Cardio is great. I love me some cardiovascular training. Why do I love cardiovascular training, you ask? Excellent question. Here’s why…

Because it’s simple. Cardio is the easiest way to get us off our ass and get our heart rates elevated. It’s why the American Heart Association recommends 30 minute walks. Because it’s ACCESSIBLE. This is a big win. We need to get off our asses. We need to get our heart rates elevated. Cardio is the simplest way to make it happen.

Cardio training is also excellent for stress management. We have to be mindful of how much we stress our system – more is not always better. With the constant pressures of modern life – career, relationship, caregiving – aggressive exercise (like resistance training and HIT) can torch an already exhausted system. Cardio, however, can be just the right amount of wrong, ultimately aiding our ability to focus, relax, and recover. After a tough week, a Saturday morning jog can feel like a big ol’ cup of sunshine.

There are also some unique heart health benefits to cardiovascular training that we DON’T get from higher intensity training. This is pretty cool: when we exercise at higher intensity the heart beats so fast that the left ventricle can’t fill up completely between beats. At slightly lower intensity (ie cardio), the left ventricle is able to fill up completely. With the magic adaptive strategies of the body always at work, the heart adjusts to this stimulus and grows in capacity, improving its ability to pump blood with each contraction. This is a very good thing indeed and can markedly improve our cardio engine.

Okay. So cardio is lovely and will forever remain the cornerstone of a balanced routine.

All that said, cardio has its limits:

From an exercise science standpoint, traditional cardio utilizes movement with a limited range of motion at a relative low intensity over a long period of time. Think…walking, running, biking, spinning. All awesome activities, in their own regard. But when we analyze the movement through a human kinetics lens, we’re doing thousands of repetitions in a limited range of motion for a long time.

Let’s paint in broad strokes. On average, we take about 2,000 steps per mile (walking.) 2,000 repetitions per mile. That’s a lot of reps. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say we utilize 20º of hip flexion and 10º of hip extension (individual results vary.) Not exactly an impressive range of motion.

THE BEATLES Iain Macmillan

(Just an old photo my dad had in his basement showing some hip flexion and extension. I dunno, maybe they’re his buddies.)

The same holds true for spinning. Ultimately, we only use about 45º of hip gesticulation during a pedal stroke. (That’s right…gesticulation.) Again, there are various factors that affect this, including saddle height, saddle-to-handlebar drop, fore/aft position, torso angle, etc., etc. But 45º of hip gesticulation just isn’t gesticulatory enough.

Lance hip anglePhoto cred (minus the cute little arrows): Bryn Lennon, Getty Images

For comparison – a full squat. Ass to grass. When done properly, we’re using our full range of motion. ALL OF IT. Depending on our mobility and individual anthropometrics, that’s, like, 122º of movement at the hips. NOW WE’RE TALKING.

arnold squat

Looks like Arnold knows how to squat.

When we train a full range of motion, we get strong in a full range of motion. When we train a limited range of motion, we get weak outside of that range of motion. Nobody wants weakness in their life. You don’t need that shit. When we pound a limited range of movement, we also get tight outside of that range. Our exercise should foster mobility, not inhibit it.

As if weakness and tightness aren’t bad enough, the repetitive nature of cardiovascular training tends to bring with it overuse injuries: stress fractures, achilles tendentious, patellofemoral pain (runners knee), ITBS, shin splints, plantar fasciitis – it all plagues the cardio army. Any time we do thousands of repetitions, day after day, week after week, our body eventually starts to get angry.

Plus, and perhaps worst of all, cardiovascular training doesn’t have the same metabolic advantages as resistance training. Heavy lifting, like other forms of high intensity activity, ruffles our system quite a bit. This is beneficial because the body, in its constant fight for homeostasis, has to work overtime to get back to equilibrium. We call this metabolic disturbance and specifically EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which ultimately revs up the metabolisms for as long as 72 hours and account for hundreds of additional calories burned.

Too much cardio will a soft body make. 
 Too much resistance training- trick question, no such thing.

Okay, okay. Let’s calm down for a second and make sure we don’t take this claim too far. Cardio DOES NOT blow. Cardio can be awesome. DO IT. USE IT. LOVE IT. But the big take-home here is two-fold:

  • Cardio is not the best way to lose weight and look sexy.
  • If we are going to do cardio, it is exceptionally important for us to balance our training and bolster our body with exercise that makes us strong, resilient, and mobile.

We want it all. We want stamina. We want strength. We want mobility. We want to be injury-free. We want sexy. We want an impressive left ventricle. And that means cardio has its place in our routine. But if we rely too heavily on cardio, and totally neglect resistance training, we’ll never get there. So, if you’ve been cardio’ing for a while, you need to ask yourself, “Self. How can I get MORE from my exercise routine?”

The formula is pretty simple:

  • Increase the intensity (to make you strong + lean.)
  • Increase the range of motion (to make you mobile.)
  • Increase the hotness (to make you- you get the point.) 

Allow me to formally introduce you to resistance training.

Quite simply, resistance training is the MOST EFFECTIVE way to change our body. It’s harder. It’s heavier. It’s interesting (there’s tons of variety.) And it’ll help make our body sexy.

  • IF YOU DO A LOT OF CARDIO, YOU NEED TO BE LIFTING WEIGHTS.
  • IF YOU DON’T DO A LOT OF CARDIO, YOU REALLY NEED TO BE LIFTING WEIGHTS.
  • IF YOU WANT TO DRAMATICALLY CHANGE YOUR BODY, YOU NEED TO BE LIFTING WEIGHTS.

But the same thing that makes resistance training excellent also makes it intimidating. The gym world is a vast and confusing landscape of meatheads, tough guys, and protein farts.
“Gee, I wish I had a few fitness buddies who were smart and fun and not bad looking. Who could get me into a weight room with a comprehensive and easy-to-understand program. Something that would, you know, make me sexy. Like, really really sexy. Yea…I’d like that.”

Ask and thou shalt receive…

beachfit-ebook-collage

===> THE BEACHFIT TRAINING PACKAGE <===

 

*Cover photo by Howard Schatz, from his 2002 book, Athlete.

Drop your comment/questions below and I’ll get back to your shortly. I promise.

LIKE THIS POST? Join the #BandanaArmy. We'll teach you how to fight tigers*.

* Do not fight any tigers, ever.

  • jennaparks

    #BandanaArmy is the best army, is there any other kind of army?? NOPE. hashtagarmy.

    • BandanaTraining

      #Army

  • Tiara Soemakno

    Awesome info! I really need this Beach Fit program especially after my vacation debauchery 🙁 Can always count on #BandanaArmy to write the best articles !

    • BandanaTraining

      @tiarasoemakno:disqus – Ha. Yea…”vacationy” is my new favorite descriptive. As in, “No dear. I’m not saying you look chubby, I’m just saying you look a little vacationy.”

  • Hugh Liftsalot

    Great article, love the way you write but I’m really only commenting to win a bandana #bandanaamry

    • BandanaTraining

      I can’t blame you. Bandanas are so trendy these days.

  • Dane

    Terrific article! I love the details especially outside of the “sexy” benefits of all types of training. You’re ability to take science, and make it accessible for all is uncanny. Thank you! #BandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      What a nice thing to say. Thank you Dane.

  • Katrina

    Love the article! Thinking I need to get Beach Fit and join the #bandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      I think that what you’re thinking is some smart thinking.

  • Pratik Patel

    Love the article but here’s my opinion..
    For women:
    Weight training = hot, sexy, curvy.
    Cardio/Aerobics = sweet, petite and delicate looking, gently curvy but fit and strong.

    For men:
    Weight training = wrestling god, alpha male, major league player.
    Cardio/Aerobics = athlete / sportsman

    • BandanaTraining

      Ha! And who WOULDN’T want to be a wrestling god, ammiright?

  • Pratik Patel

    Also, given the fact that one should have a little bit of cardio and a lot of resistance/ weight training, is there a specific combination like cardio before resistance or the other way around or perhaps cardio on one day and resistance on another day. What I mean to ask is, how should I combine them or space them out for maximum sexy in me. I am having a hard time losing my midsection fat and haining muscle in arms and legs. I am the human egg right now and would really love some input to change it. Right now, I am resistance training with moderate weights for about an hour three times a week. I know its not adequate for my goal but I am trying to set out more time for making myself the sexy alpha male…

    • BandanaTraining

      There’s no wrong answer but there are certainly some helpful guidelines. Combo training (cardio + weights in the same workout) can be super effective, especially if time is limited. Separating cardio and weights allows you to milk the workout for a little more. I find that having a PLAN makes a world of difference because you know exactly what you should be doing, exactly when you should be doing it.

  • Maria Johnson

    #BANDANAARMY gota start someday … Never to late just to tired …:-9 do it anyway!

    • BandanaTraining

      heck yea. I like the enthusiasm.

      • Maria Johnson

        Where to start… Light lots of reps or heavy … I have to read more… Keep posting . I’ll catch on

        • BandanaTraining

          3 sets of 15 reps with paired-up, non-competiting exercises is the perfect place to start…which I guess is why we started there with Phase 1 of BeachFit. =)

  • Tim Bell

    I am real tempted to pick this up but (and you alluded to it above) life, stress, work, relationships, therapy all tax my CNS so much that recovery takes me so much longer. Example: I went on a 20 min run yesterday and did some core, my cortisol levels/stress were so high that i was short of breath and could not come down after my workout. Sleep was not possible! I dunno if doing a program is feasible! Hmmm. But I have responded well to programs (P90x etc.). In any case, great article here! #BANANDAARMY

    • BandanaTraining

      If you’ve responded well to P90X, then you should get a lot outta BeachFit. But might also be beneficial for you to look into some calmer, more therapeutic activities like restorative yoga or tai chi. #BandanaArmy

  • Csaba Privóczki

    Nice article bro! Usually I do weight training in the winter (building the muscles with more whey-protein intake) so in the summer I shape the winter-muscles. I also make mainly cardio in the winter, I don’t like to run or do HIT in the heat. Here in Europe the weather is now crazy, not exactly cardio friendly, just sweating without doing anything 🙂
    For me what worked pretty good in the summer “get in shape for the beach” program is combining kayak (1-1,5 hours 4 times a week), calisthenics (20 mins after kayak) and yoga (40-60 mins 1-2 times a week). Lost some weight and got lean in the meantime. Awesomeness.

    From September back to the gym and start lifting weights.

    • BandanaTraining

      Sounds like you’ve found a routine that is working well for you. Keep kicking ass Csaba and thanks for reading.

  • Shelby Madison Hodges

    Awesome article! Now maybe I can get some of my chick friends to actually lift with me!

    • BandanaTraining

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Thanks for reading. =)

  • Pingback: Ernährungs- und Fitnessblogs am Sonntag, 26.07.2015()

  • And this is why I joined the #BANDANAARMY -the bit about the left ventricle was seriously fascinating.

    I’m on a bulk right now, and recently added a small amount of cardio to my routine- it was a push/pull/legs split, but I just added a 4th, cardio-focused workout to help maintain insulin sensitivity and prevent fat gain. It consists of alternating sprints on an elliptical machine with short bursts of pushups, dumbell swings and planks, for about 15 minutes. I do it once a week along with the other 3 workouts- what do you think of a routine like that?

    • BandanaTraining

      Sounds pretty damn solid. Now the trick is mixing it ever month, so you continue to make loads of progress. Keep kicking ass and thanks for reading John.

  • TR-WA

    As always, your articles are the perfect combination of humor, science and motivation.

    What type of equipment does Beach Fit require? We don’t currently have a gym membership so curious as to what this will entail.

    Thanks and keep it up. #BandanaArmy

    • BandanaTraining

      Thanks for the kind words. To answer your question: a lot of effort was put into making BeachFit interesting without making it too complex. So all of the equipment is standard issue gym shwag – DB’s, BB’s, KB’s, cable stacks, physioballs. Like any program, if you don’t have some of the available equipment, the game becomes replacing the exercise with something that mimics the movement pattern…in other words, is kinda-sorta like it. But if you have the basics, you won’t have to substitute much.

    • BandanaTraining

      Wanted to let you know that we’ve updated BeachFit with an entire Home Gym section that modifies every phase so that all you need are dumbbells. Boom-shaka-lacka.

      • TR-WA

        Awesome! Going to check it out. #BandanaArmy

  • Love this line!!
    IF YOU DO A LOT OF CARDIO, YOU NEED TO BE LIFTING WEIGHTS.
    IF YOU DON’T DO A LOT OF CARDIO, YOU REALLY NEED TO BE LIFTING WEIGHTS.
    IF YOU WANT TO DRAMATICALLY CHANGE YOUR BODY, YOU NEED TO BE LIFTING WEIGHTS.

    • BandanaTraining

      Thanks George. Glad it resonated. Keep crushin the game.