A question I commonly get is, “Do I need to do more cardio?”
Let me be honest, cardio is probably my least favorite term in all of fitness.
The term cardio is short for the term “kardia” which is a Greek word for the heart. So the cardiovascular system is your heart and all your blood vessels. Initially, doing cardio work was work to improve your heart and blood vessels. But rarely do I think people do cardio because they’re concerned about making their heart healthy or think something like “I need to improve my heart today, I’m going to do some cardio.”
There’s this belief system that cardio equals fat loss, and that couldn’t be further from the truth!
One thing you’ll see on ellipticals or treadmills is you’ll have your calorie counter and your “fat burning zone.” So you think you’re in your fat burning zone for forty minutes doing your cardio, and burning fat. The thing is, the amount of calories burned during a workout, is basically meaningless. When you get a really good workout, you’re still burning calories up to 48 hours after that workout. But if you’re just doing cardio, where you’ve got your heart rate slightly elevated, you’re breathing a little hard, and you’re holding that steady state for 40-50 minutes, then you’re burning calories for that time… but then that’s it.
If you do really intense burst training, or weight lifting, you’re going to be burning calories for up to 48 hours AFTER the workout.
There are studies where they have 2 groups of people; one group will do 40 minutes of steady state cardio, and another group will do burst training for 20 minutes. The burst training group will burn 3x as much fat as the cardio group.
You also have the power of observation. Just go to a track meet, or Google a sprinter versus a marathon runner. Or look up burst training sprint athletes, intense, or look at weight lifting athletes and then look up cardio athletes such as marathoners and distance runners, then compare the differences in their physique. If your goal is to burn fat, and have a nice athletic and muscular look, then based on research and observation, the absolute best way to do it is burst training, and weight lifting. Getting stronger!
That is why the program I designed is the way it is; that’s what I do myself. I do burst training, I do weight lifting, and I eat well, so I maintain what I think is a nice, healthy, athletic look. The cardio that I do do, (and this is the best cardio and the cardio that I recommend) is walking.
Walking is phenomenal; it’s not hard on your joints, it doesn’t cause any of the common distance running ailments/issues like IT band syndrome, sore ankles, sore knees, etc. I especially enjoy hiking through the hills up in the woods. For one, it’s relaxing and enjoyable, plus my heart rate is up so it’s improving my heart. And when you’re up in the hills and the bluffs, you’re walking over logs and at angles, and your proprioception is improving, and you’re working on balance and strength…it’s just such a GREAT form of exercise.
So I’m not saying that running is bad or that all “cardio” is bad. It’s just that if you’re doing cardio with the goal of fat loss, you’re completely off base, that’s not how it works.
Speaking of stress, one thing that happens when you go for a really long run or whenever you work out, your stress hormones are elevated. Being stressed for long periods of time is very unhealthy, and it actually leads to fat storage. That’s why oftentimes the hardcore cardio people will have that kind of skinny-fat or soft look; it’s because of the chronic elevated levels of stress hormones.
Runners out there. If you enjoy running keep doing it. Trust me on this. Mix in some sprint work. Get good and warmed up then run as fast and hard as you can for 60-100 meters. Walk back to the starting point and do it again. Do that 8-10 times. It’s a hell of a lot harder than it sounds and crazy good for you. Let’s make that workout even better. I’ve met a ton of joggers who like to brag about the miles they put on, but can’t do a pushup or come close to doing a pullup. In between each sprint drop down and knock a set of pushups. Those upper body muscles like work too!~
When you do burst training, and you work really hard, your stress hormones go up for a very short period of time. Then after that, your stress levels drop off, and you can actually handle stress better in everyday life.
Here’s the thing, with burst training and weight lifting: you burn more calories for days on end, you get stronger, you get the athletic look, it saves time, it’s better on your joints. Everything about it is better, except the one thing that makes burst training tough…. it is HARD. When you push really hard, it’s uncomfortable. I know for sure that some people don’t realize the difference between effort, and EFFORT. When you push really, really hard, and it feels like your heart is going to bust out of your chest…that’s a good burst training workout! And you’re going to be seeing results for 48 hours after that. And on top of that, you changed the hormones in your body so you’ll start burning fat instead of storing.
If cardio was the answer to a fat loss and a fit, healthy look, my gyms would be full of ellipticals and treadmills. But, I know they’re not and that’s why we don’t have them. That’s why I promote burst and strength training, and that’s what we’ll always do, because it has always worked, and always will work.
So if your goal is fat loss? Do burst training, strength training, do it consistently, and push hard. Effort is very important in burst training.
Just follow the lead. Weight training, burst training, eat well, and then for cardio go for nice, enjoyable walks, especially in the woods on some hilly uneven ground, that’s the key to a good, healthy, fit and athletic look.