• Best form of cardio for bodybuilding?

    Posted In: Contest Prep  /  Posted On: 08.06.12

    Ah yes cardio is quite possibly one of the most dreaded words in a bodybuilder’s vocabulary.  We will happily push ourselves through gut wrenching weight training workouts, but the thought of cardio sends many bodybuilders scurrying for cover like cockroaches in a lit room.  One reason being that most cardio is about as fun as watching clothes dry and more importantly, we are told often that cardio can cause muscle loss.  This has led many people to suggest completely abolishing cardio from the bodybuilder’s arsenal.  For an ectomorphic bodybuilder in the offseason, that is probably realistic and in many cases, advisable.  But in the case of people  with slower metabolisms this may not be as feasible.  So how can we properly implement cardio without it killing your gains?

    The practice of combining resistance training with cardio is scientifically termed as ‘concurrent training.’  While concurrent training has been shown to be superior to endurance training alone for enhancing muscle mass and strength (duh), it has been shown to significantly hamper optimal strength and hypertrophy when compared to resistance training alone.  Several studies have demonstrated that optimal gains in muscle mass and strength are obtained by strength training alone compared to combining strength training with endurance training (1).  However, a recent review of the scientific literature on concurrent training conducted by Dr. Jacob Wilson of the University of Tampa and several of his collegues identified some interesting variables that can affect the way in which your cardio training affects your strength, hypertrophy, and body composition responses to resistance training.

    The first variable that was examined was the modality of cardio training.  That is, did the type of cardio performed actually make a difference on strength and hypertrophy responses to training?  What he found may shock you.  The type of cardio performed made a HUGE difference in terms of proper strength and hypertrophy development in response to resistance training.  Endurance running or walking caused significantly more decrements in the development of optimal hypertrophy compared with cycling (1).  This is also in accordance with a study that compared cycling with incline walking on a treadmill (a very common cardio practice in bodybuilding community) and found that cycling was significantly better for achieving hypertrophy when combined with resistance training compared to incline treadmill walking (2).  The researchers concluded that the differences observed here were likely due to the fact cycling requires more hip flexion and multi-joint activation of muscles involved in exercises like squats and leg presses compared to endurance running and walking which are not similar movements to any leg exercises that produce muscular hypertrophy.  It should be noted that sprinting is quite a bit different than endurance running and is superior for muscle mass due to the hip flexion required during sprinting, making it more similar to exercises like squats & leg presses vs. jogging.

    Indeed, the analysis concluded that the effects of cardio on strength and hypertrophy are body part specific.  That is, lower body cardio did not have negative effects on hypertrophy and strength development of upper body parts.  Additionally, it has been demonstrated that rowers who added high intensity resistance training (with rows) to their protocol had similar strength and hypertrophy gains compared to a group of non-rowers who followed the same resistance training protocol (3).  Therefore, in terms of the best types of cardio, it appears that one should use cardio equipment that most closely mimics movements performed during resistance training.  Additionally, while long distance running and walking result in strength and hypertrophy decrements, sprinting does not, most likely due to the fact that sprinting requires significant hip flexion and is more similar to multi-joint leg exercises.

    The other major variables the researchers examined were the intensity and duration of cardio work and how it affects strength and hypertrophy when combined with resistance training.  They essentially demonstrated that the longer the bout of cardio was, the greater the impairment of strength and hypertrophy.  Interestingly, they found that short, high intensity bouts of cardio like repeated sprinting actually had no negative impact on strength and hypertrophy development.  This is most likely due to the increased hip flexion as discussed above and because high intensity sprinting or cycling causes your muscles to make high velocity contractions, activating fast twitch muscle fibers compared to endurance cardio work which most likely will not activate the large fast twitch muscle fibers.  Now I know some of the ‘broscientists’ out there will pout and stomp their feet claiming that high intensity cardio causes muscle loss.  Since these guys don’t like real science, I’ll keep it simple for them.  Go down to a track meet and check out the legs on a sprinter and then check out the legs on an endurance runner or power walker and tell me which type of cardio is better for optimizing muscle.

    Perhaps even more interesting was that further analysis of the literature on cardio demonstrated that not only was short duration, high intensity cardio better for strength and hypertrophy, it was also superior for fat loss (1).  I know the broscientists will continue to spout the value of low intensity cardio to maximize the percentage of calories burned from fat, but to quote the researchers “maximizing intensities, which are ideal for fat metabolism during an exercise, may not be ideal for maximizing fat metabolism in the long term. Research indicates that increases in metabolic rate after exercise increases exponentially with increasing intensity.”  So while the broscientists slave away walking their hard earned gains off for hours on a treadmill, I’ll be doing high intensity sprinting or cycling, building more muscle!

    References

    1)     Wilson JM, Marin PJ, Rhea MR, Wilson SM, Loenneke JP, Anderson JC.  Concurrent training: A Meta-Analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises.  J Strength Cond Res. 2011 (in press).

    2)     Gergley JC.  Comparison of two lower-body modes of endurance training on lower-body strength development while concurrently training.  J Strength Cond Res.  2009 (3):979-87.

    3)     Bell, GJ, Petersen, SR, Wessel, J, Bagnall, K, and Quinney, HA.  Physiological adaptations to concurrent endurance training and low velocity resistance training. Int J Sports Med 12: 384–390, 1991

     


     

    • http://www.denisebatalha.com Denise

      GREAT article, Layne! With science to back up claims to boot!!

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        glad you liked it!

        • gino

          Because i refuse to allow my genetics to stop me from being a heavyweight boxer

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        thank you!

        • GEORGE

          Layne,

          Another great read, thanks much. One question; I’ve always been concerned about when to do my cardio. Of late I have trying to have a 48-72 hour gap between a squat sessions and a cardio workout (normally sprints from 90 seconds to 2 minutes). Some of my training pals have suggested doing the cardio right after the squats. I’d appreciate your input.

          Thanks

        • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

          I think after would be fine… you are already warmed up but not sore yet

    • Brett Wilson

      Great article and thank you for taking the time to create and share your analysis on this topic. I would love to see an analysis like this include stairs/step mills.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1388121125 Casey Patterson

      Great article

    • Alex

      Excellent article. Love sprint work cardio. Basically anything to make cardio shorter is cool with me!

    • Bill

      High intensity cardio has a significant impact on the nervous system right?. You make it sound like a lot of articles lately that there are no drawbacks whatsoever to this type of cardio. Also, unless you make it low impact high intensity you’ll put much more stress on the joints/body by sprinting. As one gets older (and you won’t know this for another 25 years, trust me), you cannot take the additional pounding let along potential to PULL a muscle with sprinting and high intensity cardio. There are drawbacks no doubt — every protocol has it’s good and bad. Time to cover both sides of the coin Layne.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        what data do you have to support this contention? If you are worried about wear & tear on the joints, then I would suggest doing low impact cardio sprints on the elliptical and stationary bike

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        and you really think that 6 30 seconds sprints are going to be more difficult on the nervous system then slaving away on a treadmill for an hour? Because a recent study comparing the two protocols showed twice as much fat loss with 6 30 second sprints compared to an hour of incline treadmill walking.

        • Josh

          Layne,

          Where could I find that study?

          Thanks, Josh

        • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

          Which study Josh?

        • Bill

          Again, you not addressing the drawbacks. ALL protocols have them. You’ll find out when you hit your mid 30′s Layne. What you are doing now that seems fine won’t be when you hit your 40′s and 50′s. You will likely pay for those hump back deadlifts you are doing btw.

          The issue I have is that you think it is black and white and that there are no drawbacks to this HIIT…based on a few “studies”. Post back in 10 years and let’s see what has happened then with your training. ;)

        • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

          Very classy Bill. I’m not going to drag this argument through the mud. I have laid the data out for you, if you would like to provide ACTUAL data that demonstrates that high intensity cardio/sprinting produces a greater incidence of injury than endurance exercise, I would be very open to having a discussion with you.

          As far as the little deadlift dig please read: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/a_strong_case_for_the_rounded_back_deadlift

        • Josh

          The study comparing 6 – 30 seconds sprints to 1 hour on a inlcine treadmill. So many people get caught up on how long they are on the treadmill, why waste a hour when you can be more effective in 3 minutes. lol.

        • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

          well you aren’t going to do it in 3 total minutes, you need at least 3-4 minutes between sprints to recover, but still much faster. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Run%20Sprint%20Interval%20Training%20Improves%20Aerobic%20Performance%20but%20Not%20Max%20Cardiac%20Output.

      • khareen

        As the years progress its only obvious there will be signs of wear and tear, it’s called aging for a reason, HIIT has been proven better for fat loss and muscle retention. But, as you get older then the level of intensity should reflect your age and not go try to run sprints at 50 like how you were running at 20.. just my two cents.

        • Dan Close

          Actually.. If read t-nation CT actually has been doing sprints and dropping weight just as fast as he did ten years ago… Sprinting in burst would probably be better as get older as you only need a small window of a few minutes (not including rest to sprint) .. rather than needed to be able to stand an hour wear and tear daily..

    • http://intense-fitness.net/ Josh

      Great article! HIIT is the way to go, no need to waste hours on a treadmill!

    • Stephanie

      What a fantastic article with a great explanation of the results! It’s great that you are breaking through so many of the “broscience” techniques with actual scientific explanations and data to support your theory. I agree that though High intensity intervals are more difficult than the typical low intensity steady state cardio that I often see people doing in gyms, it has been more effective for me during the current split that you have me doing. Besides, it beats the boredom of monotonous time spent on the treadmill. It gets me even more when I see people who think they are doing more by adding an incline, and then hold on to the top of the treadmill because they are afraid they are going to fall off. What a way to defeat the original purpose of adding an incline in the first place! Definately a great read layne!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=51001421 Stephanie Szpila

      Great read on interval cardio!

    • http://Eatmore2weighless.com Kiki

      Love this! Thank you for always presenting the facts, backed by science..

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=679570625 Kimo Rady

      Great article. but how long should i do this in the session like 30 min. or more… and for how many days in a week?

      • Kevin

        Also wondering what kind of basic protocol you would subscribe for someone who would want to add this to a lifting split a couple times a week to induce a bit of fat loss. The 6 30 second intervals or what?

    • Brian Park

      Hey Layne,

      Great article! I know you mentioned that it is advisable for an ectomorph bodybuilder to probably not perform cardio in the offseason, but do you think that HIIT can be beneficial for someone like an ectomorph? I wonder this because if performing HIIT can improve your cardiovascular performance, can it enhance your performance in weightroom? Which I am guessing that can lead to overall more muscle building gains, with an increase performance with resistance training, and of course a proper nutrition. You’re a guy all about science, so I would like to know what your take on my hypotheses is? Thanks, and keep up the posts all of them have been great reads.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        I think HIIT is ok for an ectomorph but I would just keep it to very short duration… maybe 3-4 20 seconds sprints

        • Al

          i heard Somotypes dont exist , that Metabolism isnt determined by somenes Bone Structure , is that True?? . . The example people make with that is if an over weight person who may be considered an Endomorph suddenly loses LOTS of fat and becomes skinny , is he now a Ecto?

        • Gino

          hey im planning on doing 7-8 hours of cardio as much as ali and tyson but i want to also be heavyweight, im ecto

          my plans werre to do only compound exercises, start doing weights 4 times a week for 2-3 years,

          heavy weights low sets, then my diet is all high high calorie fats and 60% carbs 15-20% protein, yeah i know my protein is low but i need to since im ecto to gain mass while cardioing

          my weight is 63kg at 174cm 6% body fat

          i was 70kg at like 13% body fat

          then after 2-3 yrs when i hit my max weight , Im 90kg at 174cm at 6% body fat
          but I dont want to train 4 times a day, instead change it from 4 to 2 once i reach my max weight. so i can add more cardio

          4-5 days cardio 2 days of weight training for maintaining my max weight

          also i have to eat more than the normal average person since ecto burns more calories and i have no body fat to stop muscle burns so as long as i restore the calories i lost with insane cardio, like eg. eating extra meals > average person who is meso or endo, shouldnt i be able to stay at a high muscle weight

        • gino

          i just restore the calories i lost by eating more when im hungry after doing so much cardio

          because i want to do Sprints all day to get MAX SPEED, and heavybag all day for MAX POWER

          so like 70% boxing 30% bodybuilding

          not 50/50

          is it possible?

        • gino

          Because i refuse to allow my genetics to stop me from being a heavyweight boxer

        • gino

          Because i refuse to allow my genetics to stop me from changing lightweight class and becoming a heavyweight boxer

    • Lewis

      great article, Layne!I appreciate your boldness, despite the criticism these truths can provoke. Thanks

    • Meagan

      Layne,
      Great advice! I’m an ectomorph, and I strongly BELEIVE in HIIT… Any cardio session that last longer than 30 mins will have me losing weight, but I’ve found I’m actually gaining when I sprint :) also I’m in week 4 of PHAT training and my legs are AWSOME!

      • gino

        what about if you just replenish and eat more calories after 30 minutes, then do it agan.

        shouldnt you maintain your weight if you keep eating extra meals so you burn calories instead of muscle?

    • http://www.bodyrecomposition.com Lyle McDonald

      http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/sprinters-vs-marathoners.html

      This is a stupid comparison, Layne. You should know better.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        Ok Lyle, in that link you are saying it’s foolish to compare 400m runners with marathon runners. I would not consider 400m a sprint. 400m is certainly aerobic. I also never implied you could not lose fat with endurance running. I’m considering optimal fat loss with the caveat of maintaining maximal muscle mass.

        • Yael

          400m would be more lactic aerobic. Either way it is still a foolish argument of extremes, similar to ‘clean’ eaters comparing diets of chicken and broccoli to one of all poptarts.

        • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

          The example is extreme, and I’m NOT suggesting that if you do endurance work you will wind up like a twig if you are concurrent training. The point was moreso visual for those ‘bros’ who say ‘I don’t trust studies’ or all such nonsense. I’m always searching for what is optimal. So can you do low intensity work and lose fat? Sure, absolutely. But if you are wanting to optimize muscle mass, strength, and fat loss (at least in terms of metabolic adaptations and effectiveness relative to the time you put in), then this is what I recommend based upon consensus of the data on concurrent training.

        • Yael

          lactic THAN aerobic…

    • Lee

      I’m confused!

      I’ve watched a few dvd’s by the big bodybuilders, coleman, cutler, etc. They all perform LSD cardio on a treadmill, stepper, etc.

      There have the lowest bodyfat and largest muscles of any “athlete” so how come LSD cardio works for them?

      Lee

    • Bill

      http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/sprinters-vs-marathoners.html

      This actually covers it without bias. And, Lyle does not even point out the potential drawbacks which can still occur by tweaking and pulling muscles as one drawback. You cannot say the chances of injury are not equal when you are going balls to the wall no matter what machine you are on.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        I wouldn’t disagree with anything Lyle wrote in that article, but he’s talking about 400m runners (400m is not a sprint btw, the best in the world run this even in around 45 seconds and for most people it will be well over a minute… this is not a sprint) vs marathoners and most of what that article talks about is bodyfat levels. I would never argue that you can’t get lean doing endurance exercise, certainly you can. But you can lose more fat with less time investment with high intensity intervals and you will also have better muscle maintenance.

    • http://www.jmaxfitness.com/ Jason Maxwell

      YA BUDDY! Layne Norton changing the way things are done. I was wondering if any bodybuilders were ditching LSD cardio for more intense methods.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=22910662 Martin Acevedo

      What about Jump Rope intervals?

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        Would be brutal, you’d probably have to put the rope down and walk at times but it definitely could be used

    • MaxBigTX

      Ha! Bill is spot on, shame he is proving you wrong on your own site. I’ll stick to my treadmill.

      • Jack

        So you’re saying a PhD, Bodybuilder, is totally wrong. He obviously knows what he’s doing and what he’s talking about. And yeah, you’re a broscientist.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        So, in your mind all someone has to do to win a debate is say that the other person is wrong and then make claims without backing them up with any evidence? You must have scored very high in debate class :)

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        FYI a search on pubmed (database containing virtually all scientific studies from the last century) for the terms “injury sprinting endurance running” yielded 2 results, neither of which were studies that showed differences in injury incidence.

    • nick

      How is he proving him wrong he just made a bland statement saying that you cant claim that chances of injury arent equal with no empirical evidence to back up his claim?

    • Bill

      It wasn’t a dig or a diss on the deadlifts. I’ve been around a long time and now a couple articles appear by people justifying round back deadlifting and so it’s ok? I’ve been around for over 30 years and this includes powerlifting back when it wasn’t so fractured in the 80′s. This comment was for your own benefit not a dig. Don’t get into self deception with the strength devil sitting on your shoulder right now. Been there, done that. Common sense now will save you later…but that little devil is POWERFUL dude. Beware. :)

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        Bill, the article was written by an expert on biomechanics. rounding lower back certainly is not good, but rounding the upper back appears to not have the same negative impact. And the way in which you worded it most certainly was a dig.

      • Dean

        Love armchair quarterbacks who have been there done that but can’t back up a single thing they say with any kind of credible information.

        • Scott

          So true… I suppose we just let them learn the hard way and never see their true potential.

          Great article Layne… love the supporting scientific evidence! Leaves nothing but the TRUTH and cold hard facts

    • Nicolas

      Hi Layne, when following a 4day ub/lb split , would you advise the sprints after a leg workout 2x a week or on a rest day?

    • Pat

      I am a 52 year old and I sprint weekly with no injuries and there is no doubt sprinting has helped me lean out. When I was 40 I ran two marathons and spent a lot of time in the orthopedic surgeons office or with a physical therapist. Plus, my body composition changed to skinny fat. I have no scientific data to back this up only an N=1 experiment and based on my experience, sprinting (including hill repeats) is King.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        Thanks for your input Pat, certainly injuries are possible with any activity, but I have found that distance runners have had many more overuse injuries than people who sprint, but again that’s just my observation and I’ve done both (ran cross country in high school)

        • Marc D

          The fear of injury is very real, and I do agree more real for us older guys. But I believe the issue is not so much sprinting itself that risks injury, instead it is doing something your body is not yet ready for. I couldnt jump from doing only squats at 50 reps to doing much heavier squats for 3 reps, nor could I go from endurance cardio to a full bout of intense sprinting. Like many before me, I’ve tried (both with lifting and sprinting) and endured several injuries thanks to doing more than my body was ready for. But taking time (a frustrating reality as I work thru my 40s), gradually working my way up to higher intensities and higher volume, sprinting is perfectly fine on my body. Man I wish I could jump into new things like I could when I was 20! Thanks for the science Doctor, great info and great facts!

    • Mikael Larsson

      Way to rustle them jimmies, Layne!

    • Kevin T

      Layne is such a gentleman for even using his time to answer foolish questions, much respect. I’ve been doing weights and HIIT for pretty much all my life and it has been the only cardio i need for quickly losing fat and endurance in boxing.

    • Mark Smith

      Great information. This site is the bomb, it really takes all the googling people have been doing and puts it in one stop shopping! Go Layne.

    • Jorge Geller

      Thanks for the article layne!
      So dude, whats the optimal time for sprinting and rest between then?
      Could you give us, some ideas about how this could be done?
      Thanks bro!

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        10-30 second sprints with 2-4 minutes rest between each

        • Perp

          Even better reason to include strongman work. Farmer walks just recently became a staple for me.

    • PB

      Dr Layne, thanks for the great article, I am a Sports Science student myself.

      Could you expand a bit on why you think the researchers said ‘maximizing intensities… may not be ideal for maximizing fat metabolism in the long term.’ ?

      Should ‘… increases in metabolic rate after exercise increases exponentially with increasing intensity’ be seen as a negative effect?

      Thanks for reading Dr. , appreciate it!

      • Chris L

        I believe “maximizing intensities” refers to using an intensity that burns the most fat, while you are doing the actual exercise. Like when walking at an incline on the treadmill with HR at 60-70% of max your body burns primarily fat for fuel. When you do sprints your body primarily uses ATP and glycogen stores in the muscle for energy – not as much fat. So even though your burn more fat during performance low intensity exercise, if you do HIIT you will burn more fat over the long run.

        • PB

          Thanks for your explanation, everything makes sense now, cheers bud!

    • Jake

      Comparing endurance runners and sprinters with bodybuilders preparing for a contest illogical.
      Endurance runners and sprinters eat high carbohydrate high calorie diets to support their training, bodybuilders preparing for a contest have to reduce their calorie and carb intake. Totally different situations!

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        You are missing the point. I laid out very precisely why high intensity is better for bodybuilders in a methodical scientific manner, however there are plenty of people who will always say ‘I don’t care about studies’ so I gave them a visual.

        And what evidence do you have that sprinters eat drastically different than endurance runners? You are reaching

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649686820 Raul Ra So

      i think that the picture of the marothonist is not very real. I have seen maratonists with very much muscle and ripped.

    • AJW

      I am wondering at what point is a HIT cardio program too strenuous for a natural bodybuilder. For example- I have a friend who has a 20 min treadmil program where you alternate between walking at 6-10 degree inclines and running at 7-8 mph on 4-5 degree incline. The walking AND running periods are both about 90 seconds. To me that seems like that might be too intense to be optimal for a natural bodybuilder. Thoughts?

      • AJW

        Forgot to mention. The walking is at 4-4.4 mph! Each time you switch from walk to run the incline is going up slightly and the mph. you have to be in great shape to even complete it. Seems like too much

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        that is NOT HIIT. Not even close

    • mike kelly

      Hi Dr Layne, loving the broscience smashing im just wondering if you still do any kind of endurance cardio at all and i im looking to get optimal fitness for boxing which is 3 x 3 min rounds so what kind of cardio would you recommend.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        then I would do 3 X 3 min hard cardio session

    • http://studentoffitness.blogspot.com Bryce

      Layne,

      Great article on why intensity trumpts! I had a side thought, and forgive the length, but…

      Part of your proposed mechanism for why cycling was more conducive to lower body mass gain was Range of Motion. You said part of the reason sprinting was superior could also be it’s increased range of hip flexion/extension. While cycling has less hip extension than running/hillwalking, it still has much greater flexion, and thus this might explain things. Sprinting obvious has more extension than running/hillwalking.

      I think it’s an interesting theory, but I wonder if there isn’t an alternate explanation for why the cycling was less catabolic, per se, for lower body mass than the walking or stair climbing.

      I’m not sure if it has ever been demonstrated, but many of us have a ‘broscience’ instint (a ‘brostinct?’) that running makes you small because your body doesn’t want to carry the extra weight. Perhaps our bodies are sophisticated enough to carefully moderate joint stress and send catabolic signals to our muscles when a certain level of joint stress is reached?

      So according to my hypothesis, the running and walking would lead to catabolism because you are supporting your own body’s weight. Is it possible that the cycling proved more conducive to lower body mass gain because, while it illicited a similar cardiovascular response to hill walking or running, it did so without forcing the body to load it’s own body weight with every step.

      Of course there is resistance when cycling, but perhaps our nervous systems and musculoskeletal feedback mechanisms can tell the difference between an external resistance against which we are pushing, and the resistance of our own body weight. In response to the former, it signals anabolism to deal with the “threat” by growing stronger to push against it. In response to the latter, though it might signal anabolism in an atrophied individual, it has the option of signaling catabolism to deal with the “threat” of one’s own bodyweight when it detects that lack of strength isn’t the limiting factor. I’m suggesting that perhaps our bodies do a cost benefit analysis of the added bodyweight associated with muscular hypertrophy, which isn’t too radical an idea.

      If this is the case, than hypertrophy conducive cardio would generally be things like rowing and cycling.

      Sprinting is different, because as you probably know, it’s very low impact compared to long distance running, since your center of mass isn’t bobbing up and down as much. Furthermore, sprinting involves maximal voluntary muscular contractions, which would likely be anabolic, at least in comparison to the innumerable submaximal contractions of hill walking or running.

      Again, sorry for the book and thanks for the post. I meant it in no way as a critique of the idea that sprinting trumps long slow cardio, as I firmly believe that. The ramifications of this theory might instead by that if you’re trying to get as big as possible, you might want to stay off your feet as much as possible, and then sprint everywhere when you do have to move ;-).

      best, Bryce

    • Frank

      I’m not beholden to any method, I sprint sometimes, I walk others. But I think the problem with these studies is that there are simply too many variables in regards to: macros in diet, age, weight, body fat, existing muscle mass, other anaerobic exercise, etc to be accurate.

      What were the protein intakes of the test group, during HIIT and LISS? Were they in a fasted or fed state when they exercised? Were they eating at a caloric deficit? A caloric surplus? What was their frequency weight training? Would heavy weight training plus HIIT lead to catabolism?

      Every year someone comes out with a study refuting a study from the year before and in reality, much of this science is theoretical at best. Too many factors.

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        In what way do you think those variables would have affected the outcomes? How would they change them? Please postulate a hypothesis. It’s very easy to just toss out variables without actually giving any reasoning why they actually apply. I can do that all day.

    • Jared

      Hey layne,
      Came across your website because I’m currently in prep for a show. I hate LSD because it kills my joints. HIIT has been great for me and has saved me a but load of time. My question is since in a little over 5 weeks out is it ok for me to do 3 – 4 set 10-30 sec sprints with proper rest every day up until my show? I still have more body fat than I would like at this point so I was wondering if I should do more than 3 to 4 sets?

    • George

      Interesting notion if cardio done only on the muscles used in strength training will not impair muscle growth. If that was true, doing a light set of 30-40 reps along with a heavy set would not interfere with strength progression.
      In cardo training, I thought that the mitochondria increase the enzymes responsible for fat and carb energy utilization (thus protein completion from fast and slow muscles). I assume slow twitch strength gain is from expansion of the cells and not O2 uptake (cardio).

    • How

      This one will be way out and left feild but I have a totally untested theory except on myself. If youre going to do cardio do it on its own rather than after a workout. Although youre already in a glycogen depleted state and more likely to burn fat youre also more likely to burn muscle similarly to in the morning (on an empty stomach) after a workout.

      As a matter of fact depending on what youve eaten and when youve eaten relative to your cardio session I think that the decrease in hypertrophy effect by short endurance (non-interval) cardio would be reduced and maybe become similar to the interval training results.

    • Mark

      Great article again!

      I was wondering about the role of upper body cardio…You discussed about lower body cardio like sprints and cycling. What should one do with upper body? You mentioned rowing, should I do row sprints while dieting? Or just running sprints? What about swimming, wouldnt that be a good whole body cardio?

      What do you think? Only sprinting (running) while dieting or additionally rowing, swimming or lightweight pulse increasing excrcises like circuit training ( for example, bodyweight pull-ups, push-ups, stomach crunches etc.).

      -Mark

    • Benyn Pottinger

      Layne,

      Love the article – as all of your quality work!

      You have left one question lurking though – what’s the best time?

      Would you recommend the optimum time would be post a resistance training session? Because..
      a) the body is warmed up
      b) glycogen stores are lowered, promoting fat oxidation therefore maximising fat burning (guessing)
      c) nutrition would be already supporting the catabolic affect on the body and would be nourished before, during and after the exercise (following your cutting guide)

      Love to get your valuable feedback :)

    • http://ericbachperformance.com Eric

      Great summary of the evidence!

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    • http://www.jmfitnesstraining.com Jean-Marc

      Hello,

      Very interesting article indeed, I have used interval training to prepare for bodybuilding shows and got great results, I think it also a great psychological approach. When even the thought of being on a treadmill for one hour got me tired I did only 20′ of interval training.
      Now a question regarding low intensity cardio, obviously lots of bodybuilders still do it. I doubt Jay Cutler was doing HIIT, and if you look at those guys videos they all seem to be doing long walks on an incline treadmill. Should we assume that because of their metabolism, years of training and steroids use the approach in the article does not apply? Or is it they they are training so hard already that it doesn’t really matter? Or perhaps they are doing so from habits? It seems that HIIT is being used by “natural” bodybuilders, like Skip LaCour, but not by the Mr Olympia calibers. Any thoughts?

      • Daniela

        I’d also love to hear his response on this one. I always hear this arguement and constantly have it with my boyfriend who’s a bodybuilder.

        Im always talking about HIIT but he is always goes back to saying, you don’t see jay cutler or phil health sprinting.

    • Jason

      Hey Layne,

      Awesome article and I am a huge fan of Muscle College Radio, you are absolutely killing it with top notch info and I am very appreciate of you doing all this.

      Very quickly – I am yet to hear from you Dr. regarding the effects of HIIT on CNS fatigue – performing such high intensity on regular basis must take quite a toll on overall recovery and gym performance without proper training volume adjustments?

      Thanks Layne,

      Jason.

    • Jason

      Great read and thanks for debunking broscience non-sense.

      I just saw your Youtube video on this subject.

      Right now im doing my first cut and I recently started doing HIIT three times a week for 20mins, followed by steady state for another 20mins(3.5mph@130HR or below). I am for 400cals burned per session. I really enjoy HIIT, it makes the time go by so fast. A friend of mine gave me this idea, as he says its “Strategic Cardio” and it works very well for burning fat and won’t be detrimental to muscle(assuming diets it order).

      I just want to ask: Is 20 minutes of HIIT followed by 20minutes of steady state too much?

      Thanks

    • Julianna Halterman

      Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) is physical exercise of relatively low intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process.Aerobic exercise and fitness can be contrasted with anaerobic exercise, of which strength training and short-distance running are the most salient examples. The two types of exercise differ by the duration and intensity of muscular contractions involved, as well as by how energy is generated within the muscle..

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    • Myer Cooper

      I used to be worried about muscle loss when doing cardio with my weight training, eventhough my diet isn’t perfect, I stay relatively lean and don’t lose any huge amounts of muscle mass with around 10 minutes of running 3 days a week and weight training 4 days a week…….

      • myer cooper

        but having said that, ive learned the hardway about “overtraining”, and delt with injuries and mass loss due to over doing it. I know it all varies from person to person, but for me , what works good so far is hitting each body part twice a week, at 45 minutes to an hour, workouts, (16 to 20 sets a workout)……and on the days I don’t lift, run for 10 minutes or so….basicly the length of about 4 songs on my Ipod lol……

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    • http://www.definitivephysique.co.uk Mike Hoad

      Great article. Please continue the fight against Broscience :)

    • mirin gaines

      who needs cardio when you got trenbolone, nomsayin Layne?

      • http://www.biolayne.com Layne Norton

        since you live in las vegas I’m sure you’ll come say hi at the Mr. Olympia and accuse me of felonies in person right?

    • Sara

      Hi Layne,

      Started reading the comments to try and find the info I’m looking for but got too annoyed by all the bickering to continue. So, if this question has already been asked please just direct me to the answer and forgive me for not wanting to wade through people’s derogatory comments and lopsided opinions to find it; are there any benefits to fasted cardio? And, how do you feel about multiple cardio sessions in one day? I have no problem building muscle but find it very hard to lose fat, so I am turning to cardio and a better diet to try and remedy the situation. Any information you have will be greatly appreciated!

      • Ryan Simon

        Hi Sara,
        If you already finding it hard loosing body fat and you are doing multiple sessions of Cardio a day. I think the problem could be more than what typew of cardio you are doing. Reference some of Layne’s Metabolic damage videos and you should have an idea.
        To answer your question, HIIT trumps fasted cardio,everytime.

    • CM

      would you suggest doing high intensity interval cardio after your workout or would you suggest doing it at a different time of the day? also how many times a week would you suggest someone could do this without it being too detrimental to leg workout performance?

      Thanks

    • Carolyn

      Layne,

      Thanks for the great info. I’m not a bb, and don’t aspire to be one at the moment but you really inspire me. The fact that you use science to support the info you give out and that you’re insanely honest is what sets you apart from the gurus I see all over social media. I have a question for you; If I’m not looking to compete but just to lose a substantial amount of body fat and become as fit as I can be at the moment are HIIT sprints the way to go? I did six 30 second sprints with 4 minutes rest in between each sprint this morning.

      Thanks for inspiring and motivating thousands of people. Keep doing what you’re doing!

    • Daniela

      Hi Layne,

      Great article!

      I have a few factors I think need to be taken into account though, in reading some of your responses, which I was hoping you could explain further.

      Ok, so above you mentioned to some guy that doing sprint training after weights is fine, however what about the whole thing about the stress hormone cortisol?? i’ve read a few studies all pretty much coming to the conclusion saying that at approximately 40 minutes of High intensity training ( resistance or cardio) that cortisol ends up having a catabolic effect. So wouldn’t it be better to do sprint training in a seperate session if we are aiming to keep as much muscle as possible? Which im presuming everyone reading this thread would want. Can you please explain further why you suggested that.

      As for myself, I am competing for the first time and I am always in two minds about which type of cardio would be better for me given the fact im on low carbs and want to keep as much muscle as possible. I was wondering if you would still prescribe HIIT over LISS training given the low carb factor and I was also wondering out of fasted cardio, normal LISS ( mainly tredmill/outdoor walking) or HIIT training would be best for fat loss with minimal muscle wastage.

      Your response would be much appreciated.

      Thanks heaps,
      Daniela

      • Ryan Simon

        I wrote an esasy previously, but then my phone battery died.
        Cortisol is poriduced when you workout aswell, so we should stop lifting with Hi intensity aswell? the human body is also hell of a machine, sure cortisol will be released at higher levels during the start but the body then adapts. Also if the proper intra workout supplementation (i.e Leucine with BCass) is consumed , it should also help.
        HIIT is proven to preserve the most amount of muscle.
        Introduce HIIT slowly, about 10-15 mins , twice a week, and then you can bump it up to 3-4 depending how you are feeling. (Just realised,You have probably already finshed your pre-contest prep)

    • trtt

      hi

    • Erik

      Hi Layne, thank you for all your hard work.

      If you have time, just 2 quick questions:

      - I assume it is best to do the high intensity sprints/cycling away from heavy weight sessions, would it be OK to do them first thing in the morning (assuming I work out in the evenings)?

      - Do you have any special nutritional suggestions, post the high intensity in the morning?

      Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and respond ;-)

      Keep up the good work!

      Erik

    • Alexander

      Great article, thanks Layne! I have a question for u, what do u think about TIIM rowing(20sec fast/20sec slow intervals for 20 min) ? Do u think its going to be beneficial ?

    • Bill

      So the chronic interference effect of concurrent training exists, and high amounts of aerobic activity can be a detriment to optimal strength/hypertrophy gains. And it’s worse for the running modality because running is more dissimilar to traditional resistance training, thus providing less synergistic benefits. Check me if I’m wrong Layne, but isn’t that a contradiction? High regards, please keep up all the great work.

    • http://Hornfitness.com Jay Horn

      Good article, Layne

      Seems some of these guys on here have missed the boat….

      As far as Bill’s reply about impact…

      A stationary bike works just fine, guy.

      I mean damn.

      Ya don’t have to sprint to receive the HIIT benefit…

      I have had a few fat loss clients with knee surgerys… After I’ve strengthened them up a bit guess what I tell them to do?

      HIIT in a stationary bike.

      Funny thing happens, they keep getting stronger with less pain as time goes on.

      Funny thing…

    • Buh

      The long slow cardio proponents seem to be hitting on the health and performance tradeoffs of optimal hypertrophy. Someone who lifts maximally and sprints maximally without waving intensity is much more likely to cumulatively destroy their joints, or push themselves into overtraining. With that considered, the argument is not so much whether HIIT is optimal for hypertrophy, but whether the cost of that hypertrophy is acceptable. Joint pain is not the only problem with this kind of training. Neurological fatigue is a major limiting factor for lifting gains. This relates to the different goals of each camp: optimal muscle mass vs. optimal health and performance. Neither group is wrong.

    • Andy Kelly

      Hi Layne,

      Would a hiit type form of circuit training or for instance a typical CrossFit style WOD come under this category of being suitable to go along side strength/hypertrophy training?

      Reading articles by the likes of Brad Scheonfeld he doesn’t seem to be a fan of hiit training and strength training for optimal gains. He says “HIIT can hinder muscle development. It saps energy and is particularly taxing on central nervous system.”

      Any thoughts?

      Andy

    • Kennethhw

      Hello Layne, great articall

      I have been searching for your opinion on something for several days now on the Internett but cant find it.

      So it would really mean alot if you could help me.

      What part of the day do you think is the best time to do HIIT. Right before the strenght workout, right after or another time of the day ?

      And would you du the HIIT on the same muscle that you are training that day or a completly other muscle ?

      At the moment i using P.A.T.H

      Thank you som much for your time.

      Best regards from Norway ;D.

    • Masta solanas

      The benefits of HIIT is just burning more calories in a shorter amount of time?

      If two groups of people created a 500 calorie caloric deficit from cardio, one group using HIIT and the other using steady state, would their body compositions differ after a month? Of course, you’d have to factor in EPOC when creating the deficit.

      Morning steady state cardio works on the belief that one is glycogen depleted in the morning, hence they are burning off pure fat. Yet the calorie burn from one hour of steady state is only 300 calories, there is 3,500 calories in one pound of fat which isn’t that much, that is if you’re burning off pure fat in the first place. If you HIIT carb depleted, you’re mostly using glycogen, but if you have no glycogen.