Why Your Cardio Training Should Be More Than Just Intervals

When was the last time you went for a long jog? If your main training focus is on putting on lean muscle in the weight room, probably not very recently since interval training became the go-to for cardio.

I love a good, soul-crushing interval session. In fact, people have traveled from around the world to my gym in Salt Lake City to go through some of my infamous IWT workouts. Those workouts, and others like The Holy Trinity and Prison Burpees, are all some of my favorites of all time.

But a lot of people think that intervals are all they need for cardio. And that’s really too bad, because skipping traditional, low-intensity cardio truly holds back your overall fitness.

Don’t Just Stay In One Lane

Fast and slow cardio each have their own place in a well-rounded conditioning plan. Going all-out improves your top-end fitness and ability to sustain high-intensity work. It also causes changes in your heart that boost the force with which your heart can pump blood.

“If you’ve ever heard that low intensity cardio is “bad” for lifters, you’ve heard wrong.”

Going easier—a casual jog, slow rowing or swimming—helps you recover, burns calories, and “resets” your central nervous system. It also expands the chambers of your heart.

The combination of the two results both improves your ability to recover and enables your heart to pump more blood with more force. That increases your overall fitness faster. If you’ve ever heard that low intensity cardio is “bad” for lifters, you’ve heard wrong.

Even though my goal is to be the biggest, strongest guy at any gym I walk into, I do plenty of cardiovascular work every week and can run a 10K in 50 minutes. It’s not only helped me reach my primary goal by allowing me to reap more from my weight training workouts, but it also improves all the activities in my day-to-day life.

Most 250-pound, muscle-bound guys would have a difficult time on a long hike, for example, because they’re carrying an extra 60 to 100 pounds of weight on their frame. But just last year, my wife and I took a long hike in Zion National Park, and I reached the peak without gasping for air. We were able to talk, relax, and enjoy being in the one of the most beautiful places in the world.

That’s why all of my fitness programs contain some element of longer, laid-back cardio work, and that’s part of the reason all my clients ranging from Special Forces soldiers to NBA players to actors see such incredible results.

Bring On The Slow Burn

Here are two methods I use for low-intensity cardio work that are well worth the time.

Run, row, or stair climb

60 minutes at 120 to 140 BMP heart rate

You should be able to have a conversation at this heart rate. That’s fine—keep it up for a full hour, and you’ll still see benefits.

Go on a hike

60 minutes at a brisk pace

This is more than just a walk in the park. Hit the trails somewhere with hills and challenging terrain. This also gets you out into nature, which relieves stress and further promotes recovery.

To see how you can program these cardio sessions across the weeks and months, check out my book The Maximus Body, on sale now for just $14. It contains 100 workouts and the 12 and 26-week fitness programs I’ve used to get everyone from actors to accountants completely ripped and in the best shape of their life.

Remember: It’s critical that you not go too hard on these long sessions. If you go too hard, you’ll miss out on the heart benefits and also hurt your recovery.

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