Love it or hate it the majority of us striving for physical perfection will have to indulge in some form of cardio vascular activity at some point or another. There is a very small minority of genetically gifted individuals who can get away with doing very little cardio or none at all, but like I say that is a very small minority. As for the majority of us mere mortals with average genetics we will have to devise some kind of relationship with cardio to attain optimal aesthetics. Our genetics and body type will typically dictate type and duration of cardio we will need to adopt to shed body fat.
When deciding what kind of cardio, if any, is right for you there are a lot of variables to consider;
Time – how long have you got to get in shape
Body type – ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph
Goal – what kind of look are you going for
Macronutrient intake – The amount of food you eat along with your cardio regime will ultimately determine how you look
Lifestyle – Your job and daily activity may also be a detrimental factor in choosing the type and duration of cardio you will need to do.
Current weight training plan – how many days you are training, exercise selection and intensity will have an effect on calorie output.
Types Of Cardio
There are predominantly 2 types of cardio that body building and fitness athletes choose to get themselves in shape.
LISS – Low intensity steady state
LISS cardio or steady state cardio is done at low intensity and in a manner that is aerobic, meaning your heart rate will be steady and anything between 55% - 70% MHR (Max Heart Rate). Normally done for a longer duration as its low intensity aiming to utilise fat for fuel. The best time for LISS cardio is first thing before breakfast as this is when insulin levels are lowest, which is prime time for fat burning. The good thing about LISS cardio is its very versatile and can be done with no equipment at all or you can use virtually any kind of machine you want.
LISS is normally my choice of cardio when getting ready for a show or in the off season. I will use either the stair master or incline walking on the treadmill with full incline and at 4 Mph.
HIIT – High intensity interval training
HIIT is becoming more and more popular with trainers as time goes on, it’s a very effective way of burning fat and with session times normally last no more than 30 Minuets it’s a lot less time consuming that conducting LISS cardio. The body finds it a lot harder to adapt to high intensity training meaning it will constantly be effective. As the main aim of HIIT is to burn as many calories as possible during a session, your body will store less calories from fat. HIIT will increase your metabolic rate along with your insulin sensitivity meaning you will burn more calories while resting through the day and you’ll have better muscle glycogen uptake from the carbs you eat. Again this is type of cardio is quite versatile, for example you could do hill sprints out door or timed intervals on the static bike in doors. Another example is rowing machine sprints or timed intervals on the step mill.
I have made the mistake, as I’m sure many other people have of cutting cardio out completely in the offseason. At the same time I done this I increased calories slightly (as I was transitioning into an offseason) and I slowly watched my physique get dramatically softer over about 4 weeks. This was only a slight calorie increase but combined with cutting out the cardio it had a huge impact on my physique. The benefits of cardio or not just fat burning and aesthetics, cardio vascular activity is great for cardio vascular respiratory system which keeps our heart healthy. As previously mentioned it increases metabolic rate and insulin sensitivity which also aren’t just all about fat burning. Keeping these two in check during your off season will help you to utilise the nutrients you eat making your body a prime environment for growth.