Do any movement that uses lots of muscle. This will elevate your heart rate. Get into a rhythm. Keep this up for enough time, and you will work your cardiovascular system.
Most people do this the wrong way though. Long, slow, and steady cardio can hurt you. For example, jogging places stress on the joints. This occurs from the sheer number of foot strikes. This wears out your back, knees, and ankles. It sets you up for injury. Unless you need to jog for your sport, better methods exist. You have to put in many hours of your life as well.
With new research, the old dogma on cardio has started to fade. Intervals achieve what experts in the past thought impossible. Intervals give the same or better results in much less time. You instead use bursts of exercise followed by rest. The Tabata protocol gives one way to achieve this goal. Sprinting, stairclimbing, jumping, and some machines such as a rower or bike serve as good choices. You can get all of the benefits of cardio with only 3-5 minutes, as long as you work to do more in the same amount of time. This means working harder with more resistance or speed.
Many practice only weightlifting. You can attribute this to either laziness or the fear of less strength and size. I can understand this trap.
Many avoid cardio because they feel that doing it will slow or stop muscle growth. The evidence seems to now show otherwise. You may do best in either strength or endurance, but this has more to do with your potential than the way you train. Some feel that cardio inherently harms strength and power. This seems doubtful since the adaptations for each occur in different areas of the body. It seems overtraining poses the real problem. Too much overall exercise will prevent recovery. Strength and endurance complement each other.
Although weightlifting allows some cardiovascular changes, it remains subpar compared with exercise that focuses on getting the heart rate up. You need both lifting and cardio. The desire for efficiency, by just lifting, gets trumped by the lack of complete results. Consider these advantages.
I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t always have to be on the go. I sit around a lot, I read a lot, and I do watch television. But I also work out for two hours every day of my life, even when I’m on the road.
– Jack LaLanne
- Speeds up all recovery.
The aerobic system works during any activity of a long duration. This includes when you rest. Therefore, all recovery depends on this system. A fit aerobic system can allow faster recovery from all forms of exercise, even heavy lifting. It speeds up the removal of by-products from fatigue. It drives the flow of materials to rebuild tissue throughout the body.
Weightlifting focuses on less muscle at a time. Therefore, it has less of an effect on circulation. Rushing from set to set changes the limiting factors away from strength and size. A good weightlifting routine will not necessarily elevate the heart rate enough to improve the aerobic system. Cardio fails to generate the tension needed for more strength and size. Trying to merge the two creates a combo that lets you down on both accounts.
- Improves circulation.
Cardio requires more total body blood flow. This happens due to more muscles involved for more time. This helps your digestion, sex life, your hair and skin, and so on. This combats bad fats and cholesterol in the body. It may reduce the risk of cramps and tears.
- Aids your warm-up and stretching.
Circulation seems necessary to best prepare the joints and muscles for a workout. It works as lubrication, reducing the risk of injury. Cardio helps provide a general warm-up. It increases your body temperature. A warm-up has proven value to aid performance. Cardio will encourage more blood flow than possible through warm-up sets of just lifting alone.
- Gives unique benefits to the heart, lungs, and muscles.
Cardio has different limiting factors than weightlifting. It addresses the aerobic and lactic acid systems more strenuously. Heavy training uses a shorter duration that fails to challenge the heart rate.
Cardio brings unique benefits. These include disease resistance and reduced blood pressure. It strengthens the entire heart. It has the greatest effect on mitochondria, the workhorses of your cells. Only cardio can greatly improve your VO2 max. This measurement represents the overall aerobic power of the body. The best form of cardio spreads the workload among all four limbs. Weightlifting focuses on only two limbs at a time. This explains why cross-country skiers report some the highest VO2 maxes ever reached in athletes.
Sitting too much risks your health. If you only train with weights, you sit more than you need to do. Cardio allows you to work yourself differently. Cardio fails to burden the body when performed as frequently, unlike heavy lifting. This allows you to gain the benefits of activity with destroying yourself too much.
- Mobilizes fat.
Cardio allows the body to efficiently burn fat. This spares energy in the muscles for high intensity training. It also limits your body from tapping into lean tissue for daily energy requirements. This maintains muscle mass. This all improves the quality of your metabolism.
- Develops stabilizers.
The bracing required when using free weights on basic exercises will address the stabilizers. These include muscles of the core, outer hips, inner thighs, and others in the legs and feet. They work to hold positions, not to move loads.
Nonetheless, an athlete may benefit from more specific work. Intervals usually comprise of motions an athlete needs to perfect anyway. This includes sprinting and jumping. Doing these will develop the stabilizers further. This comes from the balance and coordination required.
You need to work harder to limit lateral movement. Unlike effective lifting, cardio is unilateral. While both limbs working together may work well for increasing strength, such as with a barbell bench press, unilateral movement works the stabilizers more, such as when running up stairs.
- Allows overall fitness.
If you lift heavy weights only, you will exhaust yourself too soon during a real-life scenario. A fighter requires both endurance and strength. You may have a crippling uppercut, but if you tire out in a fight, you throw that punch weakly and will get hit much more.
You also need local endurance in specific muscles. You may do better at swimming by growing stronger in the upper body, but would not develop the endurance needed. Lifting develops local strength but not local endurance.
Cardio also tends to involve weight-bearing. This means standing with your feet planted. If practiced correctly, weight-bearing strengthens key joints in the lower body. This reduces the risk of injury due to weak connective tissue.
- Relieves stress and pain.
The flow of materials throughout the spine relies on activity. This area does not receive much blood flow. Cardio therefore allows the fluid transfers that promote health. This fights back against lower back pain. Mental health improves. You feel less stress and anxiety. It provides an outlet for anger. A sense of well-being can develop. You will concentrate better. This occurs due to better circulation, which means more blood flow toward the brain. Our minds operate best only when we consider our need for exercise.
- Allows better sleep.
Our bodies rely on circadian rhythms. Exercise during the day allows you to crash harder at night. Less melatonin releases if you do not exercise. This hormone prompts sleep. You need the contrast of daylight and activity compared with darkness and relaxation to establish a strong rhythm. Otherwise, you will sleep less soundly and feel tired at the worst times.
- Adds variety.
Weightlifting is straightforward. Over time, it may grow dull. We can only perform a small number of heavy exercises safely. Adding variety beyond some simple pushes, pulls, and squats risks the health of your joints and muscles.
Since effective cardio relies on the whole body to mix and match motions, you can include more variety. This can prevent overuse and keep things fun. The advantages of variety come mainly from the mental benefits.
Since we simply have to elevate the heart rate, we can get there in many ways. It matters little how you elevate your heart rate unless you compete as an athlete. This can make up for the monotony of proper lifting.
Cardio Provides Unique Benefits
Conditioning from cardio comes and goes faster than strength and size through heavy lifting. You generally require less recovery time between cardio bouts. You can walk every day and reap health benefits. Intervals done a few days a week at the most can complement this. You need cardio for complete health and fitness, but can achieve this in much less time than most believe.