Cardio for Strong People

by Dr John Rusin T-Nation

Here’s what you need to know…

  • Pounding away on a cardio machine floods your body with inflammatory hormones and kills your body’s natural anabolic response to training.
  • Finishers are quick, movement specific, and the best way to burn fat without the repercussions of long duration cardio.
  • Finishers are the strong person’s cardio. They increase work capacity and maximize your hormonal output.
  • If you’re used to doing the treadmill or bicycle after strength training, stick with those machines, but use them in the cardio finisher style.
  • Add these finishers to the end of your lifting workout. Unlike traditional cardio, your gains will correlate positively with your intensity.

You Can’t Outsmart the Human Body
“If some is good, then more is better!” That mentality has been proven false time and time again, especially when it comes to the body.

The human body is the finest piece of biomechanical engineering this world has ever seen. Let’s not be foolish enough to think we can outsmart it.

A prime example of the “more is better” mentality concerns the idea of “getting your cardio” in after a strength training workout. This notion needs to be eradicated from this earth! Cardio, cardio and more cardio has become a commonality among athletes and trainees in the last decade and a half.

It doesn’t matter if you crushed weights that day, plopping 45 minutes of elliptical time on top of it must be better, right?

No, it’s not, and here’s why.

Extra Cardio is a Bad Idea
If you’re attempting to balance your metabolic energy systems, burning a few hundred extra calories after throwing around some serious weight has its advantages.

But for the vast majority of people, that extra few minutes spent pounding away on a cardio machine floods your body with inflammatory hormones, kills your body’s natural anabolic response to training, and sets you up for a long, hunger-filled afternoon.

I’m by no means anti-cardio. Like any fitness strategy, cardio has its time and place. The thing we can’t overlook is the shocking number of new research studies showing the long-term negative effects of cardiovascular training.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “How the hell am I supposed to get my heart rate up while staying relatively lean and strong without killing myself, killing my muscle tissue, or just killing my body composition as a whole?”

The answer is cardio finishers.

Finishers: Cardio for the Strong
Finishers are what separate a good training session from an epic training day. They’re quick, movement specific, and the best damn way to reach your body comp goal without the repercussions of long duration, low intensity, steady-state cardio.

If you’re used to doing traditional cardio like the treadmill or stationary bicycle after strength training, great, let’s stick with those machines. The comfort of being on a machine that you’ve spent countless hours on in the past helps you mentally accept the real conditioning that’s about to happen.

For a jogger or biker, the first session of cardio finishers will change the way they see the treadmill or exercise bike forever!

How to Program In Cardio Finishers
If your goal is to increase your work capacity, along with maximizing your hormonal output after a strength training session, cardio finishers can fit nicely into any existing program.

Below I’ll outline two ways to use this method, one for the bike and one for the treadmill. Here are a few ways to implement them into your routine:

Conditioning Specific Day: Bike Sprints
Lower Body Lift: Bike Sprints
Upper Body Lift: Bike Sprints or Treadmill Sprints
Total Body Training: Treadmill Sprints

Tack the finishers below onto the end of your workout and push it as hard as you possibly can. Just remember, the harder you push, the more you’ll get out of it. Unlike regular cardio, your gains will correlate positively with your intensity.

Just remember, if you’re still able to stand, you didn’t push it hard enough!

Incline Treadmill Sprints
Beginner: 9.0-10.0 mph
Intermediate: 10.0-11.0 mph
Advanced: 11.0-12.5+ mph

Beginner: 1.0-3.5%
Intermediate: 3.5-6.5%
Advanced: 6.5-8.0+%

Work: 10-25 seconds (variable dependent on speed/incline) at your top speed

Rest (walk):
Beginner: 45-60 seconds
Intermediate: 30-45 seconds
Advanced: 20-30 seconds

Beginner: 4-5
Intermediate: 6-7
Advanced: 8-10

Total Time: 4-10 minutes (dependent on above variables)

Bike Sprints
Beginner: 8-10
Intermediate: 10-15
Advanced: 15-20

Work: 10-30 seconds (variable dependent on resistance/speed)

Rest (slow pedal):
Beginner: 45-60 seconds
Intermediate: 30-45 seconds
Advanced: 20-30 seconds

Beginner: 6-8
Intermediate: 9-12
Advanced: 13-15

Total Time: 4-12 minutes (dependent on above variables)



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