What is Cardio?

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April 4, 2016

What is Cardio?

All about cardio

I asked some lovely ladies that follow my page questions they had about their fitness goals. Cardio seemed to be a topic that was recurring so I wanted to feature an article on the following:

What is cardio?

What forms of cardio are there?

How often/when should cardio be done?

Let’s be honest, there are very few people in this world that love cardio. Those that do, I’m convinced are secretly an alien species from a galaxy far, far away. I absolutely abhor cardio, but it is a necessary evil to maintain optimal health and attain the physique you want. I’ve discovered that there are multiple ways to reach your goal when it comes to cardio. For those of you who hate running, there is hope!

What is Cardio?

Cardio is short for “cardiovascular.” The term is used to describe the circulatory system comprised of the heart and blood vessels in the body. When people “do cardio” they’re performing endurance exercises that strengthen and boost this network.

What forms of Cardio are there?

Cardio takes on many different forms. Most people conjure up images of running when they think of cardio, but that is only one modality. I prefer to take the approach of “train smart, not long,” but I’ll list a couple different options for you.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):HIIT is, and has been one of my favorite forms of cardio. I like to do the least amount of cardio as possible and HIIT is right up my alley. HIIT can be performed effectively on the following modalities in order of effectiveness: Stair Stepper, Treadmill, Elliptical, Bicycle. Your modality will depend on your fitness level and if you suffer from any injuries or hindrances, i.e. knee issues.

HIIT is performed by  alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. It can last anywhere from 10-40 minutes. Your work round needs to be difficult enough that you are pleading for your rest round, but not so difficult that you can’t complete at least 10-20 minutes. Beginners typically use a split of 1:2- 1.2.5 and intermediate to advanced typically perform HIIT at a 1:1.5- 1:1 split.

An example of beginner hit would be:

Sprint on treadmill at 7MPH for 30 seconds

Walk on Treadmill for 4MPH for 1-1 1/2 minutes. for 7 rounds

An intermediate to advanced level example would be:

Sprint at 12.5MPH for 30 seconds

Jog at 6MPH for 30-45s. for 12-15 rounds (This is the split I typically use).

You perform HIIT on the Elliptical/Bicycle/Stair master but increasing speed/resistance opposed to MPH.


  • Ideal for those with time restrictions
  • Excellent for increasing cardiovascular endurance
  • Efficient and effective for burning fat if used correctly
  • Can be performed multiple times per week without fatiguing
  • Your metabolism spikes for several hours after you finish performing HIIT and you continue burning calories. This is called the After Burn effect.


  • You need to hold yourself accountable
  • It is easy to perform incorrectly


LSD/Endurance – Long Slow Distance Cardio

Long slow distance cardio is typically what you see people performing when you are at the gym. Or “cardio bunnies” as we like to call them. This is essentially doing cardio over the course of 40 minutes to an hour. It is common to try to keep your heart rate around 140-150 during this hour though these numbers differ from person to person. The best modalities in order for LSD cardio are: Stair Master/Stepper, Elliptical, Treadmill, Bike.


My recommendation is to start with 40 minutes on your chosen modality and increase over the course of two weeks. That will look like so:


Day 1: 40 minutes,

Day 2: 40 minutes

Day 3: 40 minutes (increase resistance/speed)

Day 4: 45 minutes

Day 5: 45 minutes

Day 6: 45 minutes (increase resistance/speed)

Day 7: 45 minutes


Day 8: 50 minutes

Day 9: 50  minutes

Day 10: 55 minutes

Day 11: 55 minutes (increase resistance/speed)

Day 12: 55 minutes

Day 13: 55 minutes

Day 14: 1 hour (increase resistance/speed)


I do not recommend running long distance unless it is something you enjoy or you are specifically training for 5ks 10ks etc. For most people when they lift/want an athletic physique I ask them to compare a marathon runner’s body to a sprinter’s body. The difference is significant.


PROs of LSD:

  • Excellent for improving cardiovascular
  • Burns significantly more immediate calories compared to HIIT if done for extended periods of time.
  • One of the oldest strategies to burn stubborn fat and break plateaus.


  • Extremely time consuming.
  • Takes extreme motivation to continue pushing yourself
  • Can increase DOMs (Delayed onset muscle soreness)

Circuit Training:

Circuit training is a form of resistance training that combines cardiovascular exercise with weight training. There are typically multiple exercises in a circuit performed in succession with one another with interval bursts of cardio in between. An example of circuit training would be:

Dumbbell Curl x15

Dumbbell Row x15

Tricep Kickback x15

Dumbbell Press x15

Battleropes 20s work/10s rest for 8 rounds

Push ups (Max)

Row Machine 500m

10 Burpees

Complete the circuit 3-5 times.

PROs of Circuit Training

  • Efficient for those who are short on time looking for weight loss. I employ circuit training with all of my clients in addition to their cardio.
  • Excellent weight loss strategy
  • Functional training that improves all areas of fitness
  • Increases strength, endurance, power, and physical fitness.
  • Ideal for maintenance goals.

CONs of Circuit Training

  • Not ideal for those in a hypertrophy/strength building phase in weight lifting unless they are already in excellent physical condition.
  • Can be difficult to build up endurance.
  • Limited rest periods
  • Additional cardio may still need to be done if weight loss is the goal.

Miscellaneous Cardio Modalities:

Some of my favorite cardio modalities that were briefly or not mentioned above:

Medicine Ball Slams/Throws/Tosses/Targets

Row Machine (Excellent for burning a high amount of calories)

Battle Ropes


How often/when should cardio be done?

Opinions vary from Trainer to Trainer, but I prefer to do my cardio after I finish lifting weights. A popular theory is that you burn down your glycogen (stored carbohydrates) stores after you lift weights for 45 min- 1 hour and cardio is “more effective” for cutting fat  afterwards.

For Weight loss/Cutting: If your primary goal is weight loss, for best results 5-7 times per week is optimal. If you can do cardio each day, that is going to garner the best results. Combine Circuit Training with LSD or HIIT for best results. You can alternate between LSD and HIIT training. I tend to do HIIT on my leg days and LSD on the stair stepper on my upper body/core days.

For Maintenance: Circuit training and your choice of cardio 2-3x per week as long as you are eating appropriately.

For Controlling a Bulk: For those out there attempting to control  a bulk, it’s a bit of a delicate balance. I find that maintaining cardio 5+ times per week after increasing my calories allows me to bulk without losing too much of the cut look. Keeping maintained also allows me to cut down quickly while remaining in a surplus.

– Tai Rae

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