I love shaking things up a bit, so I wanted to bust some myths about cardio!
Cardiovascular activity, or “cardio” for short, seems to be either loved or despised in the fitness world. We associate that term with fat burning, increasing lung capacity, and overall endurance. But for the sake of bodybuilding/sculpting, let’s take a look at the true benefits of cardio.
For the benefits of bodybuilding and sculpting, cardio plays a part in bringing out the muscle definition that you have worked hard to get. Now, although I believe in the health benefits of doing cardio, I am not a big proponent of the overuse of cardio to decrease body fat to achieve “the look” of being shredded; that can be dangerous to one’s metabolism. As to what I mean by “overuse”, here is an example: John Doe has a show coming up in eight weeks, but by the looks of his physique, he is not ready. The standard protocol that has been traditionally used over many years is to drop calories, decrease sodium, and then do cardio twice a day for an hour each time, and then eventually dehydrate. Now, this will have an effect – and very possibly the effect that John Doe is looking for – but the underlying issue is that this method will have to be matched or increased time and time again until it no longer is effective.
LISS (Low Intensity Steady State)
This type of cardio keeps your heart rate within a certain range at a constant pace for an extended period of time. An example of this form of cardio is when a person walks on a treadmill while watching TV for 30min or more. He/she does burn calories and utilizes energy; however, over time when doing the same exercise at the same pace for the same amount of time, the body has adapted to use less energy and burn less fat. The body will need more time to do the same fat burning it was doing on 30 minutes initially.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
This type of cardio keeps the body guessing virtually every time. The heart rate fluctuates in intervals causing the increase in the consumption of oxygen and an increase in core body temperature. An example of this form of cardio is when a person does an activity, whether it is sprinting, box jumps/plyometrics, or a tabata form of exercise for 20-30 seconds followed by a 10-20 second rest. Research has shown that this increases the VO2 max and causes EPOC (Energy Post Oxygen Consumption). This is my personal favorite (sprinting,of course) and usually the only type of cardio I implement in the plans I develop for individual clients.
Unwanted weight gain is typically caused by more calories consumed than burned on a consistent basis. In order to lose weight/ body fat, a calorie deficit must be created with manipulation of food, weight training, and the right types and amounts of cardio. Hours of cardio are not necessary to burn fat and build muscle. I personally rarely need to add HIIT to my routine in order to lean out or achieve “the look”. Although everyone is different, one fact remains: If you desire to build muscle and have a sculpted look, consider incorporating more HIIT and less LISS cardio into your workout plans.
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