P. Nutrient control of glucose homeostasis through a complex of PGC-1alpha and SIRT1.Nature.434: 113-118, 2005.
7. Mounier, R., Lantier, L., Leclerc, J., Sotiropoulos, A., Foretz, M., & Vi- ollet, B. (2011). Antagonistic control of muscle cell size by AMPK and mTOR- C1.Cell Cycle,10(16), 2640-2646.
15.Hoff J, Helgerud J & Wisloff U. Maximal strength training improves work economy in trained female cross-country skiers.Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.31: 870-877, 1999
durance training on testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone, and IGF-1 bind- ing protein 3 in concurrently trained men.The Journal of Strength & Condi- tioning Research,29(1), 74-79.
Join our weekly newsletter for the latest on discounts, new products & more!
Meet the team and find out why our athletes choose KAGED MUSCLE®