T Nation

Middle of the Road/Moderate Cardio

In the past few years there have been many articles, some on here, by authors such as Martin Rooney, John Meadows, Rachel Cosgrove, and Michael Sheridan, in which it is said that for cardio for physique conscious people, they should stick to either walking (very boring to me) or high intensity activity such as sprinting, battle rope drills, sled dragging, and the like. It’s said that moderate intensity cardio should not be used because it can lead to muscle loss. If I recall correctly, in most of the articles, the authors use extreme examples such as marathon runners to show the muscle destroying effects of LISS.

My questions is why aren’t there any suggestions for perhaps things less extreme, like a 20 to 40 jog or bike ride? Are these sessions really going to wreck muscular gains? I have recently lost a bit of weight just by adding back into my training two 30 minute jogs per week and a slight caloric deficit.

Besides, shouldn’t a decent aerobic base be built before one jumps into hard stuff like battle ropes and hill sprints. One probably can’t even last a decent session or maintain their form in these activities without a decent base or if he is carrying too much fat and is out of general shape. When I have an aerobic base, I feel lighter on my feet, am more flexible, feel better, and can eat a bit more than otherwise.

And many athletes need an aerobic base too. Fighting is all the rage now. And if you look at some of the greats, they did steady state cardio. They don’t drive themselves into the ground training for marathons–because thats not their aim, nor is it a lifter’s aim when he is trying to just drop fat and stay healthy–but they do jog.

Totally agree with you. I have several friends who compete in long distance running events-one in fact runs 100 mile weeks and is hoping to compete at senior nationals. And yes he is extremely skinny. But using the extremes to promote the everyday is a logical fallacy. These articles assume jogging=training for a marathon, or other long distance event. Yes, if I specifically ran every day, for hard long miles, I would probably lose some muscle. But I doubt a light jog on rest days, or even one hard longer run a week, would destroy your muscles. It’s also unfair because they compare extreme long distance running with average/normal weight training/HIIT, so the parameters aren’t the same. High level powerlifters experience their own health problems too. It’s not like extreme powerlifters are living to be 130.

And while I have seen a great increase in my cardiovascular conditioning from HIIT and sprints, I do need some longer easier cardio to really maximize my conditioning. I was a collegiate sprint swimmer, and I did a ton of sprints and short, high intensity workouts. Yet as soon as I tried to swim middle distance or longer, I crashed. I wasn’t training the proper energy systems to swim those longer races properly. Ignore longer duration cardio, and your overall conditioning will suffer.

That’s what bothers me the most about these articles. Sure, a high level powerlifter or bodybuilder might need to put all of their energy into building and maintaing muscle, and they don’t really care about training all of their bodies energy systems. That may be true for this one extreme, but it neglects the much larger population of people who just want to be “fitter,” or look better, or not be out of breath walking up a flight of stairs. One “long” run a week would go a long way to improving the overall health of 95% of the average population, in addition to smart strength, flexibility and HII training.

For the average lifter looking to get into sprints and HIIT interval stuff, provided one isn’t severely overweight and doesn’t have mobility restrictions, I don’t think “building an aerobic base” is necessary. From my experience running sprints for track and field, you’re gonna suck once you start doing it, but the way to not get winded doing sprints is to keep on doing sprints (and I’d imagine the same for any HIIT activity). Long distance running seemed to have minimal carry over to exertion during sprint intervals for me. That’s my brosciency, n=1 opinion.

Agree with your general point though, the negative drawbacks are not nearly as compelling regarding moderate amounts of cardio. All that’s been given are hypotheses rather than actual data it seems.

My simple and humble opinion: more movement is good.

Aerobic activity does not have to be done for 45, or heck even 30, minutes.

Try walking ten minutes, jogging ten, and walking five or ten more.

How many people are doing so much work that this would slow progress in the gym?
How many people aren’t moving enough and could just use this extra movement in their life?
How many people are working hard in the gym BUT could benefit from the active recovery benefits?

These articles are examining the wrong issue. We shouldn’t just be branding an entire type of exercise as wrong. It’s another tool. Is it beneficial? “It depends,” as usual is the answer and we should be examining how to enhance our performance.

Well, I have my own opinions on running and jogging and they are not going to change that much, because, they are based on my own personal experience and that experience tells me, that people who lambast traditional cardio, have never trained to fight: either in the ring, cage, or battlefield.

Martin Rooney is against jogging? didnt know that.

[quote]BrickHead wrote:
Are these sessions really going to wreck muscular gains?
[/quote]

Of course not. It’s just the usual sensational drivel.

I would venture to say that hard running / biking (think “tempo runs” and not slow ass jogging) for say 30-45min a couple times a week is some of the best “exercise” you could do for general physical and mental health - better than strength training.

[quote]idaho wrote:
Well, I have my own opinions on running and jogging and they are not going to change that much, because, they are based on my own personal experience and that experience tells me, that people who lambast traditional cardio, have never trained to fight: either in the ring, cage, or battlefield.

Martin Rooney is against jogging? didnt know that. [/quote]

If I remember correctly, he too had an anti-steady-state cardio article on here too. These anti-cardio articles are so alike that one might think they had the same author. All the same thesis: moderate intensity cardio is no good, walking or HIIT type of stuff is good.

Oh, Charles Staley also had some of these articles.

And then there is the trite marathon runner or other ENDURANCE ATHLETE (not just someone who runs here and there as part of a total program) versus sprinter example: “Look at marathoners. Now look at sprinters. Who do you want to look like?”

Then there is the old, “Look at everyone in the gym doing cardio. Most are fat,” line which is faulty reasoning too because when people use this example they are implying that cardio is making people fat. By this logic, I can say that weight training doesn’t lend to muscular gains considering most people I see in the gym look the same year after year or that it doesn’t lend to a lean, hard physique because thousands of people in gyms don’t have lean and hard physiques.

“They’re small but flabby, skinny-fat.” What endurance athlete is flabby or skinny-fat? None.

Look at some of the most jacked boxers. They always put in “road work” which is just fucking jogging like you said.

Also Alpha on here does a fair amount of what I would call “moderate intensity cardio”. I mean how do you argue with that?

I personally think everyone should be able to take off and run a mile or 4 whenever they want. If running becomes the end all, then that can lead to problems, but during times that I went for 3-4 decently long runs per month, I was in better shape than when I didn’t do that. It is about mixing things up to work multiple energy systems. Do hill sprints, do some walking, do an occasional run, do 3 rep sets, and 8 rep sets and 15 rep sets.

Some points, most obvious:

  1. There is a lot of hyperbole to drive traffic from the blogosphere and other sites. This is also why they’ve been having all the crossfit articles. Heck, Rippetoes’ “Conditioning is a Sham” article was on the Yahoo front page. It’s provocative and we’re discussing it, so why wouldn’t it get a click from one of the many runners out there looking for an excuse to stop or an excuse to argue.

  2. From a progressive overload perspective, it makes sense. We are capable of a very high running capacity. While our bodies will just stop responding to weights without sufficient nutrition, we can progress a lot farther with running. However, most people, especially lifters, use running more like assistance for energy.

  3. In the extreme endurance cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if PEDs are a factor that don’t normally get mentioned. Cyclists are notorious for this, why not runners?

  4. I’m sure there’s sort of a “Starting Running” reaction to conditoning. Just as newbs quickly adapt to lifting, we quickly adapt to running. In the same way that Echa thinks we should all be able to run a couple miles with no problem, many of us think everyone should be able to do at least a few 1x bodyweight squats. It comes down to basic human movements… we should be able to run away from things more than 100 yds in the same fashion we should be able to get a loved one onto our shoulders in a burning building and get them out.

  5. I don’t know if you saw my comment, but T contributor Mike Robertson (who I believe also powerlifts), has talked about this:

[quote]
Since aerobic fitness is the foundation for so many activities ? in sport and life ? Robertson suggests that all beginners emphasize steady-state cardio first, regardless of their long-term goals. Shoot for at least two sessions of aerobic activity weekly, and build up to 30 to 45 minutes at a stretch, for a period of two to three months.

Experienced exercisers seeking general fitness should take this simple test: Sit quietly, find your pulse, and count your heartbeats for one minute. If your resting heart rate is below 60, feel free to experiment with HIIT. ?If it?s above 65,? says Robertson, ?you need steady-state cardio training.? Drop other cardio activities and follow the recommendations for beginners.

Once your aerobic system is up to snuff, dial back the steady-state training and switch to HIIT. Make sure, however, that your resting heart rate stays below 65 beats per minute. If it shoots above 65, return to aerobic work and limit HIIT.

In general, because of the toll it can take on your body, avoid doing HIIT regularly for more than three months in a row. ?We throw in a few weeks of HIIT at the end of our athletes? off-season, to help them get ready for camp,? Robertson says. ?But that?s all.? [/quote]

  1. It also entirely depends on perspective. From a purely physique standpoint, I don’t think there’s any question about approach. From a health standpoint, purely in terms of longevity, I think they’ve found that walking and a reduced calorie diet (the kind that keeps you looking like you’re starving), along with keeping stress low leads to the longest lives. From a purely human in nature capability perspective, conditioning (all) is probably the way to go; I haven’t had to squat 300 lbs that often IRL. Most of us want to live long, productive lives… which probably requires a mix of different types of exercise, proper nutrition, controlled stress, and meaningful relationships.

I’ve started my training with 20-30 minutes of moderate cardio (stairmill/stairmaster/eliptical/glider/etc) for more than twenty-five years. During certain periods I do additional cardio work (trail jogs/HIT/treadmill/ground-work/walks). IMO…conditioning work is a ‘pillar’ of a lifter’s foundation.

I totally agree with Echastang that everyone should be able to run a couple of miles without keeling over dead. 20-30 minute runs/bike rides/swims 2-4 times a week will improve many other aspects of athletic performance and daily life. I’ve been boxing off and on for years and when I haven’t been doing my roadwork, it definitely shows in the ring. Like Idaho said, it’s usually people who have never had fight experience who look down on steady-state cardio. There’s a reason why EVERY fighting force in the world and almost all boxers/MMAists etc. incorporate decent amounts of it into their training.

Unfortunately, these recent articles are using the outliers of one exercise modality to discredit the entire field. Kind of like using Mr. Olympia contestants to lambast lifting weights. The article by Staley really disappointed me more than any of the others because I really like his training philosophy in general and he’s simply better than the inflammatory article that he wrote on cardio.

Extreme endurance is bad. A 30-45 min run here and there will not be bad at all

I walk 4-8 mi a day and do some elyptical work. Mainly I am insane and it helps me focus on the retard amount of studying I need to do. But it hasn’t made me shriven. Sure maybe it slows some progress but I am happy with 55lbs over 3 years and never losing my 6 pack. The extra output makes dropping fat pretty easy. I get to eat more I feel better. Ect ect ect. It’s also one of the best ways to control BP which is one of the worse chronic diseases known

Total energy system training I think is a good way to go. I’ve gone back and forth on this issue because of what people like Robertson and Jamieson say, not to mention evidence such as many fighters doing distance work. I think the question is how much for your goals?

A big issue for me is that I see a lot of marathoners, triathletes, and other distance types when I train them for crossfit and they don’t have any advantage in high intensity training over the average person off the couch, which long led me to believe that it wasn’t worth doing. I’ve had my best results following Ross Enamait’s style of if you are going to do it, do it fast. When doing fast runs, I’ve seen no benefit of doing anything over a 5k. I’ve done several cycles where I’ve tested distance training for 45 minutes up to 120 minutes working to lower my RHR and it hasn’t yielded better results than Ross’s style. The only thing I got was more over use injuries and lost training time. That includes training for fights in the ring on several occasions as well as tournament BJJ.

My $0.02.

I’ve had recent success interval running with rest intervals of a decently paced jog. That way I get the intervals in, Im not too hard on the interval and I get in 3-4 miles in a short period of time. Every other day is working well.

I like this thread. Not because anything in it is groundbreaking really, but it’s nice to see some decently strong people with good builds talking about how cardio is actually good for you and isn’t going to make you become small and weak.

When I first started out it was hammered into me by Rippetoe and articles that you should avoid cardio except for walking and being a newb I bought into it. Dumb idea.

Right now my hardest thing is convincing myself not to die of boredom when doing a stairclimber or elliptical. Even 5 minutes on those and I catch myself trying to convince myself that I should stop.

[quote]staystrong wrote:
I like this thread. Not because anything in it is groundbreaking really, but it’s nice to see some decently strong people with good builds talking about how cardio is actually good for you and isn’t going to make you become small and weak.

When I first started out it was hammered into me by Rippetoe and articles that you should avoid cardio except for walking and being a newb I bought into it. Dumb idea.

Right now my hardest thing is convincing myself not to die of boredom when doing a stairclimber or elliptical. Even 5 minutes on those and I catch myself trying to convince myself that I should stop.[/quote]

That’s why I have to do that stuff outside.

What are people’s thoughts on Rucking? I know Alpha rucks I think daily and I use to ruck quite a bit in my leaner days.

Isn’t rucking bad for you depending on the load you’re carrying?

Sure, it’ll probably get you real strong and capable, but it doesn’t seem healthy to the joints in the long run.

[quote]BrickHead wrote:
In the past few years there have been many articles, some on here, by authors such as Martin Rooney, John Meadows, Rachel Cosgrove, and Michael Sheridan, in which it is said that for cardio for physique conscious people, they should stick to either walking (very boring to me) or high intensity activity such as sprinting, battle rope drills, sled dragging, and the like. It’s said that moderate intensity cardio should not be used because it can lead to muscle loss. If I recall correctly, in most of the articles, the authors use extreme examples such as marathon runners to show the muscle destroying effects of LISS.

My questions is why aren’t there any suggestions for perhaps things less extreme, like a 20 to 40 jog or bike ride? Are these sessions really going to wreck muscular gains? I have recently lost a bit of weight just by adding back into my training two 30 minute jogs per week and a slight caloric deficit.

Besides, shouldn’t a decent aerobic base be built before one jumps into hard stuff like battle ropes and hill sprints. One probably can’t even last a decent session or maintain their form in these activities without a decent base or if he is carrying too much fat and is out of general shape. When I have an aerobic base, I feel lighter on my feet, am more flexible, feel better, and can eat a bit more than otherwise.

And many athletes need an aerobic base too. Fighting is all the rage now. And if you look at some of the greats, they did steady state cardio. They don’t drive themselves into the ground training for marathons–because thats not their aim, nor is it a lifter’s aim when he is trying to just drop fat and stay healthy–but they do jog.

[/quote]

I empathize with your head shaking. It reminded me of a very similar discussion back from 2012:

http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_conditioning/is_steadystate_cardio_good_or_bad?id=5249701&pageNo=2

I made several posts in that thread. Some of it was ball busting (par for the course on internet forums). There’s two, however, that represented my feelings on the subject (10-17-12 and 10-31-12).

These are the things I believed back then, and I haven’t seen or experienced anything that compels me to change my stance:

*Steady state cardio is a tool. Like any other tool, it has specific applications for a specific task. Yes, yes, it’s often over done by the misinformed but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

*People who are out of shape have no business jumping into HIIT. These folks need a base level of fitness. It’s not just about the lungs and heart. It’s also about building up the connective tissue.

Rather than telling someone who is 50+ pounds overweight to jump straight into hard sprints, how about we use that rarest of commodity - common sense - and have him perform low to moderate intensity work in a low-impact manner first…? Perhaps because it’s just not sexy enough, and therefore doesn’t sell.

  • All energy systems (aerobic, glycolitic, atp/cp) respond best to training specific for the task at hand. Yes, there is some carryover - but not enough to justify completely eliminating a key component.

Don’t believe me? Look at the best in the world in their respective sports. Too much pride and (sometimes) money for them to ignore what works. There’s a reason the strongest lifters perform most of their work in the low to mid range, with some high rep work thrown in. There’s a reason Tour de France contenders don’t spend just a few minutes doing tabatas and then call it a day.

  • For those who have a sufficient base, steady state cardio is a viable way to stay active and enjoy life. Unless you’re preparing for a specific event, it’s laughable to train and eat in some hyper strict manner 24/7.

On occasion, I’m going to take a ride along the bike path from Marina Del Rey to Hermosa Beach and back. Along the way, I’m going to clear the head, get some sun, and chat up the gorgeous women (how I met my GF). The pace will mostly be low to mid intensity. Sorry to disappoint folks who’ve lost perspective.

But hey - if you must, continue to engage in masturbatory acts of lunacy, such as telling me to avoid steady state work or eating raw meat after some laughable workout is the way to go. Time, as it often does, will expose the foolish for what they are.