artificial substitutes for manual labor and the fitness arena is primarily
separated into two camps: Cardio and Weights. The newsflash is that there is no
difference between Cardiovascular Exercise and Resistance Training. It is ALL
Resistance Training, it all uses muscle, and it all uses oxygenated blood for
fuel. The myth reaches back and segregates these two types of exercisers: the
burn Fat crowd and the Build Muscle crowd. The sea of people on these Cardio
machines dominating most fitness clubs clearly show who thinks what. But heck,
lots of equipment sells memberships.
is, on any given day, I see the same group of this army of exercisers headed to
the gym on a mission to burn fat and pretty much do the same exercises every
time they go there. And, guess what? They have the same body 10 years later.
Most have a specific routine in mind (routine is ‘a fixed program’ by
definition) that begins with the quintessential x-minutes of ‘Cardio’ warm-up
usually on a treadmill, elliptical, cycle, or stairclimber. Although these
machines can be used as effective training tools as an interval challenge for a
few minutes, people have been convinced that 30-45 minutes of cardio is what
they need to burn fat and stay healthy. Nothing could be further from the
Definition of Cardio
Cardio is short for
Cardiovascular Exercise, (it used to be called Aerobics and Aerobic simply
means with oxygen), and it basically it involves three things: The Lungs, the
heart, and blood vessels. Blood picks up oxygen from the lungs, is pulled into
the heart, pumped to working muscles that need fuel who pull the oxygen out,
then drawn it back to the heart by veins, and the process begins again.
Definition of Cardio
Bikes, Ellipticals, Rowers, and Steppers are Cardio.
plate-loaded machines, dumbbells, barbells, rubber tubing, and kettlebells are
How wrong a
thought process this is! Think about this:
your heart stop pumping blood when you lift weights?
your heart rate after 3 minutes on the elliptical and then after a set of
squats. Which was higher? Which is more ‘cardio?’
your bodyweight resistance (weight) when you’re stepping up on a stepper?
add resistance to a ‘cardio’ cycle to make it harder?
the step you take over-and-over on a stepper just really a mini lunge?
is: It’s all resistance-training folks, just different intensities.
Taking a quick look at a
bike, stepper, or elliptical, you can plainly see that the motion and range is
dictated, or designed into the machine. This limitation of movement options
over a prolonged period of time is not natural, creates specific patterns of
wear on joints, and definitely not challenging to the body as a whole, despite
the levels of resistance and ramps. They impede natural human mechanics.
If you take a look at the
people using these machines, most have horrific posture, which, if they are
doing these machines for an extended period of time, translates to poor posture
off the machine.
Cycle: Sitting, as most
know, is definitely not a natural bodily position.
Elliptical: Fixing the
hands by hanging on eliminates the natural human gait cycle. The foot at the
back of the range is being put into dorsiflexion (toe toward the shin), rather
than the natural plantarflexion (toes point downward).
Stepmill: Again, hanging
on and usually leaning into the machine and forward.
beyond the typical 30m machine monotony are extreme athletes like marathoners,
triathletes, and cyclists. Beyond the repetitive motion, the joint stress (yes
even cyclists put stress on the knees by substituting impact for shear), this
group of endurance cardio aficionados are promoting systemic inflammation,
elevated levels of C-reactive protein, Cortisol, oxidative damage, and
incurring bloodwork approaching that of a heart attack patient with elevated
levels of creatine phosphokinase (CPK). This, compounded with the necessary
glucose, food coloring, and preservatives to endure such durations,
conveniently packed as ‘Gel’ or ‘Goo’, is not health or fitness.
fitness goals, a workout should involve as much of the body as possible. Most
important are progressive challenge to the body and continued variation.
Getting away from the typical ‘cardio followed by a few weights then stretch’
is simple with a little creativity and planning.
- A warm up
is a preparation for activity and I always suggest focusing on getting blood
moving, joints moving, and all systems heating up by doing something of low
intensity. Walk before run, light dumbbell work before heavy, rubberized
resistance tubing to press or pull, a short-range squat, etc.
- Try and incorporate different types of resistance into every workout: dumbbells, bodyweight ex's, rubber tubing, agility, cable stacks,etc...
Stretching, well, typically every rep of every exercise is a
contraction-stretch. If you choose the right exercises, progressed
appropriately, then resilience and pliability are ensured.
- Vary the
intensity by sprinting once in a while at the local track or soccer field.
- Jump Rope: agility, coordination, and less impact than walking!
- Skill exercises like lateral leaping, running stairs, twisting, jumping, reaching, are innate functional movements that have huge benefits for the body and its systems as a whole.
walks of an hour or more provide multiple benefits to your vascular and
endocrine systems and of course variation to your workouts.