Cardio is one of the most controversial words in fitness.
Depending on who you talk to, the range goes from only cardio to none at all. Whatever side that someone is on is the side that they are going to relentlessly defend.
The reason for this is that cardio is misunderstood.
One of our athletes is currently back into training. He is looking to lose almost 60 pounds by the next soccer season. He is combining training with going to see a nutritionist.
One of his doctors told him to do more aerobic training based on what he wanted to accomplish and his blood work. This is a fine recommendation because anyone that has gained 60 unwanted pounds may have some health concerns to clear up.
The only problem with the recommendation is a lack of clarity and definition. He doesn’t know what to do, how much, or how often.
Then the question comes to me and he mentioned that he isn’t getting much out of distance running because of the weight and de-conditioning.
My response is that there are 8 different ways to train the aerobic system so there are other options. Distance running is just one.
The body has three energy systems. The aerobic system is just one. What makes the aerobic system unique is that it is fueled by oxygen. The other systems produce energy without it.
Some (general) characteristics of the aerobic system are as follows:
- Low intensity
- Short rest period
- Long duration
This is what we learn in school. These recommendations are obviously geared towards long slow distance (LSD) training.
Joel Jamieson, author of Ultimate MMA Conditioning, breaks down the energy systems in ways that I hadn’t seen before. Just the aerobic system has 7 different methods of training. Some strategies go against all of the above guidelines.
What makes the aerobic system work is oxygen. Oxygen becomes a fuel after ATP and glycolysis run out. If those substrates are not replenished then the body turns to oxygen since there is an endless supply.
That is how we can do high intensity or short duration work and have it be aerobic activity.
Lets look at the different types of aerobic training (info from Jamieson’s book)
1. Cardiac Output
Heart Rate: 130-150
Duration: 30-90 minutes
This is classic cardio or distance work.
2. Cardiac Power Intervals
Duration: 60-120 seconds
Rest: 2-5 minutes
This is a shorter duration method but the total time it takes makes it aerobic.
3. Tempo Method
Method: Resistance Training
Duration: 3-4 exercises with a 2 sec lower and 2 sec hold
4. High Intensity Continuous Method
Duration: 10-20 minutes
Rest 5-10 minutes
Intensity: Low speed, high resistance
Method: Spin bike, step ups
This is a good option for work capacity. Imagine hitting the bike on a high resistance for 10 minutes.
5. Threshold Training
Intensity: +/- 5 of anaerobic threshold
Duration: 3-10 minutes
Threshold training might be a little difficult because you need to know your anaerobic threshold for intensity.
6. High Resistance Intervals
Rest: until HR comes down to 130-140
Method: Sprints, sled pushes
This is a really good one because the intensity is high, the duration is short, but there are a lot of reps to increase the whole duration
7. Aerobic Plyos
Work: 8-10 explosive movements
Methods: Bounding, pushups, MB throws
8. Explosive Repeats
Duration: 1-3 exercises
Rest: 8-10 minutes
Methods: Squat jumps, explosive
All of this info can make aerobic training really complicated. I like to look at it a different way.
If you hate distance running, you do not actually have to do it to train the aerobic system. You can use other approaches and still get the desired training effect.