The fitness culture has really grown over the last few years. From FitBit to LuLu Lemon, to Under Armour, fitness has gone mainstream. And as fitness has trended up, it seems like everyone who has a gym membership is now a fitness “expert” (or they at least think they’re experts). Unfortunately, as more people search for advice on how to get in shape, an epidemic of fitness misinformation has spread across the internet.
Today, we’re going to debunk some of the most prevalent myths about cardio. Everyone knows that cardio exercises like running, biking and swimming are great parts of a complete workout plan. However, while cardio workouts provide many benefits, depending on your health and fitness goals, too much cardio can actually hinder your progress.
But worry not fitness enthusiast. Scorch is going to keep your workout split on the true and righteous path. If there’s anything a former Bro takes seriously, its fitness. 💪💪💪
Here’s our list of cardio myths we love to hate.
Myth 1: You Should Always Do Cardio Before Weight Training
Bros and Broettes, stop sapping your muscles of their power and strength before your weight training. While a good warm up is essential to reducing the risk of injury and performing at a high level, that doesn’t mean you should put in 30 or 40 minutes on the treadmill before lifting your weights.
A recent study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that doing endurance training first negatively impacted subsequent resistance training. Weight training should be the cornerstone of your workout routine if you’re focused on losing body fat, increasing tone and definition, increasing power and strength, or increasing mass. That list includes the goals of just about everyone who owns a gym membership, which means just about everyone should be doing weights first, and cardio second.
Now, there is one caveat to this mythbuster, and that’s if you’re goal is endurance training. Individuals training for long distance workouts like marathon runners, competitive bikers or swimmers may benefit from doing their cardio workout before resistance training. The fitness goals for those focused on endurance training are different than the vast majority of people who simply want to find their abs (or prove that they exist).
A study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that weight training after doing cardio significantly improved the VO2 max of the participants (VO2 is a key performance indicator for endurance athletes, measuring the amount of oxygen an athlete can use).
Myth 2: HIIT is the Best Way to Burn Fat
High-intensity interval training, or “HIIT” has really grown in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. HIIT workouts have you train at near-max performance, with short-bursts of all-out effort, broken up with active recovery resting periods. When done properly, HIIT will give you an incredibly high calorie burn during your workout, and cause your metabolism to be increased in the 36 to 48 hours following the HIIT session.
But the key to burning fat isn’t necessarily about burning calories, it’s about burning fat calories. Different types of workouts burn different types of calories. During HIIT training sessions, a majority of the calories burned come from non-fat sources like carbohydrates or protein. HIIT is an anaerobic activity, and carbohydrates are the primary fuel for anaerobic exercises.
To specifically burn fat calories, you need to do steady-state cardio. Steady-state cardio workouts have you training at lower intensity, targeting a heart rate of 65% of your maximum, for a period of 30 to 60 minutes. This type of cardio uses fat calories as fuel, and is better than HIIT at targeting fat loss.
Myth 3: Cardio can Substitute for Leg Training
What the hell. Seriously, I’ve been to a lot of gyms and I’ve never heard of this myth until I started researching this article.
What kind of self-respecting fitness person would ever consider cardio as a proper stand-in for Leg Day? If you’re into fitness, you know you don’t skip Leg Day, and you probably think it’s crazy that someone actually believes running or biking for 60 minutes is the same as an hour of squats, dead lifts and lunges.
So let’s be clear, cardio is not a substitute for weight training your legs. I mean I understand that you use your legs when you run, but running won’t give your legs power, strength, or cause the muscle hypertrophy needed to increase your resting rate of metabolism.
Myth 4: Cardio Kills Muscle Gains
The idea that doing cardio will hurt your muscle gains is more excuse, and less truth. Too much of anything is a bad thing, and yes, if you do an obscene amount of cardio, it may negatively affect your muscles size, power and strength. However, you’d be lying to yourself if you think you have to skip cardio to preserve muscle gains. Don’t let this myth be the reason you break up with your treadmill.
Unless you’re doing 60 to 70 minutes of cardio more than 3 times a week, your cardio regime is probably fine. In fact, a complete fitness plan should include 2 to 3 cardio workouts a week. Whether you’re just trying to lose weight, or you fall into the hunk/lunk category, you should think of cardio more as conditioning.
Getting fit requires a certain base-level of conditioning. Cardio combined with weight training will help you achieve this base-level of conditioning more quickly. Moreover, a smart cardio plan combined with weight training will help you achieve gains and results faster than with just resistance training alone.