Whenever you walk into a gym nowadays new cardio machines are abundant.
The latest way to beat the flab is on a treadmill, it's so good because you can watch TV and your fat will magically disappear. Right?
This is certainly what you'd think when you see the lines of people walking on a treadmill glued to the TV.
There are two main types of cardio activity
You've got the big two:
1.) High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
2.) Steady-state cardio (SSC)
An example of the steady-state (which I wouldn't recommend for the average person) is the jogger plodding along at 60-70% of their max heart rate for hours each week. Listen, if you have no aspirations of running a competitive 10k and just want to lose some body fat this is probably one of the worst things you can do. This work is too hard to be used as recovery or to burn predominantly fat as an energy source, and yet it's not hard enough to stimulate the all so desired 'after burn' effect, not to mention with the serious pounding your knees, ankles, and hips take from the repetitive movement.
Now don't get me wrong if you are a recreational runner and enjoy going for a jog then go for it. However, if you want to lose a bit of body fat around your tummy to get in that summer dress there are much more effective ways to do so.
Steady-state cardio is any activity that raises the heart rate above rest, this could be walking, jogging, cycling anything where the tempo is regulated.
It can vary but an effective dose is 20 mins+ in time.
If you keep the intensity lower, so a heart rate of 40-60% of max (220 minus your age is a rough max), SSC does predominantly use fat as the source of energy for exercise. So if you are looking to speed up fat loss with an already comprehensive weight training program that is controlling calorie consumption, it has its place.
I don't prescribe going for more than a brisk walk on an incline for a steady-state keeping that HR below 60% of max. It must be used as a tool for a purpose, not the be-all, and end-all of training.
A typical example would be someone jogging on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day thinking this is what they need to do to lean out and get toned.
However when you see most people who try to lose weight this way their progress slows after a few weeks and they give up. Why is that?
Because your body adapts to the new stimulus you are putting on it and if you do steady-state cardio you engage a lot of catabolism, which is breaking down the energy stores within the body for energy.
You start to burn away at your stores of fat, carbs, proteins, as there is no stimulus to make your body think it needs the muscles you have worked so hard to build.
If you look at professional long-distance runners they are very lean but they carry very little muscle mass because it is costly to the body to run for long periods with extra weight, therefore, it will look to drop anything that will make this more efficient.
Whereas if you look at the physiques of sports professionals who stop and start all the time, who vary their intensity with bursts of power i.e. footballers, rugby player, tennis players; most will carry above-average levels of muscle mass and low levels of body fat as they stress their bodies with intervals of hard work and rest.
This is where the idea of HIIT training instead comes from, as you work intensely in the short burst rather than aerobically you increase the growth stimulus on the muscles and they not only burn more calories when you are working than you do at steady state but because they are damaged and need repair your body is burning more calories at rest.
something that has come to be popularised is the after burn effect.
So essentially work harder for a short period say 20-40 minutes between 2-3 times a week as you would get a similar kcal burn as a LOT longer doing steady state cardio due to EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) which is a fancy way of saying your metabolism stays heightened for a few hours afterward even when you have returned to rest.
Again HIIT should be used as a tool in a varied training program.
You should always cover the bases of strengthening exercises, cardiovascular fitness, and mobility for optimum health and performance.
Within a home gym environment incorporating, weights-based training, Steady-state cardio and HIIT training can keep your workouts more varied and fun.
Another bonus is you don't need to spend thousands on a treadmill to achieve your goals.
You can just get some key home essentials, kit as simple as:
2 sets of dumbbells
A kettlebell or two.
A Slam ball
And you've got the foundations of a great workout:
1.Thruster - (SQUAT INTO OVERHEAD PRESS)
2.Overhead throws - Slamball thrown overhead
3.Dumbbell upright rows
30 seconds work & 15-second rest to swop equipment = 6 mins work - 3 mins rest (1 circuit will be 10 minutes if you take 1-2 mins rest between rounds)
Repeat 2-3 times to get a Half an hour HIT workout in.
So which is better?
That depends on your goals and how much time you have, I prescribe both to my clients.
If they have more time and the equipment available we would use steady-state cardio to build on top of their weight training program as an extra fat burn.
If the client has less time we can incorporate HIIT cardio as a form of resistance training to get the most bang for your buck with limited amounts of time.