In Defence Of Cardio: Why You Still Need Aerobic Training

In Defence Of Cardio: Why You Still Need Aerobic Training

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In Defence Of Cardio: Why You Still Need Aerobic Training

By Pete Tansley


Nowadays, the ‘C’ word is the most dreaded word in the fitness world. No, I’m not referring to CrossFit. I’m talking about cardio.

Every trainer seems to have it out for traditional cardio. Short cardio workouts are in vogue, and long-duration cardio workouts are about as popular as new taxes.

The truth is, however, there is a lot more to our cardiovascular fitness and energy systems than simply ‘going hard’ for five minutes for a cardio workout.

Instead, a well-rounded program will focus on both high-intensity and low-intensity cardio workouts to build more resilient and balanced athletes.

Let’s review some basic human physiology so we can address the issue.

The Benefits of Long-Distance Cardio

If you’ve studied physiology at even a very basic level, you will understand that energy production comes down to ATP.

You rely on three energy systems in your body:

1.       ATP-PCr

2.       glycolytic

3.       aerobic

The best thing about these energy systems is that they all have unique advantages and disadvantages.

The ATP-PCr system can only fuel your body for 5-10 seconds, which is the downside. However, it’s the fastest system to produce energy. Simply take one step, and you’re using your ATP-PCr system.

The anaerobic system, the glycolytic, is the middle guy. He’s actually quite versatile; in his toolbox is the ability to produce fast energy like the ATP system, but he doesn’t quite have the ability to reproduce energy for an extended period of time.

Yet it’s brutal. It will challenge even the most seasoned athlete from both a mental and physical standpoint.

However if you’re required to perform anything for an extended period of time, then you’re going to have to rely on the aerobic system.

The aerobic system is the polar opposite of the ATP system. It’s slow to produce energy and will not help during the first 10 seconds. However, it becomes really efficient at providing energy and can burn out 36 ATPs every time through the cycle.

It’s a little bit like your old Toyota; it’s extremely reliable, and you can count on it time after time to get you from point A to point B.

The truth is that your aerobic ability is vital for recovery, heart efficiency, and for creating a well-balanced level of fitness.

Improve Your Recovery With Aerobic Training

What most people fail to recognise is that the aerobic system can help your recovery. Either between training sessions, or between intervals or sets, the aerobic system can help you recover faster.

Because your entire cardiovascular system becomes stronger from aerobic activity, your recovery is greatly enhanced.

Your Ticker Needs It

When it comes to any aerobic training, your heart plays a key role. There are two kinds of adaptation that will occur from aerobic sessions: a central adaptation (such as the actual heart) and a peripheral adaptation (such as the muscles and capillirisation).

When you’re performing exercise below 160 beats per minute, you allow a central adaptation to occur. Quite simply, your left ventricle of the heart stretches and actually becomes larger.

The adaptation that occurs is an increase in stroke volume. This means that the amount of blood you move per heart beat is increased. This is obviously a good thing; it creates a more efficient heart and one that can move more blood with less work. Therefore, leaving you with more energy and a faster recovery; it also means your resting heart rate can become lower due to the increased efficiency.

So, it’s obvious that even for high-intensity or time-poor athletes, this is a major benefit that will carry over to all kinds of daily activities and sports.

Get it?


“So Can I Give Up HIIT Now?”

When I explain the benefits of aerobic training, people often assume that they can replace high-intensity sessions with aerobic workouts.

This is not true.

A well-rounded athlete will need to cover all bases. The common trend is to replace all cardio workouts with kettlebell, sled dragging or bodyweight cardio. These are all fantastic options for high-intensity cardio workouts; however, a balance is needed.

Aerobic training could be worked into the same session (either between intense bouts or after the high-intensity work is completed) or as a standalone workout.

Aerobic workouts are not new or sexy but they are definitely effective. Try incorporating several aerobic sessions of 20-40 minutes at 130-160bpm several times per week.

Here’s an example for you to try:

Sample Aerobic Training Plan

Monday                Strength training

Tuesday               20 minute HIIT cardio followed by 30-minute continuous aerobic session at 130-160bpm

Wednesday        Recovery day. Optional: 20-minute continuous aerobic sessions at 130-160bpm

Thursday             Strength training

Friday                   45-minute continuous aerobic session at 130-160bpm

Saturday              HIIT or strength training followed by 30-minute continuous aerobic session at 130-160bpm

Sunday                 Recovery day. Optional: 20-minute continuous aerobic sessions at 130-160bpm

The added benefit of aerobic sessions can be the balance they provide. We race to work, we rush through our gym workouts, and we even eat our meals in a hurry. This can lead to over-activation and high stress. Incorporating some lower-intensity workouts into the mix has been shown to decrease the stress on the nervous system and can make you feel (and look) noticeably better.

It doesn’t matter if you require increased athletic performance, if you want to lose 15kg or if general fitness is your goal. Everybody can benefit from aerobic training.

Find a place for it in your workout program and experience faster recovery, increased stroke volume and less stress.


Pete Tansley is a writer, personal trainer, business owner, proud dad and a horrible dancer. Tansley owns and operates, a training and online coaching company.

As a chubby kid, Tansley tried everything to burn fat. After attempting (and failing) every popular diet, Tansley embarked on an educational journey that led him to become a personal trainer.

10 years later, Tansley has helped hundreds of clients lost fat and regain their health. Tansley also owns and operates Priority 1 Gym, a personal training gym based on the Gold Coast, QLD.





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