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What do you think of when someone says “cardio”? For most it’s going to be images of treadmills, bikes, running shoes, and utter boredom. At least that’s what I think of. I’ve made no bones in the past about my hatred of the typical medium intensity style cardio. Jogging, running, riding the bike for miles, and lifting light weight for tons of reps is a recipe for a weaker, less energetic, older looking, and possibly FATTER you.
Cardio has 3 levels of intensity, no matter what method you choose.
#1- Low Intensity (LIC)
I actually really like low intensity cardio, just not as a fat burner. It’s great for recovery and relaxation which is much needed for most people and can actually enhance health and fat loss. Huh? Yea, I know I just said that it’s not a good fat burner then turned around and said it can enhance fat loss. By using for what it can actually do, recovery and relaxation, it can help reduce overall stress which will help stabilize blood sugar and allow the body to actually burn fat. During low intensity cardio you should be able to hold a steady conversation without gasping for air. 20-30 minutes LIC 2-3 times a week is great.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
#2- Medium Intensity (MIC)
This is what 90% of people are doing and it’s also a big reason why they’re not getting anywhere. In short, MIC is a short road to nowhere. Generally this comes in the form of jogging, running, biking, or aerobics. You’re working hard enough to significantly elevate the heart rate and breathing, but not near maximal intensity. If the calories in/calories out model actually worked (it doesn’t) then this would be a great form of exercise because you can burn a significant number of calories. The problem is that this type of cardio not only spikes stress levels to a high degree, it keeps them elevated for a long time. This is fat loss suicide. How does your body respond to this type of training over time? By getting rid of anything that it classifies as “non-essential” for the activities you are doing. This means getting rid of that stuff that’s weighing your down and burning extra calories that it doesn’t want to get rid of. You’ll burn off muscle, bone density, and connective tissue which is great, because who doesn’t want to be weaker and have more wrinkles? Ironically, the thing that’s weighing you down that you want to get rid of, your extra fat, is actually preserved by the body because it’s a potent fuel source. Sounds great, right? Oh, and the last point, your body adapts to this type of training very quickly. So in order to burn the same number of calories you have to just keep doing more and more.
Verdict: Two Very Big Thumbs Down
#3- High Intensity (HIC)
This is my personal favorite for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s very time efficient. You can get a kick ass workout done in about 10-15 minutes. Because of the high intensity and short duration it spikes stress levels for a very brief period of time then allows them to drop back down. That’s a very good thing and my second reason for digging me some HIC. The third is that it has a massive effect on your metabolism. You won’t actually burn that many calories during a HIC workout. The magic happens after, during the recovery phase. Depending on several different factors, HIC can boost your metabolism for several hours after your training session. Low and Medium intensity can’t.
Verdict: Two Thumbs Up
There are a couple ways to really screw the pooch on this high intensity stuff. The first is to push it to long. A good high intensity workout or finisher is going to last around 10 minutes TOPS. It’s the short duration that is a huge part of why it works so don’t think more is better. An hour long high intensity training session is going to be more negative that positive. The second is to do it to often. 6-7 days per week is probably overkill. Most of you will do better with some type of high intensity workout or finisher 2-3 days per week. The other days should be low intensity walking and recovery work. Foam roll, stretch, take an epsom salt bath, and work on some mobility.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. You can find any number is idiotic “finishers” through Google and Youtube. If you want proven workouts with a variety of equipment then you need to pick up Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Cardio.
I’ve been using the finishers from his ebook in my clients training sessions as well as my own. Plus who doesn’t want a list of 52 different workouts names after 80’s and 90’s hip hop and rock songs? My favorites so far:
- Close Stance Squat- 3 x 12 x 0-30 sec rest
- Bridge and Reach- 3 x 12 x 0-30 sec rest (24 reps total)
- Cossack Squat- 3 x 12 x 0-30 sec rest (24 reps total)
- Full ROM Mountain Climber- 3 x 12 x 45-60 sec rest (24 reps total)
“Ambitionz Az a Ridah”
- Bike Sprint- 3 x 60 sec on x 15-45 sec rest
- Jump Rope- 3 x 60 sec on x 15-45 sec rest
- 2 Arm KB Swing- 3 x 60 sec on x 45-90 sec rest
So if you want to feel great and look even better, hop off that treadmill and throw down with the Renegades!
PS. If you don’t know by now, the best training the world won’t do you a damn bit of good without a solid diet plan to back it up. For a simple, easy to follow plan check out Jasons Renegade Diet and Renegade Recipe Guide.
I know this is blasphemy but I really hate the word Fitness. I know, it’s plastered on my website right at the top, but I’ve recently filed it in beside “core, calories, and cardio” as words I not am going to use unless absolutely necessary. Why does it get on my nerves? Basically because it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s a nebulous term that has no definable parameters. How many times have you heard someone say they wanted to be more fit but then when you ask them to elaborate they have no answer. They have no clue as to what they want to do because our industry has pandered around this term that essentially means nothing.
Instead of talking about “fitness” lets delineate this thing and start referring to it in terms of Health or Performance. This is an important distinction because those two categories aren’t exclusively linked. Can both be enhanced at once? Absolutely. Can improving one decrease the other? Absolutely. Just because someone can perform at a high level, such as a power-lifter or an tri-athlete, doesn’t mean that all the different systems in the body are functioning optimally (health). In order to improve their health they may need to decrease their performance. The opposite can also be true. For a competitive athlete to take their performance to the next level they may need to make some decisions that aren’t exactly conducive to health. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just pointing out that it happens which is why we have to break this down a bit.
So, to wrap it up, don’t use the F word anymore!
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