We all know the benefits of cardiovascular work or High intensity cardiovascular training. It can greatly enhance our daily caloric burn and consumption and increase fat burning so we can stay leaner while eating more calories. Perhaps just as important it builds and trains our aerobic systems so that capillarization is improved and blood flow to the working muscles during weight training is increased.
This allows better nutrient supply to the working muscles and better recovery. It also allows us to do sets of squats without coughing up a lung. Weight training stimulates our ATP/PC system, which is responsible for short bursts of energy, but when your aerobic and glycolytic systems are developed this allows you to recover much faster between sets of weight training and get more work done in less time.
The problem many weight trainers run into with traditional cardio is that most of the generally accepted methods of performing it primarily stress the lower body and this equates to a lot of stress on the lower extremities. If you train legs twice per week and then do cardio 3 times per week you're stressing your legs 5 times each week!
Even though you might be doing lower intensity cardio instead of HIT, this is still a lot of stress and could easily be a deterrent to muscle growth not to mention it can lead to overuse injuries such as plantar fascitis, shin splints, patellar tendonitis etc. The problem gets even worse when dieting down.
Not only does getting lean generally require much more cardio, but you also have to perform it while subsisting on a diet that wouldn't satisfy a kitten. A caloric deficit coupled with high volume training for any muscle group will usually ensure overtraining and muscle loss is often a result So is it any wonder that "legs" are usually the first muscle to shrink during a diet? I think not.
So what's the answer? Well consider doing cardio or HIT training that doesn't stress the legs so much and works either the upper body or the upper body and legs in harmony. If you get creative and think about it, there are plenty of cardiovascular training means out there that we can use to accomplish this.
You can pick the training method and customize the intensity and rest intervals to your liking. If you like to do regular, long duration cardio you can go for longer durations of time for lower intensity, or you prefer HIT cardio you can
Here are a few examples of some training methods you can try that'll allow you to do this. Most of these methods also involve the lower body to a certain extent but are generally more "whole body" movements and will minimize the stress on your feet. I recommend you implement some of these training methods in the days just following your leg workouts. This will allow your legs to recover and minimize catabolism.
These Training Methods Include:
Rowing - Hey try the rowing machine at your gym every once in a while. You might enjoy it.
Heavy Bag Work - Not only will this help you develop a skill but it will also give you a great workout and is much funner then moving along aimlessly on a treadmill. Work on your jabs, right crosses, and hooks. Once you become proficient at these start adding in other combinations. Go anywhere from 1-3 minutes with about 1 minute rest intervals each round. The shorter the duration the higher the intensity and vice versa.
Sledgehammer Work - Get a sledgehammer and simply beat up an old tire with it. You can either go for time or # of strikes. I recommend either an 8-12 lb sledgehammer to start off with. Focus on 2 different strikes and swing from both sides. A diagonal strike and vertical strike. The form is natural for most people and is basically like swinging an axe. I like to use rounds of 1-3 minutes just like with the heavy bag work. A good pace is about 30-40 strikes per minute.
Swimming - Use the stroke of your choice and either go for time or for intervals. The more proficient at your stroke you are the longer you can go. I recommend beginners tart off with intervals. Swim a couple of laps and then rest a minute and repeat and gradually build up your capacity. If you're quite proficient you can also vary your strokes every couple of laps.
Kettlebell or Dumbell Work - This is a great way to get a total body HIT workout. Use 1 and 2 handed swings, cleans, and snatches put together in complex fashion. The exercise variations are endless but al you really need to know how to do is a 2 handed swing and snatch. I like to put together exercises in circuits with 1 minute rest intervals in between each circuit.
Sandbag Lifting - This is definitely an old school way of getting a workout. To get a sandbag cardio workout you'll need a semi-heavy bag and a table. The tailgate of a truck works fine for this. Simply take a sandbag and pick it up and set it on a table, and then quickly set it down. Start off with about 30-50 repetitions per set and increase as your capacity grows.
To get creative, instead of just setting the bag right in front of you set it to one side of you and twist as you pick it up and then set it down on the other side. Also try other exercises such as sand-bag carries. A few sets of sandbag lifting at the end of a workout will really get the ol' heart pumping.
Barbell Complexes - You can get real creative here. Use a very light-weight and perform a variety of exercises in succession without any rest. Here's an example. For each exercise perform 6 reps in circuit fashion with light weight somewhere between 45-100 lbs.
After you finish this circuit rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat for a total of 3-4 total circuits.
Medicine Ball Complexes - If you have a wall and a medicine ball you can put together a great workout for example:
Perform 10 reps with each exercise. Perform the entire circuit non-stop or with very low rest intervals (10-30 seconds) between exercises. After completion of the circuit rest 1 minute and repeat for 3-5 circuits.
Med ball chest pass feet stationary
Chest pass stepping left leg forward
Chest pass stepping right leg forward
Overhead pass stationary
Overhead pass stepping left leg forward
Overhead pass stepping right leg forward
Ccoop toss - (throw straight up in the air and catch)
Side toss Left
Side toss right
Slam toss (slam into the ground)
Give some of these methods a try. Also don't be afraid to get creative. Often what I like to do is take a few of these methods and put them together in stations and go from station to station with 1-minute rest intervals.
So for example, I might go heavy bag for 3 minutes, barbell complex for 3 minutes, med-ball tosses for 3-minutes, rowing machine for 3 minutes, and then repeat the entire circuit. Get creative with your cardio and have fun!
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