Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Cardio, I love to hate you

Those who know me, know that I loath cardio.  I don't just hate its being, I despise the word.  It's conditioning, cardio sounds like its covered in fairy dust and nothing this ugly deserves such treatment.

My body has never responded well to high intensity exercises, purely based on the fact that I merely need to walk across a room and my metabolism begins to demolish every form of energy I have consumed.  As a hard gainer I need every ounce of calorie my body takes in.

This is why I have such a hatred for it.

However I strongly recommend it and always ensure that I do it, your strength needs to be powered by fuel, and conditioning is your fuel.  Your muscle is useless if you run out of gas.

Nonetheless there is still a large portion of the population not combining their strength with conditioning, and visa versa.  Then there are those that misconceive the difference between the two entirely.  I cringe at what some perceive as strength training as much as I cower at the thought of those spending an hour in the gym on the treadmill.

You need to train intelligently.  Firstly strength training involves heavy weights at low repetition, so 5 reps of 4 sets with a challenging weight, with a longer duration of rest in between,  where as 100 overhead presses with a 15kg dumbbell, with little or no rest in between develops endurance, and is a form of conditioning.

Know that difference first and foremost, when planning your training.

VariableTraining goal
Load (% of 1RM)80-9045-5560-8040-60
Reps per set1-51-56-1215-60
Sets per exercise4-73-54-82-4
Rest between sets (mins)2-62-62-51-2
Duration (seconds per set)5-104-820-6080-150
Speed per rep (% of max)60-10090-10060-9060-80
Training sessions per week3-63-65-78-14

Conditioning on the other hand is what increases your energy and endurance, and is what works your cardio vascular system.  Applying a stress to your body through high repetition drills for long periods of time or at intervals is what exercises your metabolism, this is conditioning.

Whether you choose to sprint hills, flip tyres, snatch kettlebells or pound something with a heavy hammer, you are feeding your levels of fitness, and your abilities will grow and thrive to endure an exercise over a longer period of time, without gasping for air and coughing up a lung.

Conditioning will fuel your fire.

You need to assess your goals, and implement the right methodologies.  Personally, I'd like to add a few extra kilos to my deadlift and a couple extra reps to my pull ups, over getting an extra 50 reps on my kettlebell snatch.  If your goal is to excel in GS (kettlebell sport) then your focus needs to be on those additional reps, your game plan needs to involve maximal conditioning.

Bare in mind that you cannot have ultimate strength and ultimate conditioning, it would be like driving a Lamborghini Murcielago and a Hummer at the same time, if you want to be an Olympic lifter and achieve maximal muscle the other qualities will suffer.  To the average gym goer, do both separately and reap the benefits of both strength and conditioning.

It all depends on what your objectives are, one always has to suffer.

If you are not a competitive athlete, I would recommend 50/50 of both your strength and conditioning.

The most important factors are that in order to lose weight, gain strength, mass, or fitness you need to implement both imperative factors into your training, keeping your goals in mind and apply both according to your needs.

Keep these training methods separate, if you have the time, do them on different days and never go overboard just for the sake of doing more, your sweat does not determine the intensity of your workout.

If you want to see swift gains in your size and mass then strength is your primary goal and you should take a 70/30 approach to your conditioning.

Conditioning is valuable, but just how imperative depends on your goals, your weaknesses and your sport.

Remember that if you not training for a marathon, or preparing for a competition, or you not trying to set a new record or trying to impress anyone, your health, fitness and strength will save your life.