3 Calorie-Torching Cardio Workouts for Serious Cuts
Ahh, the dirty C-word: Cardio.
Cardiovascular work is a mythical, often heavily debated form of exercise that get people as heated as Kanye West when he stormed the stage on Taylor Swift a few years back.
Some support steady state cardio almost as much as the Republicans support Hilary Clinton. (Not much, right?) While others utilize it to the point where cardio is viewed and leveraged as the only means to lose fat and improve health.
And this tension between extremes is an exhaustive battle that will never end.
Instead of getting caught up in who is right and who is wrong, using cardio based on needs rather than relying on what everyone else advises you to do is a far better approach.
Now, when you venture into the world of cardio and decipher which kind to do, Google will probably kickback more blue links about HIIT (high intensity interval training) than you can handle.
I’ll save you a ton of time and tell you what HIIT can do for you in a few sentences.
First, HIIT training gives you the most bang for your workout buck. With this type of cardio, you’re alternating between all-out efforts followed by a slow recovery period which has been shown to boost calorie burn, increase fat reduction, and induce a positive hormonal environment for building muscle.
The medium by which you use HIIT can be done in many ways: battleropes, hill sprints, air dyne intervals, row sprints, kettle bell swings, broad jumps. You get the idea right?
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But the intensity required to do HIIT presents a problem, especially if you’re a lifter who moves daddy weight in the gym.
When I’m strength training 5-6 times a week I often find it more probable for me to go get a tooth voluntarily pulled while I’m sedated than try to do a 30 minute HIIT session. And when I’m in a calorie deficit when trying to lean down, this also affects my recovery which limits my ability to do HIIT at the intensity it requires.
If you’re a lifter who goes hard in the gym, you know ripping hundreds of pounds off the floor, pressing the unforgiving bar off your chest and making the lift so you don’t get stapled to the floor in a squat takes a lot out of you when you’re training 5-6 times a week.
This puts us in a weird spot if we want to lose fat while we stay strong in the gym. The answer?
Low intensity steady state cardio, also known as LISS.
The Benefits of LISS, or Steady State Cardio
Now, in order to lose fat, you don’t necessarily need to do cardio. But cardio does does speed things up because it boosts total daily energy expenditure. But adding steady state cardio to your game does more than that, including:
Steady State Cardio Will Make You Healthier
Don’t forget, unless you are a competitor, this whole thing is called health and fitness.
Adding in LISS will work your hearts left ventricle, the cavity that pushes out blood to the rest of your body. This boosts cardiovascular health all while supporting additional blood flow to muscles and organs assisting in better overall health.
With Steady State Cardio You’ll Metabolize Oxygen More Efficiently
When you’re building size and strength, you’re not only packing on more muscle tissue and increasing neural adaptation, you’re also demanding that new capillaries are formed in order for new muscle to function properly. When you rely exclusively on HIIT cardio, you miss the boat on building a capillary support network for all the musicle mass you’re putting on.
Steady state cardio is superior for this reason. By adding in steady state cardio to your game, your body gets better at transferring blood to tissue because LISS increases capillary density. This allows more oxygen to be delivered to muscle cells which increases nutrient delivery. Essentially, this means more #gainz.
Steady state cardio allows you to expedite muscle recovery
When you lift, damage is induced the to muscle. And the soreness you feel 24-48 hours after you complete that last rep is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or the cool kids call it DOMS.
To quicken the recovery process so you can rebuild the muscle and get back in the gym is heavily reliant on a few things: How fast oxygen and nutrients can be shuttled into the damaged muscle and the rate at which the waste product caused by lifting is removed.
Therefore, LISS is a great tool to help your body repair itself. Since high intensity workouts cause metabolic waste to be built up in the muscle, the oxidative nature of LISS increases blood flow that assist in shuttling away these byproduct without causing further muscle damage.
Studies show that low-intensity work helps you flush out the soreness faster than taking a few days off from the gym. In other words, you recover faster, and going to the bathroom gets easier after leg day.
With HIIT evolving into a methodology with cultish like following these days, steady state cardio has taken the back seat, and in some cases thrown out completely from training programs. But the truth is that LISS has a solid list of benefits that come along with it. And, if used properly, it’ll always have a place in a good fitness program.
Having said that, I will say that I don’t love doing cardio. I don’t wake up jazzed about spending 30 minutes on a bike or walking on a treadmill. And I suppose, that’s ok. When the aim is to build your best body, you (and me) have no business spending several hours doing cardio everyday.
People with incredible physiques and the ones that coach and mentor them all base their programs around strength training. This goes for both men and women.
Cardio is a part of the plan, but it’s certainly not the foundation.
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So for me, and for most physique minded lifters, cardio is similar to having your ma tell you to eat your veggies at the dinner table when you were growing up. You don’t want to, but you know you should.
For that reason, I’ve made it a point to do everything I can to make cardio not as boring as watching paint dry. At times, doing cardio on a recumbent bike or step mill makes me question my existence. It feels like my soul is being slowly extracted from body as I watch the seconds tick away (that might be a little dramatic, but you get the point, and I don’t want you to feel that way when you do cardio).
Unfortunately, most people think LISS can ONLY be done on an elliptical, treadmill or step-mill. If you don’t mind watching horrible television on tiny screens on these machines than rock on. But if you’re looking for something different, your heart doesn’t discriminate when it comes to LISS. As long as you get into zone 2, which means 120-140 bpm for most people.
This is where adding in some creativity will preserve some of your sanity.
3 Cardio Workouts That Are Anything But Boring
You’ll always have the option to do conventional cardio. There is nothing wrong with it, and it serves the purpose. But if you need some variance, here are 3 cardio workouts you can incorporate into your training to boost overall health, enhance muscle gains, and improve recovery.
Cardio Workout #1
- Set a timer for 30 minutes
- Walk outside with a weighted vest for 5 minutes. (Take the vest off after the walk)
- Jump rope 100 reps
- Plank for 1 minute
- Banded good mornings 15 reps
Repeat until timer is up.
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Cardio Workout #2
- Set a timer for 30 minutes
- Walking knee pulls – With each step, you’ll pull your knee up to your chest region with assistance from you arms. No need to rush through these, hold the knee at the top for a 2 count each rep. Perform 20 steps, or 10 each leg.
- Kettlebell goblet pause squat – You’re not going for a PR here. Use a moderate to light load. Keep an upright back and hold the bottom position of the squat for a 2 count each rep. Perform 10 reps.
- Walk-outs – Start in standing position. Place your hands on the floor with a slight flexion in the knees. Keeping the knees at that position, walk out with your hands until you reach push up position. Once your hips are fully extended, reverse the motion and walk back up with your hands to starting position and repeat for 10 reps.
- Bike for 5 minutes.
Repeat until timer is up.
Cardio Workout #3
- Set a timer for 30 minutes
- Row for 5 minutes
- Sitting wall slides – This is an excellent upper body mobility movement that target the traps, rhomboids and external rotators. You’ll even get a good stretch in the pecs too. Start by standing against a wall with your feet shoulder with apart. Assume a squat position with your back pressed up against the wall. Then while holding that position, pace your arms on the wall (it’ll almost look like you’re doing a double bi-cep pose). To initiate the movement, slide your arms and hands up and out while keeping contact with the wall. Perform 10-15 reps.
- Defranco Pull Aparts – Joe DeFranco took the classic band pull apart and made it better. A lot people spend time on their front side doing dips, bench presses, dumbbell presses and push ups. And they forget that without a developed upper back all that work can create in imbalance. The DeFranco band pull apart hits all of the heads of the shoulder (front, medial and rear) along with all of the musculature that the traditional band pull apart would target (traps, upper back). You’ll take a mini-band and step into it with a close stance. Then you’ll grip the top half of the band with a grip just outside the shoulders. By standing on the band you create tension by initiating the movement with a front raise. The band should be just below your shoulders with your arms extended out and palms facing down. This motion will work the front delts. From here, you’ll keep tension and then perform a band pull apart by pulling your hands (and the band) away from each other without letting band break the plane below your shoulders. Be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades at the back the movements. Perform 10 reps.
- Sit ups (feet anchored) 15 reps
Repeat until timer is up.
I love these circuits because it serves the purpose of cardio without pummeling me into the ground. By using these variations, you can get into the appropriate heart rate zone and reap all the benefits. Going beyond the treadmill or elliptical give you a psychological vacation too. And, some of these movements serve as mobility work.
So for the physique based lifter, you no longer have to neglect the two things that are most often overlooked or misused: Cardio and mobility work. By using the three variations I gave you above, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
“Elimination of Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness by Pre-resistance Cardioacceleration Before Each Set. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.