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Cardio training in bodybuilding

Cardio training in bodybuilding


Cardio training or cardiovascular training starts with training the cardiac muscle, in other words: the heart.

Originally, this type of training was reserved for sports requiring endurance. Then, in the various sporting disciplines, it became apparent that a trained, enduring, resistant heart enabled better performance and recovery after effort.

In fact, a well-trained heart has a better blood pumping capacity, improving muscle oxygenation and toxin recycling (muscle waste). What's more, endurance training has been shown to enable the body to use body fat as a source of fuel.

It's for all these reasons that cardio has expanded to such an extent that today it's a practice in its own right that we find in all sporting disciplines, and one that has exploded in fitness studios. The diversity of workout methods used, as well as the different equipment available for cardio sessions, mean that cardio is seen by exercisers as much more fun than a few years ago, when it was simply a matter of cycling or running.

When to do cardio?

Different times can be chosen to do cardio, but what defines the best time to do it is its objective.

Indeed, if cardio work is performed solely to improve heart health and endurance, there's no time when it's more effective than another. But if you're doing cardio to burn fat, or in association with another sport like body building, for example, the time you choose will have an impact on its effectiveness.

When you want to burn fat, the best time to do your cardio session is in the morning on an empty stomach. At this time of day, the body has received no food, and is in a catabolic phase (muscle breakdown), so in order to function, the body will have to draw on its fat reserves to perform the required effort.

The muscular work performed during a cardio session does not cause micro tears in the muscles if the intensity remains moderate. When cardio work is combined with another discipline, it's best to do it either in a separate session or at the end of the discipline in question. Even though cardio work is not designed to destroy muscle fibres, it does deplete the body's energy reserves and will have an impact on performance.

A bodybuilding session won't be as intense if it follows a cardio workout. In fact, many bodybuilders do their cardio either separately from their resistance training, or after it, taking advantage of the fact that the body has already drawn on its muscle reserves to prolong the effort and therefore draw on its fat reserves.

Different cardio intensities

Depending on the objective being pursued, cardio vascular training will not be performed at the same intensity. To determine the intensity with which you will train, you need to determine your maximum exercise heart rate:

There's a simple formula for determining this: 220 Bpm (maximum number of heartbeats) - age = maximum heart rate.

For a 35-year-old, for example, the calculation would be: 220-35 =185 max heart rate. From this and the target set, the exerciser can determine the intensity at which he or she should perform cardio-vascular work.

- To work on fat loss or endurance, the intensity will be between 30 and 50% of max heart rate

- For heart-strengthening work, intensity will be between 50 and 70% - For resistance work, intensity will be between 70 and 90%

- For work designed to increase the body's capacity to oxygenate muscles and resist muscular toxins, intensity will reach 100%.

Of course, the higher the intensity of the effort, the shorter the duration. This aspect must be taken into account, particularly when aiming for fat loss, as the body only begins to draw on fat reserves after around 30 min of effort.

However, cardio-vascular work has an impact on the body's metabolic rate, speeding it up and encouraging it to burn more calories every day. A research-proven method has been all the rage for some time now among American bodybuilders in their quest to melt fat in preparation for competitions.

Called HIT (high interval training), this method consists of alternating very high-intensity cardio sequences with recovery sequences during which the intensity drops again, over training sessions of no more than 30 to 45 min. Apparently, this method increases the body's capacity to burn fatty tissue by boosting the exerciser's metabolism. But not everyone uses this method!

Different types of cardio equipment. There's a whole arsenal of cardio equipment to choose from, with something for everyone. What's more, the different machines on the market allow you to work differently and target different areas of the body. Some machines target the lower body, like steppers, bikes, elliptical trainers and treadmills, while others work the whole body, like rowing machines and versa climbers. However, you don't always need equipment to do cardio; the most basic form of cardio training is brisk walking or running. Swimming can also be a great workout.

Finally, it's also possible to do cardio while building muscle strength by doing circuit training. This type of session consists of a series of exercises targeting different muscle groups, with no rest time between each one. The circuit is performed with light loads, several times in succession, to increase the heart rate, and lasts no longer than 30 to 40 minutes.

Cardio-vascular work has become a must for anyone wishing to stay in shape. Not only does it keep your heart healthy and strong, it also helps you to perform better in sports, with greater endurance and stamina. Cardio training also speeds up recovery, enabling the heart to irrigate muscles more efficiently and evacuate muscular waste products more effectively. Regardless of the equipment used, the intensity of the effort required and your individual goals, incorporate cardio sessions alongside your workouts to get in shape.

Author Alexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his bodybuilding experience with MegaGear blog readers