Cardio: Part 2

In Part 1 I wrote that exercise that is typically referred to as "cardio" should actually be known as "aerobic exercise." It pretty much pisses me off when I hear someone say "I've gotta go do cardio." The main reason this type of thing bothers me is because the same people who say it are not after the health benefits of the "cardio". Instead, they think they need to be doing it to get more lean.

The truth is, there are superior ways to losing body fat other than jogging on a treadmill for 40 minutes. The truth is also that aerobic exercise does provide health benefits. So unless you are truly doing aerobic exercise for the health benefits, stop making it such a priority to do your "cardio".

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

If you want to quickly understand the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, take a look at this, and this. And then associate aerobic with low intensity and high duration, and anaerobic with high intensity and short duration.

Aerobic Exercise

Forms of exercise that require immediate access to oxygenated blood. Examples are running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, etc. The primary factor that will make an exercise aerobic is if it's done for a long time. And remember, in order for you to sustain any effort for a long time, the intensity will need to be fairly low. This low intensity does not require much muscular effort, so low-threshold motor units and Type I muscle fibers will be used to complete the task.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

  • improved oxygen uptake
  • improved cardiac output
  • improved stroke volume (heart learns to pump more blood)
  • improved circulation
  • improved endurance to working muscles
  • improved VO2 max
  • increased capillary density
  • increased mitochondrial size
  • decreased resting blood pressure
  • decreased resting heart rate
  • decreased breathing rate
  • decreased body fat

While I am mainly a proponent of anaerobic exercise, you can see that there are many benefits to be had from training aerobically (mainly benefits to the circulatory and respiratory system).

Anaerobic Exercise

High intensity and short lasting forms of exercise in which the body's demand for oxygen exceeds its available supply. Examples are sprinting, jumping, high intensity resistance training, interval training, plyometrics, many sports, etc. The high intensity of these types of exercise requires high muscular effort, so both low and high-threshold motor units, as well as both Type I and Type II muscle fibers will be used.

Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise

  • increased strength
  • increased speed
  • increased agility
  • increased vertical jump
  • improved functional flexibility
  • improved neuromuscular sensitivity
  • enhanced reflex response (ability to produce more force in less time)
  • more efficient motor unit recruitment
  • creation of new neuromuscular connections
  • utilization of all muscle fiber types (Henneman's Size Principle)
  • increased connective tissue strength to locally trained areas
  • improved bone density
  • increased hormonal sensitivity
  • faster clearing of lactic acid
  • heart becomes stronger
  • elevated metabolism
  • decreased body fat
  • increased muscle mass
  • no adverse effects to aerobic performance

The last benefit is worth repeating...

Anaerobic training will have no adverse effects to aerobic performance, but the opposite is not true. To unlock your anaerobic potential, you must train to a high enough intensity. Anaerobic exercise is (without doubt) the best way to achieve better physique and performance.

I will leave you with two things to consider....

1. Car Analogy


Much of body composition (ratio of lean mass to fat mass) comes down to energy expenditure. When done correctly, anaerobic exercise expends more energy than aerobic exercise.

Think of your car. What burns through fuel faster? Cruising for a long time at a steady pace? Or bursts of acceleration and deceleration? The answer is the latter.  

Now compare your car to your body. To be in control of your body composition, you will want to burn through more fuel, not conserve it. Cruising steady = aerobic. Accelerating and decelerating = anaerobic.

2. Which Would You Rather Look Like?

People that normally do long, light intensity cardio strive to look something like the subject on the left, yet train like the subject on the right. 

This is not meant to be a knock on the way the woman on the right looks. She is obviously in great shape and has the look that many people desire. But I do want you to understand that you'll never look like the woman on the left by going out for a jog every day in attempt to lose your muffin top.

The physique the sprinter displays comes as a result of countless sprint, jump, and heavy weight training sessions. The jogger likely does nothing in her training but jog, and some light, high rep "resistance training". The sprinter's training ensures she will never have a muffin top that she'll need to lose.

If you want to look like an athlete, you need to act like one. Move fast and apply high amounts of force. Then rest. Then repeat. And continue to repeat. Don't get caught mindlessly peddling away on the elliptical for an hour. 

This will be all for today, even though there is much more to say. Is there anything else you'd like me to touch on relating to this? Comment below!