T Nation

Post-workout aerobics

There seems to be a fair amount of arguing going on regarding whether aerobics should be performed post-workout as a means of lowering cortisol and increasing recovery. World-renowned strength authorities such as Tudor Bompa and even our own John Berardi (correct me if I’m mistaken) argue that 20-30 minutes of light aerobics should be done immediately after lifting with a post-workout shake following immediately afterward. However, guys like Chucky Poliquin wouldn’t be caught dead performing aerobics at almost any time. Thoughts or arguments?

JRC; This is an argument that’s been around a LONG time, with valid points from whatever “camp” you are in. Ultimately, I think that this is one that has to be decided individually…I don’t think Science or Physiology is going to give us the answer.

I am in the "in the am, on an empty stomach, keep the fat fire furnace burning, and balance a degree of cardiovascular fitness with mass gain" camp. I get up at 3:30 am, take some Thermogenics (if I'm on a cycle), work on the computer for about 30 minutes, then do about 30-45 minutes of High Intensity Interval Aerobics (This was NOT "invented" by "Muscle Media", by the way!). I cool down, take a shower and am out the door. For me, I almost can "feel" the fat burning, I feel "lighter" and more energized, AND my aerobic conditioning fits my needs (I'll probably NEVER run a Marathon, that's for sure!) I also have a pretty good balance with mass gain...but I probably will never be "huge".(More because of my GOALS than aerobics).

On the other hand, for some people to get up at 3:30 am would be a fate worse than death! They could not, or would not, ever consider it. And for many "gettin' huge" means tons more to them than ANY degree of cardiovascular fitness. Aerobics is literally a "death sentence" to muscle for them.(I disagree, but that's THEIR goal.

So, ultimately it probably is all going to boil down to a personal choice. What I do works for me, my goals, and for a lot of other people. For others, its a “losing” strategy. Hope this helps.

I noticed something recently I had been wanting to ask you guys about. Have you noticed that you see VERY few aerobics articles from the top bodybuilders in the mags? There used to always be a few. They seem to almost not even MENTION cardiovascular fitness.It seems like most articles are relgated to the Fitness athletes (let’s see some of YOU “tough guys” do about 30 seconds of some of those routines if you think they aren’t athletes!)

…uuummm…mean anything?

One last thing, and I’ll shut up…(I promise!). Those who don’t think that cardiovascular fitness is important, but “just gettin’huge” is, remind me of those bodybuilders you see on the Net who don’t eat anything all day but MRP’s, protein and supplements. OVERALL health seems to be relegated as not quite as important. Keeping the ticker running smooth and strong(which we do with cardiovascular fitness) and making sure all the “pipes” stay clean, plaque free and elastic (which we do with a phytochemical, EFA and anti-oxidant “complete” diet)would HOPEFULLY be a goal that we all have.

I’ll shut up now…(at least on THIS topic!)

I had this conversation with Tudor this morning as a matter of fact…
The point of the aerobic work at the end of the workout is to facillitate a faster removal of lactate from the muscles and thus facillitate a faster recovery. You must change your mindset and recognize that what Tudor is recommending is a cool-down and not necessarily a “cardio” session as you may be familliar with it. He does not recommend “20-30 minutes of light cardio” accross the board for all athletes as you suggest. The duration of the session depends on the training goals of each individual. For someone who is afraid of cardio, 10 minutes of light activity will go a long way in facillitating recovery. You must remember that Tudors theories are highly influenced by his work with athletes who require a sufficient aerobic system (very different than a bodybuilder who needs enough endurance to walk onto the stage and flex) While we are on the subject, I don’t know what Charles does for his training but I know for a fact that many of his athletes follow proper warm-up and cool-down protocols. Don’t get caught up in the hype of the moment use common sense and decide what works for you.

Hope that helps!

Matt…now that makes some sense for post workout…

Does Tudor recommend a certain intensity (ie % of MHR etc.), or is this just sort of a “steady and easy” post-workout cool down; nothing intense; non-anerobic; maybe a little sweat…just to “shake it all out”?

I think what people have to understand that most of the stuff that Poliquin writes is intended for bodybuilders, not athletes. But he is a stength coach. You can not compare the two. Most bodybuildes do not power clean or snatch. Athletes must have a good weight to strength ratio bodybuilders do not.

Taking a slightly different slant on this, I find that if I first lift weights until I am pleasantly exhausted (I personally do between 4-8 sets per bodypart, so my workouts aren’t too long), and then do light aerobics for 30 minutes, the postworkout feeling of focused eupohoria is pretty incredible–and rather addicting, I might add. I think that most training experts don’t consider “light aerobics” (let’s say 60% of max heart rate) to be much of a hindrance for any pursuit. I like the extra calories burny, the knowledge that I’m keeping my most important muscle in shape, and I believe that I’m burning higher amounts of fat because of carb depletion from the weight training, but it’s that incredible feeling of relaxation with my protein/carb shake in hand after being worked out both aerobically and anaerobically that tells me that I’ve really treated my body right.

Mufasa, what is the point of doing High Intensity Intervals on an empty stomach? That would be counter productive. Sure you will be burning some fat during the training session, but the whole point of HIIT is to keep the metabolism up during the day thereby burning more fat while at rest (which is when fat is best utilized). However, when you do HIIT on an empty stomach you require glucose for most of your energy which WILL be taken from your muscle tissue if you do not have any carbohydrates to eat beforehand. The key is to try and get in the correct amount of carbs (fruit) so that you use what you just ate as your energy source instead of muscle tissue. Then you will be able to reap the benefits of a jacked up metabolism without the muscle loss. Muscle is much harder to come by than fruit, so don’t waste your muscle by using it as an energy source.

Contrary to popular belief, workingout on an empty stomach does not have that negative of an impact on muscle tissue. During the first 15 minutes of working out (full or empty) Cortisol levels shoot up to their peak (sort of an energy release), then level off for the rest of the hour. After 1hr of working out they decline to low levels until about a half hour after you’ve stopped. In other words:
A) An empty stomach does not = muscle loss (I sure as hell know this from lots of experience)
B) Cortisol levels actually decline during the 2nd hour of your workout - so believe it or not, extending your workout past 1hr (assuming you can handle it) has some benefits. I always add aerobics (20 minutes) to top off my weight session.

Mufasa, that is exactly what Tudor is referring to. The idea is that even if you are in the “anti-cardio” camp and believe that the stairmaster is secretly canabolizing your muscles through osmosis, you can still benefit from a few minutes of “cool-down”. When Tudor speaks about the order of execise it all comes back to prioritizing your training goals. Since most view cardio training as fat burning and do not care about conditioning the heart than it should be performed in a fatigued state like at the end of the workout. However, if cardiovascular endurance has an important role in your job/sport/life, you might want to re-evaluate what emphasis it receives in your training plan.
To the best of my knowledge Tudor has not published a %HR Max protocol for cool-down but you might want to check his book “Periodization: The New Wave in Strength Training” 1993 (the little blue book)

Great thread, and excellent thoughts.

BurritoJ: Recent reasearch seems to suggest that High Intensity Interval Training (with cylcles of anaerobic activity) TENDS TO INCREASE GROWTH HORMONE RELEASE GREATER THAN WITH LESSER INTENSITY, CONTINUOUS AEROBIC TRAINING.The IMMEDIATE Growth Hormone response is some 3 times greater, and 1 HOUR LATER, SOME 10 TIMES GREATER with High Intensity Interval Training than with those who favor more continuous, “lower intensity” training. (The two groups compared in one landmark study were 100 and 400 meter sprinters vs. 1,500 and 10, 000 meter runners).

Growth Hormone a)increases fatty acids in the body by increasing lipolysis (increasing fat breakdown and mobilization from adipose tissue) b)Increases blood glucose BY DECREASING GLUCOSE UPTAKE BY MUSCLE thereby c) "forcing" the muscles to use the mobilized fatty acids INSTEAD of glucose as a metabolic fuel. In summary, IT APPEARS that "HIIT" training does the following:

  1. Increase Growth Hormone Release, which in turn:

2)Leads to fat mobilization as a major energy source WHILE SPARING GLUCOSE AND PROTEIN STORES!

As I've said before, I'm still learning; and we learn from spirited debate. Is this flawed logic to use "HITT" training with my a.m. aerobics? Would it be better to NOT do it on an empty stomach? I am thinking of beginning a "spinning" type of class that really takes advantage of High Intensity Intervals. Have any of you had experience with "Spinning?"

Your thoughts, guys…

i usually do 20-30 minutes of “light cardio” followed by a good stretching session the day after i do squats. i was always told that if you work a muscle lightly 24 hours later it helps recovery. i dont really know the physiological reasoning behind this though. their woulndnt be raised cortisol levels then and i dont think it would be to clear lactate because lactacte is usually cleared within a couple hours after working out anyway right? if someone wanted to really optimize their recovery would it be better to do this “light cardio” right after training, the day after, or both? if somebody could clear this up for me i would appreciate it. thanks - Nic