Cardio… Man, it sucks. Plain and simple. None of us like it, yet all of us should do at least a little bit of it.
You may hear people say, “Fat loss is all in the diet, screw cardio”. And they’re right, for the most part it is and you actually can get away with doing absolutely zero cardio during your fat loss phase as long as you dial in your nutrition really well.
I’ve put plenty of guys through successful fat loss phases without adding in any additional cardio, the only cardiovascular work they get in is really just our strength training sessions (it’s not cardio nor is it crossfit, but the cardiovascular system will still get worked depending on the programming).
But they committed to the gym 5-6 days per week and their nutrition was dialed in. For some people, this is what works best – they just need structure and they can follow it week after week.
See me… I like food. I was a fat kid growing up and if you were also a fat kid once upon a time, then you know it’s in your blood. By that I mean I still love to eat more than I should, especially when maintaining my abs is the goal.
So for me, cardio is in the plan. This way I can afford to be a little more flexible and comfortable with my food. Now if you have plenty of calories to play with because you have a healthy and fast metabolism, by all means do not do cardio as long as you can – remember, in the fat loss game LESS for MORE is always better.
But there are more reasons to do cardio than just burning calories and being able to eat more.
WHY YOU SHOULD DO CARDIO.
First and foremost because it’s beneficial to your health. Somehow it seems that 90% of the country thinks of health as weight loss and nothing more.
I agree with it to an extent, because it is true that your body composition is one of the biggest influencers and determinants of our life longevity, hormonal health, gym performance, and more.
In other words, you NEED to be overall healthy or you will not live long nor will you achieve the body or lifestyle you want to. It’s just impossible. That’s why IIFYM wont be around for too much longer, in my opinion. Flexible dieting is smart and the biggest proponents of this will tell you that 80-90% of your diet should be whole foods filled with nutrients. Where as the ‘IIFYM Guys’ will tell you to “Just hit your macros and you’re good to go, bro”.
What about gut health? Micronutrients? Disease prevention? I’ll just stop now before this turns into a massive rant… Today this is about cardio, not nutrition.
Cardio alone can help strengthen our heart and lungs, recovery (muscle tissue, nervous system, etc.), reduce stress, reduce risks of heart disease and types of cancer, improve metabolic rate, increase our bone density, may improve sleep, and obviously help weight loss – which can also improve a massive list of other health benefits as well.
But just like it can help us with all these things, it can also have a negative effect when done too often. Just like everything in life, some is good but that doesn’t mean a lot is great.
HOW MUCH CARDIO YOU SHOULD DO.
Because I know there are people wanting to lose a lot of weight, wanting to lose the last 5-15lbs, people who just want to be healthy, and people who want to get big ALL reading this… We’re going to start on the macro level.
Everyone, no matter who you are or what your goal is, should be striving to move daily. This means walking and striving for 8-12k steps per day.
This may cause you to take the stairs or park further away more often, or it may cause you to actually get up and go for a damn walk once a day. Either way, the body is designed to move and move well – unfortunately the planet slowly lost sight of that in most parts of the world.
If you want to be healthy, this alone will help.
If you want to lose weight, this alone will burn more calories.
If you want to get big and gain weight or muscle mass, this will also help your recovery allowing you to train more often and/or train harder – not too mention it will help eliminate excess body fat WHICH is proven to help build muscle mass.
[ At the end of the day, everyone is still individual so even though this article does break down everything you need to know to plug in for yourself – sometimes there’s more to fat loss and seeing awesome results, than simply adding cardio. Click Here for a Free Strategy Call where we can break down what you specifically need to see the results you’re looking for. ]
Now, lets take it to the next level… So everyone should be walking somewhere between 8-12,000 steps per day, now lets move onto fat loss specific (remember before adding in more cardio, hit your steps – that’s already a small addition).
Because I have no idea who’s reading this and what their lifestyle is like, I really can’t give a for sure recommendation of how much cardio you should be doing.
What I can say is that you should be doing it weekly no matter what and it likely falls in the 1-6x per week category. I understand that’s a big range, but lets look at how this could be broken up.
3×30 Min LISS Per Week For Fat Loss
5×15 Min LISS Per Week Post Workout Recovery/Fat Loss
4×20 Min LISS Per Week Post Workout Recovery/Fat Loss
3×5 HIIT Intervals Per Week For Fat Loss/Performance
2×30 Min LISS + 2x 5 HIIT Intervals Per Week Fat Loss
6×20 Min Daily Walk Outside Meditative/Fat Loss
10×10-15 Min Pre (5) and Post Workout (5) LISS Warm Up/Cool Down
As you can see, there is a TON of ways we can implement this in and tons of goals attached to them. There is no one-way to do this, cardio is cardio and they’re all beneficial.
Now what has been said by some of the smartest cardio guru’s out there is that both HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and also LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio is needed for overall health AND performance.
They both have massive benefits for boosting recovery, optimizing body composition and health, and literally increasing our life spans as humans. Yes, cardio helps us live a lot longer – proven by studies – and I don’t know about you, but my life lasting longer is more important than a 6 pack…
But in the mean time, I do want a solid 6 pack too. So I’ll keep grinding the cardio out.
So at the end of the day, you’ll be the only one to decide when and how much cardio you can and should be doing. But either way, the fact of the matter is that you should be doing it.
WHAT TYPE OF CARDIO IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
The simple answer is always both and always will be both. No matter who you are or what your goal is, doing both is going to provide the biggest bang for you buck from a health, performance and fat loss perspective.
In fact, LISS works best when done in accompany of HIIT and HIIT works best in accompany of LISS.
See the body is a very adaptive species and it is constantly striving for homeostasis, which means it wants to adapt and stay the same. It doesn’t like change. By that I mean, it doesn’t want to lose body fat OR build more muscle mass (I know, stupid body).
So by doing 30 Min of LISS for every single cardio session, week after week, the body will start to adapt and it may not work so well anymore. So when we’re looking at the long term, doing a little bit of both is likely to be the best.
When we talk contest prep or photo-shoot diet/training – it’s a different story as we need consistent metrics, but again that’s not lifestyle nor is it life long goals. It’s a temporary thing, 6 months at most in some cases.
So to conclude this little section, lets just say you should be doing a little bit of both and I’d split it up according to your goals.
If your goal is general health, I’d suggest about a 50/50 split.
If your goal is fat loss, I’d suggest about a 60/40 to 70/30 split of HIIT to LISS. HIIT has a little more bang for its buck and a little more ability to play with variety of how it’s being done. Therefore making it more difficult for your body to adapt or get used to it.
You can manipulate intervals, equipment and modalities, sets and reps, rest periods, etc…
With that being said, if all you do and all you’ve done for the last year is HIIT for cardio – I’d suggest the same 60/40 or 70/30 split but complete opposite. Change it up a bit for a while and give your body some LISS.
In my experience, when someone never does any LISS and only does HIIT – adding some LISS works really well to break the plateau and burn some extra body fat, not too mention it gives the body more change to recovery which may very well be the reason the body stopped progressing in the first place.
If your goal is building muscle mass and/or gaining weight, my recommendation is slightly different and difficult to determine…
If you’re using it as a means to recovery better and promote health while on your gaining phase, then I’d simply recommend doing some LISS throughout the week. Could be riding the bike or going on a walk for 20 min or less. This is not really a means to burn a ton of fat, but really just to keep fat from accumulating while you’re gaining and keep you healthy.
If you’re using it as a means to burn fat or keep as much fat off as possible while gaining because you struggle in staying lean, especially while in a gaining phase, then I’d recommend adding 2-3 HIIT intervals per week – either post workout as a finisher, at another time of day from your workout, or on your days between the workouts. Then just maintaining your step count per day as a way of staying healthy and active.
WHAT CARDIO YOU SHOULDN’T DO.
[Picture Credit -> Skittles Commercial…]
This is the last part of the blog today, because I figured I’d finish it off by steering you away from the not-so-helpful types of cardio and break down exactly why that is.
Rule Numero Uno -> do not do cardio that hurts, aches, creates pain or dysfunction, or that you just generally do not like or hate with a passion.
I don’t care how jacked Johnny from around the corner is because of his crossfit workout and ketogenic diet, if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle or creates any form of pain in your body or life…. THEN DO NOT DO IT.
Just like your genetically gifted friend who drinks a beer a day and stays lean because he “Jogs a few miles after work” every day… If jogging hurts your knees, which is pretty common since you’re literally pounding on the joint repeatedly – but that’s another rant…. THEN DO NOT DO IT.
I’m not hating on crossfit, jogging, beer, or ketogenic diets. I’m simply saying that…
Anything that doesn’t work for you, will not work for your results either.
That being said, the most common cardio that just generally doesn’t work for people is going to be MISS (Moderate Intensity Steady State). Although it does have it’s place, but that’s going to be in the obese population or those looking to cut a significant amount of fat or weight and it should be done on an elliptical or stationary bike – running on a treadmill, or outside, in a MISS fashion is a joint destroyer for the majority of people.
In these cases, it can be a useful calorie-burning tool – but it should be done safely and on it’s own day, not as a post workout or two-a-day session. The reason is simple, it’s draining and will likely need recovery just like a normal workout.
Which is another reason why I’d prefer 90% of my clients to be strength training, even if it’s just bodyweight. It’s better on the joints, builds muscle, and in the end burns more calories and fat as well.
See with HIIT and LISS, it can be done post workout or even at a separate time of day (I suggest splitting cardio from training 4-6 hours if doing so) without having much negative recovery effects at all. In fact, in most cases it can actually promote better recovery (LISS specifically) and/or muscle protein synthesis (HIIT specifically).
So what else is there? We covered the first, being anything that just sucks and doesn’t mesh with your lifestyle. And we covered the second, being MISS…
Walking is great. Hiking is great. Pick-up games of sports are great. Swimming is great. Rowing is great….
The next and final one isn’t really cardio; it’s more of a “blend” or better said… it’s an “attempt to blend”. Let me explain.
We have strength/resistance training and then we have cardio. We go heavy and build muscle/strength and we focus on caloric burn. But when we mesh the 2 together, we fail to successfully do much of either.
It’s the same concept as when someone wants to get huge and burn fat at the same time… You’ll get better results focusing on one more specifically, then after accomplishing it slowly working towards the other goal.
Benching heavy, frequently and with a lot of volume builds a big bench press and a big chest. Benching lightweight really fucking fast doesn’t replace cardio. It likely just fucks up your shoulder health and fails to build much muscle, as there’s likely zero real tension in the muscle.
“But if you’re taking really short breaks, you’ll sweat and that means you’re burning fat… Right??”
Uhhhh…. Not really, bro. Sorry. In fact, sweat has less to do with burning calories and way more to do with salt levels, hydration, and genetics. But that’s neither here nor there. Back to cardio.
See there is a time to increase the intensity and when doing more safe movements, things like KB swings and push ups, you can really push the tempo your working at and decrease the rest periods – that burns a lot of fat. But that literally is HIIT cardio.
Meaning after your strength session, you could do a 10 Min E.M.O.M. or 10 swings and 10 push-ups. That’s a cardio session in itself and falls into the post workout HIIT category.
See where I’m going with this?
You should plug that in, program it, and watch your results week after week. Progress slow down and weight stopped dropping? Cool; change the movements, add 2-4 reps each, or add 4 minutes to your E.M.O.M. Maybe you just add a LISS session in there to bring your caloric deficit down a bit further.
The overall concept of blending things together just usually leads to injury, becoming overly fatigued, or not building much muscle mass. Now, if you’re someone who wants to build no muscle at all – then I’d actually suggest adding in some Met-Con style conditioning and focus on that more than lifting or strength training.
But for the majority of guys reading this, we want to build as much muscle as possible naturally while staying as lean as possible OR we want to burn as much fat as possible while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible.
Both of those goals require strength training and lifting weights pretty frequently.
The thing about cardio is… it’s kind of a can of worms. Everyone has different opinions here and at the end of the day, it all works.
But what science tells us and practical experience hundreds of guys just like you and me proves, is that LISS and HIIT are both very beneficial for not only fat loss but also recovery and many health measurements.
So in my opinion and hopefully yours after reading this, we all should be doing a bit of both.
If you’re still stuck with your results, can’t seem to figure out how to program all this, nutrition is the actual problem, and/or you would like to experience what REAL Accountability and Association is like and can do to transform your physique – Click Here Now and hop on a Free Strategy Call with me within 24 hours.