A few things come
to mind when you mention the word cardio. Some people cringe, some people salivate like a dog with a plate of food, and some
people just avoid the subject. No matter how you look at it though cardio stirs some sort of reaction in anyone that has even
just thought about working out. For most people cardio is like parts of a car engine. They know it helps things work but don’t
really understand how or why. In this three part article we will look at what cardio is, some types of cardio, and ways to
improve your cardio training.
put is the nickname for cardiovascular training. Cardio refers to types of exercise that involves or improves oxygen uptake
by the body. It also means you are involved in an activity that raises your heart rate to a level that you are working within
your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the maximum number of times your heart can beat in a minute. Maximum heart
rates are great tools to figure out training intensities, because they can be individually determined. By knowing your maximum
heart rate you can determine what is called your target heart rate zone. Your target heart rate zone guides your workout by
keeping your intensity levels between upper and lower heart rate limits. Once you know these intensity levels you can use
them to alter your cardiovascular training to better suit your exercise goals. You can use these various levels to:
- Maintain a healthy heart
- Lose weight/ burn fat
- Increase endurance
- Maintain fitness
- Maintain or improve athletic conditioning
*Find your target heart rate (click here)
Why is cardio
training important? Cardio training is important for a number of reasons:
- It makes your heart stronger so you do not have to work as hard to pump blood
- It increases lung capacity
- It helps reduce the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes
- It reduces stress
- It helps put oxygen in your muscles
- It helps remove toxins from the body
- It boost metabolism
- It can help you control bodyweight and reduce fat
Along with these benefits
cardio has a host of other benefits also. Just remember like everything else, too much of a good thing can also be bad. Now
that we understand cardio a little better, what type of things can we do to have a good cardio work out? In the next part
we will look at types of cardio and their benefits.
Earlier we talked about
the basics of cardio and some of its benefits, now let’s look at some types of cardio. Remember cardio is basically
defined as any activity that raises your heart rate to a level that you are working within your maximum heart rate. There
are so many things that you can do, you should easily be able to find something you enjoy. With a huge variety of choices,
monotony and boredom should never be issues. If you’re a outdoors type person, running, cycling, hiking, playing sports
or walking are all great choices. Walking or jogging with your dog, can also have great cardio benefits for the both of you.
If you’re more of a gym rat like me, there usually is a wide variety of equipment for cardiovascular work. Stationary
bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, stair masters, step mills, and row machines are all excellent choices for cardio .A
lot of these machines have added benefits because they can be adjusted to work in specific heart rates, hit certain body parts,
work at certain elevations, and or certain intensity levels. Don’t like any of those choices, try one of your gym’s
cardio or aerobic classes. With so many choices you would never have to do the same activity more than once a week if you
did not want to. If you do not like something do not force yourself to do it. The true key to making cardio work is finding
something you enjoy and making it work for you. Just about anything you do is acceptable long as you get up in your target
heart rate zone.
Now that we have a variety
of things that we can do, let’s look at some general cardio guidelines:
- Always try to work within your target heart rate zone.
- Learn to work within your capacity and not someone elses.
- The best cardio workout is the one you actually do!!!!
- To maintain your current fitness level, do cardio 2-3 days a week for at least 20 minutes a session.
- To lose weight, do cardio 4 or more days a week for at least 30 minutes a session.
- Do not do more than 60 minutes of cardio per session after 60 minutes cardio becomes catabolic.
In the next session
we will look at ways to fine tune your cardio to be more beneficial to your goals. A few things we have determined so far
is cardio is good for you, everyone should do some cardio, and it has a host of benefits for your body. The one thing we have
not touched on though is all cardio is not created equal. Different ways of doing cardio can provide many different benefits.
Now we are going to get more in depth about fine tuning your cardio for more benefits.
working planes of movement-
of movement will provide different cardio benefits. The two planes of cardio are horizontal and vertical. Cardio on a horizontal
plane is anything done on a flat surface. Walking, running, aerobics, and or playing sports are all good examples of this.
Cardio on a vertical plane is anything that is elevated or going up and down. Stair Masters, Step Mills, Running hills, Wall
climbing, running hills, and running stairs are all good examples of this. While both are great for your cardiovascular health
there is a bit of a difference between the two. Since our bodies do not normally work on elevated or vertical planes, when
we do this it causes the body to work harder. By working harder you will automatically burn more calories. Since the workload
is much harder on a elevated plane you may have to decrease the intensity the more you increase the plane. I often see people
elevate the treadmill up, hold on to the handles and try to sprint as fast as they can. They are holding on so tightly and
moving so uncontrollably they are really not fully working. When working on elevated planes you want the movements to be as
natural as if you were outdoors going up a hill on your own power. When moving on elevated planes you want to do most of the
work yourself and if you have to use a ton of support you need to lower the intensity.
If you run on a treadmill, each 1 percent increases in elevation causes you to expend 4 percent more energy. Simply put the
steeper the incline the more energy will be needed to work.
Moving on vertical
planes also causes more explosive power. Running on an incline targets the legs a lot more. While horizontal plane movement
tends to emphasize the quads more, inclined movements hit the butt and hamstrings really hard. The muscles you use to overcome
inclines are almost exactly the same as the ones you use for sprinting. If you’re main cardio goal is to target the
butt and hamstrings more work on elevated planes.
what heart rate works for your goal-
understand a little about target heart rates, but does working at different percentages of your target heart rate produce
different results? The answer is a yes.
Once you determine
your target heart rate you can tailor your cardio workouts better to suit your goals, by working in certain percentages of
your heart rate.
*Find your target heart rate (click here)
Active Rest Zone
Maintain Healthy Heart/Get Fit Least Calories
50% - 60%
Fat Burn Zone
Lose Weight/ Burn Fat
Most calories burnt from fat
60% Fat Burning
60% - 70%
Aerobic Base Building
Increase Stamina Aerobic Endurance
Some fat burning but muscle glycogen also starts to be used
45% Fat Burning
70% - 80%
Maintain Excellent Fitness Condition
Develops Lactic Acid System
Muscle Glycogen starts to become the primary fuel
30% Fat Burning
80% - 90%
Red Line Zone
Maintain Superb Athletic Condition
Most calories burnt
Most Muscle Glycogen Used
15% Fat burning
More Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers used
Shortest exercise time
90% - 100%
Whether you want
to be a better sprinter, improve your aerobic ability or just burn fat better, all these things can be accomplished through
various levels of intensity. As shown by the chart above, depending on what percentage you want to work at can dramatically
alter your fitness results.
not all cardio calories are created equally-
You now know
that working in different percentages of your heart rate will yield different results but did you also know that they burn
calories in a much different way also. At a lower intensity level the body is much more efficient at burning fat for fuel
during cardio workouts. The best zone for this is right around 60-70 percent of your target heart rate. As you start to increase
the percentage of your target heart rate you’re using you start to burn more total muscle glycogen and less total body
fat. So why not avoid all high intensity training and stay in the fat burning zone if that is your goal? Well it is somewhat
of a double edged sword. You burn more calories from fat in the 60-70 percent range but you burn few total calories. With
higher intensity training you work a lot harder, forcing the body to burn more calories. You may burn fewer calories from
fat but you would end up burning more overall calories. High intensity training works well for fat burning because you can
burn more calories in much shorter amount of time. So which one is better??? Neither!!! The best one is the one that works
best for you. How much better one works that the other is going to be based on how well it works for you. Based on your nutritional
program, time constraints, individual needs, and just general preferences will be the determining factor on which works for
you. Some people swear by high impact and some swear by low impact, the ones I have found most successful are the ones that
do something no matter if it’s high, low, or both.
cardio is only as evil as you make it-
Some people swear
cardio is the most evil thing invented to man. The question is why? Is it the cardio or what you’re doing for cardio.
With the vast array of things you can do and the many pieces of equipment you can use why should cardio be viewed as torturous.
If you don’t like doing things like the treadmill, then do not slave away for hours on one. You can get outside, swim,
run, or even a pick up game of basketball.
don’t like cardio because when I do it I have to do it for hours at a time!!!” Well honestly you should not be
doing that much cardio anyway. You want shorter more intense cardio workout look into things like high intensity training
methods. People should and need to understand lots of cardio will not make up for poor nutritional and life practices. Cardio
should be a tool to help you towards your goals and not a crutch to aid your bad habits.
No matter what
your goal is or what type of cardio you like or do not like with a little planning and focus you can make cardio a handy tool
to use toward your fitness goals.