Here we are again talking about everyone’s favorite training modality, cardiovascular exercise. Surely we can’t say enough about how much everyone enjoys cardio, right? Okay, I know most people don’t really like doing cardio, especially in the lifting community. Bodybuilders begrudgingly engage in cardio in order to speed up the fat loss progress. Powerlifters avoid it at all costs unless they need to make weight for a meet. Perhaps the only people who love both lifting and cardio would be the CrossFit community, but they’re already a wacky bunch as it is, right?

Despite the general disdain for cardiovascular exercise, there are some great benefits no matter what goals you have. I have written about the benefit of cardio in the past, so I won’t touch on the “why” behind engaging in cardio regularly. However, since we already outlined the reasons why you should be doing cardio, it would be prudent to let you know which types are best for you. The usefulness of each style is going to vary depending on the goals and preferences of each individual. Additionally, each style of cardio presents its own set of pros and cons. If you are looking to add some cardio to your routine, you’ll want to become familiar with these pros and cons. That way, you can make an informed decision to add some cardio that will help you rather than hurt you.

 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Many people know about HIIT given its popularity among fitness enthusiasts. This style of cardio features short bursts of all-out effort (10-30 seconds) followed by several minutes of recovery. Your body has to spend a considerable amount of energy recovering between those all-out efforts. Essentially, you are producing so much effort in that short burst of exercise that you burn a ton of calories despite the long rest periods. Many people enjoy this form of cardio due to its similarity to resistance training, along with its shorter time commitment. This makes it a popular pick among bodybuilders and powerlifters.

Paul Revelia
@paulrevelia demonstrating a parachute sprint

Here are some of the pros:

  • Increased Fat Oxidation [2]
  • Increased Metabolism/Caloric Burn for remainder of day (EPOC) [3]
  • Smaller Time Investment (10-20 minutes)
  • More “Exciting” Form of Cardio

Here are some of the cons:

  • Highly Taxing on the Nervous System
  • May Inhibit Recovery (especially during fat loss phase or contest prep)
  • Too Hard for Less Experienced Exercisers
  • Higher Risk for Injury for Certain Modalities (sprinting in particular)

 

Steady State Cardio

This particular style is probably the main reason that so many people have such a negative view around cardio. As evidenced by the name, steady state cardio requires you to sustain a constant pace/effort over a given period of time. Running at 70% effort for a total of 45 minutes would be a good example. The goal here is to not take any breaks throughout those 45 minutes such that you are constantly exercising at the same effort. This creates a robust effect on caloric expenditure as well as cardiovascular health. Steady state can be a great resource when applied correctly. However, other forms of cardio may be more enjoyable while providing similar benefits.

Biolayne - Kill the Cardio?

Here are some of the pros:

  • Robust Cardiovascular Benefits [7]
  • Improved Mitochondrial Health [6]
  • Less Physically Taxing on the Body
  • More User Friendly for the Beginner

Here are some of the cons:

  • Can be Boring and Mentally Challenging
  • Greater Potential for Interference with Hypertrophy and Strength Adaptations [8]
  • More Time Consuming
  • May Lead to Quicker Metabolic Adaptation
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