What about cardio for HEALTH?!?!

I know we all agree cardio is not needed to
get lean as it is all calories.
What about cardiop for general health? I know TC is Mr Health I’d assume he does cardio?!
I mean I hate walking up the stairs & being out of breath.

I know most people disagree with me on this topic, but I firmly believe that cardio should be incorporated into everyone’s program. It may be better to put specific emphasis on aerobic training only at certain times, like during cutting phases or higher rep phases. Just like strength training and flexibility work, cardiovascular exercise is a tool which you can use to enhance your health and appearance.

I really, truly, honestly believe that cardio has gotten such a horrible rap almost entirely because the bodybuilding community simply can’t stand to do it. So, what do we do? We look for ways to make lifting weights more like cardio!!! (hence the incredible popularity of German Body Comp) Cardio certainly isn’t an absolute must for getting lean, but it has numerous benefits that aren’t directly related to getting bigger, stronger, or leaner. Try increased VO2 max, more efficient oxygen utilization, higher ventilation threshold, etc… all of these factors contribute to overall health.

And, I have some HUGE problems with people trying to duplicate aerobic exercise by using strength training methods (ie high reps, not much rest). There are quite a few reasons behind this, but I don't feel like writing for another 3 hours... I may write an article some time on all the problems I see with the general viewpoint on aerobic training if there's enough interest.

Doug, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on high rep, little rest method of losing fat–perhaps in an article?

Although I do think that some aerobic fitness is important, I think there are people on the aerobic extrem who think of a gaunt marathon runner who can run for hours as a picture of fitness.

Are Navy SEALs the epitome of fitness because they can run long distance and have the strength and skill to kill you with his bare hands? Most SEALs I know are thin and wiry. I don’t know what the answer is.

I don’t think that anyone can argue that optimal health can be achieved without some type of “cardio” training. As Doug alluded increases in VO2max, O2 utilization etc are all beneficial adaptations that will be realized though aerobic training. The most important consideration though is the adaptation of the heart to strength and aerobic training.

If you only strength train, the circulatory system has an enormous pressure overload imposed upon it. I have seen one study where systolic blood pressure was over 300 mmHg during a strength training session. This pressure overload leads to hypertrophy of the cardiac muscle. You might think this is a good thing, but for a muscle which needs O2 24/7 this becomes a problem. When the heart wall thickens, the diffusion distance that O2 has to travel to get to mitochondria in the most isolated cells increases. This situation could ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Aerobic training on the other hand, leads to volume overload as opposed to pressure overload. This means that the ventricle of the heart becomes bigger, but not thicker. There is still plenty of blood and O2 supply to the cardiac muscle. Also, the intrinsic rate will decline because the amount of blood pumped per stroke increases, resulting in reduced stress on the cardiac muscle.

The thing is, the aerobic adaptation can be realized with a relatively small amount of cardio, maybe 30 min per day, 4-5 days a week. Now if you were in contention for the Olympia, this amount of cardio might cut into your gains a bit, but for the average lifter, it probably won’t make a big difference. It will certainly improve the risk profile and overall well being of the cardiovascular system. As with all things though, some individuals will still have an MI with a ton of cardio and conversely, someone who does no cardio might live to 110 years of age with no circulatory problems. In general though, health is definitely improved with a minimal amount of cardio.

Almost forgot. With regard to high reps low weight, in this training situation, the pressure overload is still present, although not as great. Depending on the movement, the contracting muscle will still tend to constrict the vessels that pass through it creating the unwanted (from a healthy heart standpoint) situation. So, although high reps low weight may mimic the ventilatory and heart rate responses of cardio, you still do not get the greater health benefit of a pure aerobic workout.