On Saturday, 124 days after closing their doors due to Covid-19, gyms in England will be welcoming people back into the weights rooms and spin studios in the nation’s big reunion with public leisure facilities. However, since the start of lockdown, fitness fanatics have improvised and adapted their workout routines to accommodate for the lack of access to equipment.
Indeed, one of the biggest trends in the last 3 months (as outlined within a survey by ukactive) is the massive increase in people running/cycling outdoors; largely due to the fact that both have served as opportunities to get some fresh air and leave the confines of the same four walls of our homes.
People who had previously mocked runners for their hobby have since taken to lacing up on the reg and hitting the road for a jog; people who, prior to lockdown, would not have done cardio if someone had paid them to do so.
And, those had previously ran regularly have been running even more; smashing PRs, trying new routes, and improving their ability to endure longer distances.
In other words, more and more people have realised the huge physical and mental benefits of activities such as running and cycling!
See Related: Move More For Your Mental Health
So, what’s going to happen now that gyms are preparing to open their doors once more?
I fear that many people will remove cardio from their routine and focus entirely on pumping iron and lifting heavy sh*t on the gym floor. Thus saying goodbye to the benefits provided by aerobic activities…
DON’T GET ME WRONG, I am NOT saying that you should spend all of your newly granted gym time pounding away on the treadmill or grinding out on the rowing machine. In fact, that would most certainly be a bad idea…regardless of your goal!
In this article, I want to prove to you how cardio-based workouts can pose significant benefits for a wide range of goals, including those looking to build muscle! Furthermore, I hope to show you how you can integrate cardio into your routine to improve your resistance-based sessions…
5 Benefits of CV Training For Your Fitness Routine
1. Cardio Improves Work Capacity
Work Capacity – the ability to keep moving (and lifting / carrying objects) at a steady pace for a long period of timeDictionary.com
Doing 1-3 CV-based workouts a week as part of your routine, whether it’s low intensity steady state (LISS, e.g. a 40min jog) or HITT (e.g. 10 x 30s Hill sprints w/ 1 min active recovery), can help your body adapt to sustained periods of physical exertion.
Translated into your resistance sessions, and the adaptations will allow you to push harder for longer, thus meaning that you may be able to push your muscles closer to failure. This may result in quicker gains in strength and muscle size (hypertrophy).
LISS training tends to stimulate a greater response in terms of work capacity, but if you are strapped for the time you can dedicate to your fitness, HIIT causes similar (yet slightly smaller) adaptations to occur. So don’t try and fool yourself into thinking you ‘don’t have time’ to get a couple of interval sessions in the mix.
Just like power, strength, speed, and stamina, work capacity is an essential component of fitness that will massively improve your work both inside and out of the gym.
2. Cardio Aids Recovery from Weight Training
With gyms reopening comes the inevitable crippling DOMS of leg day; that feeling where getting out of bed or walking up stairs feels like absolute death…
Luckily, there are many ways you can reduce, and even prevent, large amounts of soreness; one of which is LISS cardio.
Integrating low intensity cardio workouts appropriately into your training programme will help maintain blood flow to the muscles which subsequently facilitates the recovery process following resistance workouts.
Furthermore, doing any form of cardio at no more than a 6/10 RPE (effort level) will help prevent muscles becoming too tight, making more frequent training sessions over the course of a week much more viable.
If you are looking to put on some serious mass, and therefore train frequently throughout the week, then LISS cardio can definitely play a role in recovery from weight training.
Just be sure to prioritise strength-based workouts over cardio, and view your cardio workouts as supplementary as opposed to main focus!
3. Certain Types of CV Training Improve Strength and Power
Manipulating certain variables in a cardio-based workout can actually stimulate similar adaptations to that of strength training.
Reducing total workout time, increasing intensity of working sets to >90% effort, introducing rest intervals, and adding intensifiers to a workout (e.g. inclines, weighted vests etc.) can all work to provoke a training response that one would expect from lifting weights.
For example, doing a workout that consists of 10 x 50m hill sprints on a steep incline will improve your rate of force production (I.e. power) as your muscles have to work double time to overcome the incline and get up to speed.
Translate this training response to, say, a barbell back squat, and you may find you are much more able to generate the force to propel you out of the hole and lock out at the top. Same goes with hitting some heavy deadlifts.
Including high-load sprints then, be it cycling or running, can therefore be a worthy weapon to have at your disposal when searching for lifting PBs in the gym.
4. Cardio Improves Functional Fitrness
Functional Training – a classification of exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.Wikipedia
Functional training is an absolute essential in my book; after all, one of the primary benefits of working out on the reg is the impact it has on our everyday movement. Everything from not being out of breath walking up stairs, to getting out of a chair without pain, to lifting heavy shopping from the car to the kitchen.
CV training will undoubtedly help you in everyday life. Developing your aerobic capacity will allow you to maximise your levels of daily activity (NEAT) through walking more, whilst also optimising your energy levels over the course of a day.
To get the most benefit out of functional training, try integrating both HIIT and LISS cardio into a routine full of squats, deadlifts, and farmer’s carries.
If you are struggling to find the right balance in your routine to improve your functional fitness, get in touch for a free online/in-person consultation to have a chat!
5. Cardio for Gaining Muscle & Losing Fat
“The only way to lose weight is running on the treadmill”
“The only way to build muscle is simple: just lift weights”
Two of the most common misconceptions in the fitness industry. After years of training myself, coupled with the first year I have spent as a PT, I can confidently disagree with both of these statements.
They both have a small element of truth: running on a treadmill can help one to lose weight, and indeed lifting weights is an essential component of gaining muscle.
Where the statements fall short is their extreme stance; explaining a scenario where one type of training is the only way to achieve a given goal.
In reality, cardio can be an absolute weapon as part of a muscle building programme, while weight training is an essential component of losing weight; the key is finding the right balance through effective planning and programming!
For example, LISS cardio sessions (+30mins @ 4-6 RPE) could be done 2-3 x per week on a muscle building plan. These sessions would serve as active recovery from 3-6 resistance training sessions over the course of the week, and thus should be done after training with weights.
Conversely, one could use HIIT cardio sessions (<30 mins @ 8-10 RPE) 2-4 x per week on a weight loss plan in order to increase energy expenditure for 24-48hrs thanks to a process called EPOC. An example could be a 5 min warm up on the rowing machine, followed by 12 x 40s Hi Intensity : 20s Lo Intensity (Active Recovery). HIIT cardio is the most time- and energy-efficient way of increasing TDEE, thus increasing the likelihood of creating a calorie deficit!
These are just two examples, and there are endless ways in which different types of CV training may be used to optimise a wide range of goals, from building muscle to losing weight.
So, How Do I Go About Including It In My Programme?
It’s all well and good knowing what the benefits are of CV training; but, in this case, knowledge means ‘nowt unless it is acted on!
Integrating cardio into your workout routine doesn’t have to be too complicated, and it is all about identifying what works for you and your lifestyle, whilst finding an appropriate volume of training that allows for long-term adherence to a programme.
Whether that’s dedicating 1-2 whole sessions a week to CV training, or just adding in 20-30mins of cardio onto the end of your weight training workouts, there is no right or wrong answer!
If you want to reap the benefits of CV training, but don’t know where to start, then please get in touch! I help busy people find a routine that works for them and their lifestyle; don’t ever believe there is no way you can fit a sound workout routine into your working week!
Get in touch, become a GPT Athlete, and get ready to fall in love with fitness and achieve your dreams!
THE FINAL WORD
Cardiovascular Training has been an absolute stalwart of many people’s lockdown routines. Now that we are ready to return to some serious pumpage in the gym, don’t let the work you’ve put in over lockdown go to waste!
Try as best you can to keep the ball rolling alongside your gym routine in the weight’s room, as you may find that your progress in the gym improve with the addition of supplementary cardio done over the course of a week.
Just be careful that recovery from CV sessions doesn’t detract from your resistance workouts, as for the majority of people (excluding those who are training specifically for a Cardiovascular-based event such as a marathon), weight training will be the priority within one’s fitness routine.
All sound a bit overwhelming to plan out for yourself? I’ve got you covered, as a huge part of The GPT Service is working with you and your goals to design a bespoke exercise routine tailored to your goals.