When someone mentions cardio, you may think “evil,” but take a step back for just a moment. As reluctant as you may be to get on that treadmill, give cardio a chance. When properly included with weight training, a good cardio plan will lead you to an ideal world of fat loss and help you develop that ideal physique.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has the potential to torch maximum calories in the shortest amount of time possible. The idea is that you perform short periods of flat out exercise at 100% output, followed by periods of slower paced recovery time.
When doing HIIT, I tend to split my time up into 5 minute blocks. First 3 mins steady, next 2 mins fast paced. There is no hard and set rule as to what the interval times may be… Some do 30 seconds steady, 30 seconds fast but all depends on the individual (and their fitness levels!).
LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio as the name suggests, its low intensity, just elevating your heart rate above resting. LISS calls for typically 30 to 60 minutes spent at the fat-burning zone of roughly 50-60 percent of maximal heart-rate effort. Keeping that steady pace for an extended period of time can kick-start weight loss induce effective fat loss.
If performing LISS cardio, it must be done outdoors for me! I don’t mind using cardio equipment in the gym/at home but if its low intensity like a walk, I would much rather get outdoors in the fresh air. There is something quite tranquil about a very early (5 a.m.) morning walk.
What actually works?
So, which type actually works? HIIT or LISS? Honest answer, both have their places. I would usually favour a quicker HIIT session however it’s always good to mix things up and try to incorporate both.
For me personally, when prepping for a show I have tried HIIT and LISS both individually and in conjunction throughout the years, and the best results which I noticed was during my most recent competition for the PCA British Finals 2017 where I was doing 2 HIIT sessions on every training day and some LISS sessions as and when I could incorporate them around day to day activities.
Here’s something we should all agree on…. Intensity is prevailing!! As intensity increases, more calories are burned. Which is why HIIT workouts are great for getting leaner while maintaining (or even building) muscle.
What machines do I prefer?
There are number of cardio machines you can use in most gyms ranging from treadmills, stationary bikes, cross trainers, rowers, stair masters….. The list goes on! My Top 3 are:
The Stairmaster is my first and favourite cardio choice for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it targets your overall body especially legs and is guaranteed to make you sweat. Think about it: When’s the last time you saw somebody not covered in sweat after twenty minutes of consecutive stair climbing?
The Stairmaster’s also great for fat loss. The key is intensity. Don’t treat your time on the stepper as you would a typical jaunt on the treadmill or stroll in the park. Crank up the intensity, and get to work!
This is probably the most common piece of kit you will find in 99% of gyms. Great for overall cardio and weight loss and you can mix things up by performing LISS, HIIT, flat or on a high incline.
If performing HIIT on the treadmill (or any machine for that matter) make sure you are warmed up first. I found that when I used the treadmill for cardio, especially closer to the show I got, my knees and joints would really feel it! If this is the case, do something with less impact on your joints.
Take a look at any avid rower’s physique and you’ll surely notice their athletic, v-cut frame. Rowing makes the list because it is a great way to merge upper and lower body in a relatively low-stress manner, especially on your ligaments and joints.
Keep your chest up and make sure you use your entire body when rowing, don’t let your arms do all the work—make sure you get your legs going.
What I do On/Off Season
When preparing for a show, I usually start my prep anywhere from 18-20 weeks out. Not that I tend to eat very badly during the off season but I will clean things up a little prior to starting. From the very get go at 20 weeks out I will start doing 4 early a.m cardio HIIT sessions per week lasting around 20-30 mins. This will gradually increase as time goes on to no more then 45-50 mins. Depending on how I am progressing through prep (As no prep is ever the same!) I will add in 20 mins stair master post each training session. Only time I would not perform cardio post training was after leg day (Usually because I lay on the gym sofa, ready to pass out!). On top of that, whenever I could get a walk in during the day (20-30 mins), I would do so.
Off Season I cut the cardio right back as my main goal is to grow. However, that said I try to do a few HIIT sessions per week for general fitness and wellbeing.
Pre & Post Products I use for Training/Cardio
Keep in mind however, although cardio is a great tool in your arsenal to burn away that fat, if you can avoid extensive hours of cardio I would. The last thing you want to do is waste away on that treadmill!
When prepping for a show, adjust calories first by making tweaks and changes to your nutrition / eating plan and then look to amend cardio for that extra push.