To cardio or not to cardio

Discussion in 'Basic Training Principles and Methods' started by Randy, Apr 30, 2003.

  1. Randy

    Randy New Member

    I'm struggling trying to decide on what type of, if any, cardio to do that's not going to fly in the face of the HST philosophies. I'm on my SD preceding my first cycle now so I have to come to terms with this soon. I have been alternating HIIT with steady-state (~80% MHR) training for a total of 4, 30-minute sessions each week so I'm in pretty good shape for an old fart. I really hate to lose any ground there and I certainly don't want to add any fat but from what I'm able to conclude at this site, cardio is on the other side of the scale from hypertrophy. Being able to do things in life like running up a flight of stairs to get a forgotten article or dashing out to the car in the parking lot during a downpour without having to pant is something I can't sacrifice...not to mention the satisfaction of whipping up on high school and college kids less than half my age on the basketball court. Is there any hope of maintaining that conditioning, keeping the fat off AND growing muscle size? I would really appreciate some specific suggestions here.

  2. micmic

    micmic New Member

    If you don't do too much cardio, you shouldn't worry about muscle gains. There is some interference, but you can keep it confined. If you do 3 low-to-moderate intensity sessions per week or 3-4 HIIT bouts per week you should be able to combine the best of both worlds. Personally, I prefer HIIT. Training am/pm will also help with fat loss and may allow you to decrease cardio since it will boost your metabolism.

    Great feeling! But cardio or muscle, you needn't worry... if you can't outrun them, you can always beat the hell outta them :D
  3. stevie

    stevie New Member

    you dont have to go to THAT extent of sacrificing cardio for maximal gains.
    lower the cardio a little. Instead do two cardio sessions per week. One can be your HIIT, and the other your 30min at 80% MHR. On the other days, there is no need to be sedentary either.... go for a brisk 30min walk if you like.
    You will not loose the level of conditioning you currently have at all by lowering the cardio!
    As for fat gain, thats totally dependent upon your diet.
    perfroming HST will up your metabloic requirements. Two cardio seesions per week plus 3 HST sessions will mean if you want to gain muscle, you will probably have to eat a little more than you are doing at the moment (read the 'eating for size' article for diet guidance).
    But having said that, obviously if you eat more calories than you need, you will gain some fat. so you have to be careful and monitor your progress on a fortnightly basis.

    Invest in a set of scales, a measuring tape and a set of skin fold calipers. Using these three, you can detremine whether you are gaining weight, and how much of that weight gain is fat and how much is lean.
    If two weeks goes by and you have not gained a shred of weight, then add a couple of hundred calories to your daily diet.
    If two weeks goes by and you have gained 2lbs, but the skinfold/waist measurements tell you that over 1.7lbs is fat, you need to lower your calories by a couple of hundred or look at your training (you might not be adequately providing growth stimulus etc).
    If after two weeks you have gained 2lbs and the skin fold tells you that 1lb was lean, that is perfect (its unlikley you will do better than that).

    just keep a good record detailing everything, average daily calories for that week, HST details, amount of cardio performed. If you do that, pretty soon you will have a good idea of what makes you tick.
  4. Randy

    Randy New Member

    What do you consider low-moderate cardio micmic? Can you give me a % of MHR?

    If I reduce from 4 to 2 cardio sessions per week stevie, I know I'll add fat...that's one constant in this complicated equation with so many variables. I can't imagine the HST routine will be much more demanding than my old routine. I did a 4-day split with lots of volume and went to failure on absolutely every exercise. If I cut carbs to compensate for the reduced cardio, I'm afraid I won't have enough strength to get through the workouts. I eat clean as it is with little simple sugar in my diet (except for my post-workout shake), only eat broiled poultry/fish, high fiber veggies and EFAs from flax. Aside from whey protein shakes, that's about it. I keep the fat in check but there's always a small handful at my naval I can grab.

    Btw, my postworkout shake is comprised of 40 grams whey protein, 40 grams maltodextrin, 40 grams dextrose and a teaspoon of glutamine. I'm 186 pounds. Is this ok?

  5. micmic

    micmic New Member

    70-75% would be an all-around number, but it really depends on your condition. If I do anything less than 85% I might as well fall asleep :)

    Sounds ok. You could also take half of it post-workout and the other half an hour later.
  6. Cliner9er

    Cliner9er New Member

    Do a search on "post workout shakes". There are some very good threads.
  7. Randy

    Randy New Member

    70-75% doesn't do much for me either. Somewhere on this site, Bryan says to do cardio only on off days and a brisk, uphill walk should be the first choice...I'm very leary of this as I'm quite sure I'd take on fat if I was so inactive, not to mention loss of cardio capacity.

    Do you think there is a specific advantage of doing strictly HIIT and leaving other cardio behind. Maybe I could trim the cardio to 3 sessions if I do all HIIT. There is no way I can avoid doing cardio on the same day as weight training, though. Running/sprinting is my preferred cardio. Treadmills and bicycles hold no interest for me.

    I want to add mass to my legs and I think the experts believe that the muscle conditioning caused by running will make them less responsive to the HST ways..stuck between a rock and a hard place here.

  8. mikeh

    mikeh New Member


    I searched this site for a post called "visceral -vs- subcutaneous fat" and I couldn't find it :mad: however I did save Bryans answer :

    Bryan Haycock quote

    Lowering calories will have the greatest impact on viceral fat (inside your gut). Increasing your cardio will have a greater impact on subcutaneous fat.

    There isn't an equivalent study in men. Still, there are many studies on vesceral vs subcu fat cells to understand why this study found what it did.

    Visceral fat is extremely sensitive to lipolytic signals. Subcu fat is must less sensitive, with subcu fat on belly and lower body being even more resistant.

    So, when you cut calories, you will get a modest rise in lipolytic hormones etc even while at rest. However, these signals aren't strong enough to get subcu fat
    to be broken down. I'm generalizing here. Then, during exercise, you get significant increases in catecholamines which are strong enough to mobilize subcu fat.

    The same goes for putting fat back on. You will put fat back on viscerally first, then subcu.

    So, doing cardio on a low-ish fat/normal calorie diet will help to reduce subcu fat while helping to maintain muscle. Just starving yourself will deplete visceral
    fat, making you get rid of your gut, but you will struggle to really get "shredded" until you do more cardio...

    Once again, I'm generalizing here. This all has to do with the sensitivity of fat cells to lipolytic signals, and what circumstances produce which kind of lipolytic
  9. restless

    restless New Member

    One thing, Bryan mentioned exercise, and a HST routine is exercise.

    Doing cardio or not is an option and by no means required to get lean, though it surely can be a valuable addition to your fat loss strategy.

    I find cardio boring as hell and it makes me lose muscle in me legs really quick, so this time around I didn't do any. I've lost 12 cm in my waist and gained definition all over my body without a single cardio session, and only now after four months of dieting I'm slowly introducing cardio in a period of two or three weeks on a caloric surplus, as Bryan recomended in one of his Think Muscle articles.
  10. micmic

    micmic New Member

    While we may be able to better tolerate higher intensity cardio, it still is moderate-to-high intensity. Meaning that a long session (30-45mins) can be quite catabolic. If one wants to preserve as much muscle as possible, perhaps 75% would be wiser.

    There have been long debates on this one, but personally I find that HIIT is very effective for fat loss. For me it doesn't interfere with leg training but I make easy gains on legs. Your mileage may vary.

    Personally I would suggest to prioritize fat loss, and later have fun with muscle gains. If you are fairly lean, most of the weight you will gain will be muscle.
  11. Randy

    Randy New Member

    Hmmm...cardio actually causing muscle loss in your legs, restless? I can rationalize cardio hampering gains but muscle LOSS isn't something I'd considered as long as nutrition is kept in order and there were no telltale signs of overtraining. I'd like to know more about this. Do you do anything specific to try to keep cortisol in check post-workout, bedtime and first thing in the a.m.?

    I have 2 priorities for this first cycle, fat loss (not alot, I think 6-7lbs of fat would do it) and adding mass to thighs and calves. I am coming to the realization that these 2 goals are mutually exclusive. I guess I'm going to have to chose 1 for the 1st cycle and go with it.

    micmic, do you think HIIT would be more sparing of muscle than 70-75% steady-state cardio? I'm bumping 90% on my HIIT sprints... 30s sprint followed by jogging until I get down to 75%, then another sprint, etc. With a 4min warm up and a 4min cool down I keep the sessions at 30mins. The variable is the length of time it takes my heart to get down to 75% after a sprint. Currently, I can fit 10 sprints into the 30min session.

  12. restless

    restless New Member

    I know quite a few people are able to do cardio and still gain mass at the same time, but to this day all cardio gave me was trouble, it does get me lean, but muscle also vanishes really quick.

    This time I'm not going to do much of it and I'm increasing my calories for two or three weeks while I build up to 3 cardio sessions of 30 minutes per week, probably swimming.

    Let's see how this goes. I had no problem losing fat untill now without any cardio but I'm not really thrilled about reducing my calorie intake any further, so I'll try it. Of course, any sign of muscle loss aceleration and I'll quit.
  13. micmic

    micmic New Member

    Although I haven't done much cardio in this specific intensity, I would still vote for HIIT. The main reason is that the total time is much less: 3-5mins of sprints + same amount of time for the intervals + warm up + cool down, this would be around 15mins.

    I think however that your 30 mins are too much, you're actually doing a low intensity session sprinkled with sprints. Perhaps you could try harder 15 sec sprints (at 95%), so that the total time is around 15 min.
  14. Randy

    Randy New Member

    Specifics of formats compliant to HIIT principles are indeed open to interpretation. I've found many approaches in my research that are not very consistent so I tried to come up with a plan that adheres to the basic fundamentals of interval training with progressive intensity. I tried the format Shawn Philips advocates at:
    and could immediately handle the 30s sprint followed by the 30s active rest (jog) for a total of 4 intervals. I added another interval every other session as suggested until I was up to 7 intervals. I became concerned that my heart rate was maybe staying too high...for no particular reason, but I thought it was something I should be aware of. Philips gives little to no guidance in this area, the most he has to say is:

    " Of course, depending on your age, level of fitness, and how badly you want it, you'll periodically have to replace one of the jogging or sprint intervals with a brisk walk. After the 30- or 60-second "break," your heart rate will hopefully come back down off the ceiling, and you'll be ready to resume your sprint and jog intervals."

    Some other site suggested (mandated might be closer) that the active rest interval be long enough to allow the heart rate to drop to 65% before doing another sprint. I tried this but it made the rest intervals way too long so I ended up with a compromise of 75%. I do 4 min warmups and 4 min cooldowns which leaves 22 mins for the intervals. Currently, that's 5 mins of actual sprint time (10 sprints) and 17 mins total time spent waiting for my heart rate to drop from about 90% (a little less in the first sprints and a little more in the last ones) to 75%.

    So, other than the warmups and cooldowns, there is very little time spent in the "low intensity" zone of 75% or less. During the active rest intervals, my heart rate is transitioning...90, 89, 88, 87, etc., and when it gets down to 75% I cut loose with another sprint.

    I am willing to experiment with different approaches but I don't want to to something that will put me at a health risk.

    Thanks for listening and I appreciate any/all feedback.

  15. Two comments.

    On cardio reducing leg mass: compare a sprinter to a marathoner. The marathoner does far more cardio training, yet has pathetic leg mass compared to the sprinter. It's a question of how much, how hard, how often. The kind of cardio that can increase leg mass -- HIIT sprinting, for example -- is also the type most likely to inhib decon. In that sens, you ARE caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place, but. . .

    Comment number two: the hard place ain't so hard. I think you're fretting/fixating too much about cutting back the cardio for a couple of days to decon. It's not such a long time, and you will not fall apart. Also, we know that the small amount of aerobic conditioning you will lose on a break of a week or two will be regained very, very quickly when you resume. The benefits are well worth it.

    You may also find that some small, nagging injuries finally get a chance to heal up. Give it a chance.

    If you have some horrific experience with it, next cycle maintain your cardio during decon.
  16. Randy

    Randy New Member

    The issue for me isn't whether or not to do cardio during SD, edziu. I abstained from cardio for this period without thinking twice about it. My quest is to come up with a cardio routine DURING the cycle that is not going to be defeating the HST purposes while still maintaining my cardiovascular conditioning and keeping fat in check. I'm thinking long-term here. Getting bigger muscles is nice but sacrificing my cardio fitness to get there isn't something I'm going to do.

    I can relate to the analogy of sprinters vs marathoners but it's a bit over-simplified. Certainly, the type of training either does will enhance their performance but I think genetics play a much bigger role and predisposes world-class athletes to one or the other, especially for sprinters. Endurance can be developed by conditioning...mental and physical. Utter speed is something you have or you don't have and is probably influenced heavily by muscle fiber types and CNS characteristics that are not likely to be changed dramatically by training.

  17. restless

    restless New Member

    Keeping bodyfat low is diet related and weightlifting also increases your cardio condicioning, particulary if you use short rest periods.
  18. Jake

    Jake New Member

    Hi Randy-
    Why don't you do what Bryan (and a lot of us) does (do)- work up a sweat with about 10 mins of cardio as warmup to your session, and then 20-30 (or even 45) mins of low- to moderate-intensity cardio on your off days. I agree with micmic that HIIT is really good for minimizing any effect on size while enhancing cardiopulmonary conditioning, and I highly recommend it- that's what I do on my lifting days as warmup. I do low- intensity on my off days (but never on Sunday- that's my rest day).
    Edziu's right- you might be putting too much thought into this- try it out and see how it works for the first cycle through. If you're not happy with the results, titrate as needed. BTW, I'm an old-timer too (53), so I know where you're coming from. It *is* harder for us to keep it off, and I too was reluctant to give up my cardio- I had been doing 6 days/week, 45-50 mins at moderate intensity. But I watch my calories, giving up where I used to burn it off, and over time, I've found the "sweet spot" (for me, about 2000cals/day) where I can bulk sufficiently, but not get too fat.
    Also, you mentioned earlier that your HR didn't get down fast enough between bursts- this is probably a conditioning effect (or lack thereof, vis-a vis HIIT)... did you try this over a period of time, like 6-8 weeks? Just asking, because I used to have the same problem, but after about 6 weeks of HIIT, I found my refractory time decreased dramatically. Depending on the modality (cycle or NordicTrack), I recover (i.e., to under 65-70% of my peak HR for a given burst) within about 30 secs.
    Finally, you'll keep in condition on the 15s! And if you feel like you're gaining on the 5s (and not in a good way), try adding dropsets. And if your schedule allows, consider lifting twice a day.
  19. Randy

    Randy New Member

    Hi Jake,

    I don't really have "off" days due to my unusual work schedule. My cardio workouts have to be done the same days as the weight lifting.

    I do 5 mins of moderate cardio followed by about 5 mins of stretching (mostly hamstrings and groin) for warmup prior to lifting. Then, after lifting, I do my main cardio work...all running track stuff. Previously, I alternated HIIT with steady-state (~80%) for 30 min sessions 4 times a week.

    I did my HIIT routine for about 5 weeks or so...I didn't notice a big improvement in refractory time but I didn't monitor this closely. It was certainly more than 30s, though. Maybe if I keep at it it will improve. I don't have to be convinced of HIIT's value, it's effects are obvious. I just want to be sure the format I'm using isn't counterproductive.

    I'm not finding the 15s to be as taxing as most of the posts at this site. Maybe when I get closer to the maxes it will increase. I am adjusting rep speeds as appropriate to try to get 2 full sets in staying a couple reps short of failure on each exercise.

  20. Point taken. I misunderstood somewhere along the way. I wish I had a good answer, and wish you luck finding one.

    I agree with the role of genetics in defining champions, but I think the analogy holds at the amateur level. My wife likes to run; I went out to support her a few times. I didn't run because of an ACL reconstruction. One look at the crowd running the half marathon at Liberty State Park tells you volumes. Compare that to the look of the crowd in a 5k; it's dramatic, and these are local anyone-can-run races.

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