Cardiovascular exercise is one of the most important keys to getting that well defined, muscular physique. Similar to resistance training, there is science involved with cardio to heighten its results. The amount of body fat lost is in direct relation to the number of fat burning elements you zero in on.
1. Timing - It is most effective to perform your cardio session when you first wake up in the morning, on an empty stomach. It is best to perform cardio on an empty stomach because your body will tap into its fat stores for energy, instead of having to burn carbs and then start burning fat. Although this is the ideal timing for cardio, it may be just as effective late in the afternoon if a proper diet is followed.
2. Intensity? Intensity for cardio is defined as the percentage of your maximum heart rate used while performing a particular exercise. To burn fat most effectively, you want to try to hit approximately 65% of your maximum heart rate. This is known as the ideal fat burning zone. To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220 and multiply it by 0.65. This will be the ideal number of heart beats per minute to maximize fat burning benefits from your cardio.
(220 - your age)(0.65) = Ideal heart rate for cardio
3. Duration - If you're a bodybuilder, chances are you aren't doing cardio to become a marathon competitor. Cardio is used by bodybuilders to help increase oxygen flow to muscles and burn excess bodyfat. For best results, cardio should only be performed 3-to-4 times per week, on non-resistance training days. You should increase the length of your cardio session by 5 minutes each week until you reach a total of 30-35 minutes.
4. Warm-Up/Cool-Down - Rushing into or out of a cardio session will place unnecessary stress on the heart, muscles, connective tissue and joints. Stretch before you walk, walk before you jog and jog before you run. The key to avoiding injuries is to start slow. Gradually increase the pace over a 3-to-5 minute period until you reach your ideal heart rate. At the end of your workout, use a 3-to-5 minute cool down period in which you should walk to ease your heart rate back to normal.
5. Nutrition - No matter how good your diet is, you will never reach your maximum definition potential without cardio. The opposite also holds true, no matter how much cardio you do, you will never reach you maximum definition potential without a well thought out diet. Nutrition during cut-up is just as important as nutrition during bulk-up. In order to burn fat, you must burn more calories than you consume. To figure out your daily caloric maintenance, multiply your bodyweight by 15-17, depending on your activity level. This figure represents how many calories your body needs each day to maintain your current muscle mass. When reducing calories, drop by increments of 500 every 10 days to avoid placing your body in a starvation mode and eating away at muscle tissue. To play it safe, I bump my protein intake up to 2.0 grams per pound of bodyweight. For more information on getting ripped, read my article called Cut-Up Program.
(Body weight)(16) = Daily caloric maintenance level
6. Supplements - As you know, I'm a firm believer that sound nutrition is vital to your success as a bodybuilder. Likewise, supplements are also essential to developing an awesome physique. While performing cardio to attain a state of superior definition, I recommend using three different types of supplements:
- 1. Multi-Vitamin/Mineral: Helps maintain the body and boosts your immune system.
- 2. Thermogenics: Elevates your metabolism which burns fat faster and increases intensity
- 3. Whey Protein: This is an easy way to reinforce the high protein diet
My Cardio Schedule:
- Off-Season: 1 cardio workout per week for 25 minutes at 50% intensity.
- Week 1: 2 cardio workouts for 30 minutes each at 55% intensity.
- Weeks 2: 3 cardio workouts for 30 minutes each at 60% intensity.
- Weeks 3 till end: 4 cardio workouts for 35 minutes each, with 65% intensity.