Yes, I Do Cardio AKA The Heart is a Dumb Muscle

The heart only knows one thing:

How much stress the body is under.

That’s it, nothing more.

It’s only responding and adapting to the signal(s) its given.

So think about it….

Do you really need to do this [insert miserable cardio modality here] ????

The answer is no.

The ONLY THING YOU NEED TO DO IS MANIPULATE YOUR HEART RATE TO GET THE DESIRED RESPONSE.

The modality you use is of no consequence.

What’s that got to do with anything?

Well, a lot of my peeps ask me,

Do You Do Cardio?

Yes,

I try to get it in 2 times a week.

I primarily use “cardio” to improve cardiac output and recovery.

I’m not trying to push my max heart rate, or even get close.

When I’m doing that type of “conditioning” I keep it in the same session as higher intensity weights, cause, that’s basically what that type of conditioning is.

So, for my typical “cardio“, I’m not hauling ass by any means.

What I Don’t D0: 

I NEVER run

Why?

Running sucks.

At this point it beats me up and I’ve found it hard to recover from.

Basically, it impacts my lifting and I can get the same or better effect with a different modality.

So yeah,#Ihaterunning

HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training? 

Is really good for many folks and lets you get a lot of quality work in, in a short period of time.

But I don’t do much of it at all.

Sometimes I’ll program it in for a block or two to increase my “tolerance” during long sets or to accelerate fat loss or on vaca to maximize time

But for the most part I stay away because it beats me up and its hard(er) to recover from and it’s not really “cardio”, as in aerobic conditioning.

HIIT is usually done at an intensity and interval that makes it anaerobic (glycolytic) conditioning.

Plus, I get my high intensity intervals….lifting weights…

You lift, take a rest, lift…that’s an interval

Wait But Why?

TRUE HIIT, or anything that is pushing your heart rate up into the 90%+ area for time or repeated bouts OR anything that is very explosive in nature, when done with enough volume can really be a drain on the CNS.

In an effort to facilitate recovery, I’m a BIG believer in consolidating CNS stressors whenever possible.

Here’s the reality: Weights (the way they are typically programmed) and this HIIT (IF you’re actually at a high intensity) are basically THE SAME STRESSOR ON THE BODY.

So,  IMO, they should be grouped.

And when I do use HIIT, it gets done in the same session or on the same day as lifting.

How I do Cardio:

Rule #1: GET A HEART RATE MONITOR:

It makes life MUCH easier.

No guessing.

Granted, most cardio machines have a “good enough” monitor built-in to them.

If you use it, just make sure you’re checking every 5-10 minutes.

Any cheap one with a zone setting will work.

I have a Polar FT7, and it’s boss.

Mostly because you can set the “Training Zone”, the high and low-end of the heart rate.

The watch will beep when you are outside (high or low) the zone.

Incline Treadmill Walking:

I put that thing up as high as it’ll go, usually wear a 20lbs weight vest and WALK for 20-60 minutes.

Why?

I can get my heart rate up as high as I want it (120-150bpm) without having to “push” too hard.

It’s easy to recover from and doesn’t impact my strength training. 

I get lots of ankle dorsiflexion

The high angle of incline forces me to use my hamstrings and glutes to PULL myself up the incline. <—you can never have enough posterior chain ie ass.. 

There is limited eccentric force, so the amount of muscle damage and therefore CNS stress, is limited.

Mostly, I feel better, not beat up, afterwards.

Bro Tip:

When in doubt go with more incline and a lower speed, rather than a higher speed and lower incline.

BT #2: 

NO HOLDING ON. 

9/ 10 times, when someone holds on they hang off the treadmill and are at the same angle as if they were at no incline at all….

Holding on defeats the purpose

Step Mill:

It’s like a lot of easy stepups…

So you get some good quad and glute activation.

Plus, there’s no eccentric so the muscle damage is limited and you’re able to walk the next day.

Bro Tip:

Stay upright, don’t do the, I’m bent over the machine about to die thing.

Yeah, it’s hard, have some self-respect and stay upright.

 

Battle Ropes:

These have some pros and cons…

Pros:

  • Upper body dominant, most “cardio” is lower dominant. This can allow you to train around a lower body injury or fatigue.
  • Thick ropes can improve your grip
  • Improved shoulder stability
  • Nice change of pace
  • Easy to manipulate the frequency of the rope waves to manipulate intensity

Cons:

  • Elbow tendonitis if used too much
  • Upper body muscle fatigue tends to set in and you can crap out before many can get an actual training effect

Bro Tip:

I’ve found for AEROBIC CONDITIONING purposes Battle Ropes are best used as a part of a circuit, combined with dedicated core or lower body exercises.

Here’s a video of me doing just that.

I used a free internet interval timer, cause my heart rate monitor crapped out and 1>0 . The music has bad words so YouTube told me I had to cut it out.

 

This helps to keep the shoulders and arms from crapping out too soon.

Sled Dragging/ Pulling etc:

“Sledding” (I have a client call it that) is basically the sh@t.

Why?

There’s no eccentric (except the ankle when forward dragging) so you can do a crapload of work and you don’t get sore.

You can do just about anything with it.

You can bring up weakpoints without wrecking yourself and workouts for the next week cause you’re so damn sore.

In terms of cost benefits, the sled is a win all around.

It’s really easy to drive the heart rate up and keep it in whatever zone without needing to stop simply by changing the pace or from a lower body exercise to an upper exercise or vice versa.

Bro Tip:

Buy a sled that has pushing handles.

Pushing is awesome and is much better with handles. This is the sled I have, it’s cool beans.

The Iron Maiden

*The lower your torso angle on the pushing the higher your heart rate and more breathless you’ll be <—-at parallel to the ground, you ain’t really breathing, so there is that

Attach a suspension trainer like a TRX and you’re gravy baby. You can do just about any upper body exercise you would want.

Aerobic Strength Training:

AKA Aerobic weight training….

Its MUCH more difficult than you think.

Here’s the thing….

It CAN and WILL leave you sore.

How to do Aerobic Strength Training:

1) Create a Circuit of Strength Exercises:

I’ve used circuits of 5-10, I’ve heard that Cal Dietz uses circuits of up to 50 or more, but I don’t really know.

You can use, upper, lower. Left/ right, whatever..

The point is that you NEVER get out of the aerobic zone (cross lactate threshold).

2) Use FAR Less Weight Than You Think You Need.

I’ve found 25-40% of 1RM works for most people.

*It’s also exercise dependent. You probably don’t need any weight for lunges but I wouldn’t do Barbell Squats with 50% 1RM.

Go too heavy and you’ll build too much fatigue too quickly and you’ll poop out.

3) Stay Smooth.

Personally, I aim for a 2-3 second eccentric/ 1-3 second concentric.

Try to keep the weight moving the whole set.

4) Don’t Go Outside the Zones

Again, to beat the horse…..

It’s NOT about going to failure.

It’s about staying in the appropriate heart rate zone and GETTING THE DESIRED PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSE.

Also, don’t sweat it if your heart rate falls below the training zone for a few beats, it’s ok.

That’s How I Do Cardio. 

Yes, I do some traditional steady state.

Yes, I do some intervals.

But mostly what I do, when I do cardio, is train the heart and its physiological structures to pump more blood per beat (cardiac output/ ejection fraction).

Again, its NOT the modality that matters.

It’s the hearts response to the stress put upon it…

Remember,

The Heart is A Dumb Muscle. 

 

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