Getting The Most Out Of Your Cardio!

When it comes time to show all your painstaking, hard-earned muscle you don't want to plainly display it. You want to put it all up front, every rip, tear, and cut you forged deep into your muscles for all to see.

When it comes time to show all your painstaking, hard-earned muscle you don't want to plainly display it. You want to put it all up front, every single rip, tear and cut you've forged deep into your muscles, for everyone to see. One aspect of the great sport of bodybuilding is getting your body fat down low enough to cause some serious damage up on the stage against your competitors. Dieting down for a competition can be a long excruciating road, but make no mistake: when the dust settles it will all have been worth every arduous hour you put into it. However, if you are like most people you are lazy whether you know it or not. You want to get the most out of something for putting in the least work possible. Whether that defines lazy or not is of no significance. When it comes to cardiovascular activity, chances are you shortchange yourself.

If you want to pull out of your cardio sessions every single second that you put into it then read on. Don't let your cardio session get the most of you, get the most of your cardio session!

What variables will affect my session, and how should they be combined?

  • 1. Intensity - Intensity refers to the percentage of your maximum heart rate that you use while you are performing a particular exercise.
  • 2. Duration - Duration is the amount of time that you will be putting into each session.
  • 3. Frequency - Frequency refers to how often you perform the aerobic activity during a particular session.
These variables can be combined in a number of different ways and each will produce a different end result. Essentially a high intensity session with a shorter duration will help build on your cardiovascular system and make it stronger but is not the most ideal method for burning fat. To burn the maximum amount of fat, mixing a medium intensity session with a longer duration is most effective. Frequency will be determined through experience by your personal needs and goals.

Target Heart Rate:
If you are just beginning, chances are you have not heard of your maximum heart rate and your target heart rate and if you have you are not completely sure how to use them to their fullest advantage. Well what is your maximum heart rate? Your maximum heart rate is the highest possible heart rate you can achieve, or roughly the most amount of times your heat can beat per minute. However, it is not uncommon for someone with a history of sport to be able to exceed his or her calculated maximum heart rate. To burn the most amount of fat in the shortest amount of time, keep your heart rate at 65%-75% of your maximum heart rate. This is your best intensity level for ideal fat consumption as fuel. There is a number of ways to calculate this but the most common is as follows (65% of maximum heart rate will be calculated): Subtract your age from the number 220 and then multiply that by 0.65 (to find 65%). The result will be 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. In the previous example we determined that the target heart rate (in this case 65% of the maximum heart rate) for this 15 year old was 133.25. What this 133.25 stands for is 133.25 beats per minute (133.25 can be rounded either up or down for training purposes). This means that while you perform your cardiovascular exercise your goal is to keep your heart rate up at 133-134 beats for every minute that you exercise.

Exercise can be grouped into three major categories of intensity. These are the following: mild, moderate and high. Mild can be described as an easy walking pace and can be sustained almost indefinitely. Moderate intensity is most often best described as your average cardio session where you are capable if talking and carrying on a light conversation but are not able to sing if you had to and can be sustained for a few hours if needed. High intensity can usually only be sustained for approximately a half an hour to 45 minutes and you would not be able to talk without gasping for breath between just about every word. Remember, these are merely guidelines and should not be taken to the letter. According to recent research studies a moderate intensity workout will burn the most fat (75% burning 0.5-1.0 grams of fat per minute depending on weight from 100-200 lbs). Working at a moderate intensity assures that the majority of calories expended (approximately 85 - 90%) are fat calories. When working at higher intensity levels, fat burning lowers to a level of almost 65% of the moderate pace. The rest is supplied from sugar and the burning of it. Your body's aerobic threshold is reached at about 75%+ and is when your body starts converting into an anaerobic state (hence the name aerobic threshold). When this happens, the body is working so hard that the demands for oxygen and fuel exceed the rate of supply and the muscles have to rely on the stored reserves of fuel. Consequently, your body produces a byproduct known as lactic acid (a bodybuilder's worst enemy). Your muscles will take your body into a state of oxygen debt and your body will begin to stop activity as its fuel depletes. It is for this reason that moderate intensity is recommended.

Optimum duration:

How long should my session last? Chances are you don't want to be running or doing anything that requires energy for any longer than you have to. During a cardio session, seconds can seem like minutes; minutes like hours. To begin, you want your cardio session to last at least 20 minutes. During the first several minutes of exercise your body begins by utilizing essentially (not solely) its more instantaneous energy sources, like glycogen in your muscles. These sources of energy can't keep up with the ongoing requirement for energy.
Cardio Brings Out Striations
(c) Avidan

Therefore, your body will progressively tap into your stored body fat as an additional energy source in order to continue at that intensity. Consequently a good rule of thumb is that after 20 minutes at your target heart rate, you will be burning more fat than carbohydrates. You will be burning fat after approximately 12 minutes but the ratio doesn't favor fat loss until approximately 20 minutes. Once you reach 30 minutes or longer at your target heart rate you will be burning a larger percentage of calories from fat. There is still some controversy as to which is better - longer duration at lower intensity, or shorter duration at higher intensity. Remember the goal when exercising is to burn more calories than you take in. Also, your metabolism is increased and your muscles continue burning fat after exercise.

Frequency needs to be adjusted to your body and it's specific responses to your cardio sessions. Most people perform their session three or more times a week. There have been some studies that showed that for general weight loss 4 times a week did not much better than 3 times a week. However, this is Bodybuilding, not general weight loss. It is not uncommon to hear of people performing cardio six or even seven times a week, sometimes even twice a day. Good results have also been had with performing cardio five days a week. The best advice is to start small with maybe three 20-minute sessions per week. Then, as you and your body sees fit and adapts, increase the duration of your sessions first, then the frequency. This will allow your body to glide into the extra work and stress it is being put through (if you don't currently do cardiovascular exercise) instead of slamming into it.

  • To find maximum heart rate: subtract age from 220.
    -To find a percentage of maximum heart rate: multiply maximum by percentage needed (ex: 0.65 for 65%)
  • The percentage you work at is known as intensity
    -Fat is burned most efficiently at a moderate intensity between 65 and 75 percent of your m.h.r.
  • Duration is the amount of time you spend during a cardio session.
    -Should be at least 20 minutes long and fat usage increases
    another 10% at 30 minutes
  • Frequency is how often you perform your cardio sessions.
    -How often you perform your session will depend on your basic needs and the results you are getting
    For Reference:
  • 9 calories to a gram of fat
  • 4 calories to a gram of carbohydrate
  • 4 calories to a gram of protein
  • 3,500 stored calories = 1 lb. of fat.
  • Your body needs approximately 0.59 calories an hour per pound of body weight for weight maintenance
Remember: Diet plus aerobic exercise produces more weight loss than diet alone. So do your cardio!