Have you ever met someone who exercises on a regular basis (approx. 3-5 times a week) but really hasn't made any progress, especially with all their time and effort for many years? Did you ever take note of the type of cardiovascular training that person was doing? More than likely it was some form of low-intensity cardio, i.e. walking, jogging, running, etc. The problem with this type of cardio is that it doesn't take long for your body and metabolism to get accustomed to the low-intensity training. Your metabolism will adjust and soon enough it will only burn calories for the duration of your workout.
Another issue with low-intensity cardio is that over time it will take you a longer duration to burn the same amount of calories. For example, what took you 30 minutes to burn 200 calories might take you 40 minutes to burn 200 calories over time. I'm sure you can agree with me on this one but I prefer to the burn the most amounts of calories in the shortest period of time and continue to burn calories long after I have completed a cardio session. Low-intensity cardio will only burn calories during the duration of your training. On top of that it will take up much of your precious time only to receive minimal results, which is not the goal for anyone.
High-intensity cardio is effective cardiovascular training that is going to shoot your fatloss and muscle gains through the roof. Studies have shown that subjects on a high protein and moderate carbohydrate diet who completed high-intensity cardio were able to gain extra lean muscle mass and lose more body fat compared to those subjects completing low-intensity cardio. What is so unique about high-intensity cardio is that it increases your muscle oxidative capacity (your muscles ability to produce mitochondria), which in turn will allow your muscles to increase in size. Mitochondria are the energy producing units in your muscles; this is where ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is made and fats are burned. The more mitochondria you can produce the more fat you burn and increase lean muscle mass. Sounds amazing, right?
What separates those who get maximum results and those who don't...maximum intensity! High-intensity cardio increases the amount of mitochondria in the muscle and will continue to increase the more intense you push yourself during each cardio session. When doing high-intensity cardio it is an all-out-effort that should be challenging for you from start to finish. You will need to prepare your self mentally and physically before every session because it is intended to push you over the edge. This is a big reason why people choose not to do it or come up with an excuse as to why they shouldn't do it.
I prefer to use the stair stepping machine mainly because it takes a lot of pressure off my knees.
High-intensity cardio is meant to be conducted in short duration, I would say anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes would be a sufficient amount of time to get you started. This may not seem fancy on paper but believe me, more time doing cardio does not necessarily mean it is better for you. If you can do more than 20 minutes then I guarantee you are not pushing yourself hard enough during the 20 minutes. As I said earlier, high-intensity cardio is an all-out-effort from start to finish and it should never be easy. You should be huffing and puffing the entire time and basically living from second to second, minute to minute, until you finish your session. This is going to require that you use every last bit of mental and physical toughness to get you through.
You must also not forget to keep asking more from yourself. Once you have reached your goal then set a higher goal and go for that, once that goal is reached and you are comfortable, set another one. This is a never-ending process and you have to keep progressing or you will keep getting the same results. If 20 minutes is not enough time then increase the level of resistance on the machine you’re using or try using no hands. Do not increase the time without raising the resistance level first.
Your body has three different pathways it uses for energy. The first pathway is the ATP-PCr pathway which is used for short burst of energy, usually under 10 seconds. An example of the ATP-PCr pathway would be when you first take off running in a dead sprint or lifting your maximum weight on a deadlift. The second pathway is what keeps you going beyond 10 seconds, which would be the glycolytic pathway. This is when your ATP-PCr stores are completely depleted and this is why you begin to slow down while in a sprint. The last energy pathway, which kicks in after 80 seconds of exercise is the oxidative phosphorylative pathway. This is how long distance runners are able to maintain energy; through the oxidative phosphorylative pathway.
Creatine increases muscular performance and is the ultimate secret weapon when used in conjunction with high-intensity cardio. As I stated above when you're doing high-intensity cardio such as sprints, your body will use the ATP-PCr pathway to give you the energy for an all-out-effort. After about 10 seconds of an all-out-sprint you naturally begin to slow down because you are depleting your PCr (phosphocreatine) stores. You may know exactly what I'm talking about because this is when you feel the "burn" in your legs. This burning is caused from your body finding other energy stores to keep you going. Taking a creatine supplement will increase your PCr stores to allow for better performance during high-intensity activity and short-burst muscle contractions.
Written by Gavin Saiz