How Much Cardio Should You Do?
Billy Polson originally sent me some of this information years ago (He is a leading fitness trainer in CA and the co-owner of DIAKADI BODY, DIAKADI stands for Do It All, Kick Ass Doing Do It, a serious training gym in San Francisco).
Here is a quick summary to shed light on how much cardio you should incorporate into your fitness program.
How much cardio you should do depends entirely on your specific fitness goals. To help clear up some of the uncertainty, let’s break down the goals, and then look at the appropriate cardio program to get you where you want to be.
Which of these are your goals? Scroll down and read underneath the heading that fits your fitness needs.
- • Reduce body fat and build lean muscle mass
- • Maintain body fat and add muscle mass
- • Achieve functional health and fitness
- • Meet sports-specific training goals
Reduce Body Fat and Build Lean Muscle Mass
Trying to build lean muscle mass while simultaneously reducing body fat is inefficient—you need to be in a caloric deficit to reduce body fat, but you need to be in a caloric surplus to add muscle mass. If you want to reduce your body fat and add muscle mass, I recommend progressing in two phases—each accompanied by its own cardio program.
First, you’ll want to reduce your body fat to your goal level. During this reduction period, you should perform 20 to 30 minutes of moderate cardio at least four times per week to burn more calories and help you achieve a calorie deficit. Do this cardio separately from your strength training workouts. For example, perform 20 to 30 minutes of moderate cardio each morning before work, and then do your strength training each night after work, or even on a separate day. Perform a variety of formats (such as stair climbing, running, rowing machine, and swimming) to stimulate your nervous and muscular system and keep your body working. Do not skip your strength training during this fat-loss period—you don’t want to lose the muscle mass you already have.
Once you have achieved your optimal body fat level, see the next category for how to maintain your low body fat and add muscle mass. Note: In order to know exactly how much you need to eat for deficit and surplus to meet these goals, I recommend working with a registered dietician or using an interactive online weight-management program like Body FX program. These professionals can take the guesswork out of eating programs and help you make the most of each minute you spend on the treadmill. REF: TAD CARTER / TRAINER / AND YOU WILL GET A DISCOUNT (Or send me a note in the contacts section and I will send you all the information)
Maintain Body Fat and Add Muscle Mass
If you have achieved your desired body fat and simply want to build more muscle, you should focus your energy primarily on strength training four to six days per week, and do 15 to 20 minutes of cardio, two times per week, again in separate workout periods and again mixing it up with different types of cardio exercise. Why do your cardio separate from your strength training? Because doing your cardio workout directly after your strength training workout undoes many of the hormonal benefits your body gets from a strength training workout. This will mean less muscle built.
Achieve Functional Health and Fitness
If you care more about your overall cardiovascular health than about maintaining high levels of muscle mass, then perform 20 to 60 minutes of cardio three to five days per week. You will have a harder time building bulky muscle mass at this level, but you will achieve serious cardiovascular health. Again, be creative with your cardio programs and try some of the following ideas to get the most out of your cardio-focused program:
Integrate circuit training by performing your strength training workouts with little rest between exercises, so that your heart rate stays up during muscle building. This will help you build muscle as well as improve cardio fitness and lean out.
Alternate the type of aerobic activities you do each workout, so that you stimulate different muscle groups each time. It is great to see my regular athletes in class each week But change things up guys! Try out different aerobics or cardio classes or take up a sport such as soccer. There is value in variety!
Swap out weeks of endurance cardio work with weeks of sprint intervals, no matter what type of cardio you are doing.
Try new sports for your cardio. You are never too old to try new sports—and actually, you will surprise yourself with how much more quickly you learn new movements as an adult. I have had a great time with Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball classes (great way to get in with the South Bay crowd since Vball is practically a religion to Southern Californians).
Meet Sport-Specific Training Goals
For sport-specific training, the cardio question is totally dependent on the following: the sport for which you are training; whether you are in-season or out of season; and the periodization training program you are following. Remember that the most efficient training regimens have people training their strength and their aerobic capacity at different periods within the program. Athletes always train their aerobic endurance directly before the season begins. Take a look at the calendar for your sport, and map out aplanned workout program. For instance, triathletes tend to interval train and increase their swim work outs in the Early Spring to prepare for tri season which goes from May – September.
Come join me and the groupies for a free class using Body FX! (If you need a pass send me an email and I will make the arrangements)
Here is my schedule:
Thursday JNL Fusion Weights and Cardio 5:30pm Liberty Station Point Loma
2650 Truxtun Rd, Suite 201
(between Roosevelt Rd & Dewey Rd)
San Diego, CA 92106
Neighborhoods: Liberty StationClass Schedule:
Oct 24 – Upper Body & Plyos
Nov 7 – Cardio & Abs
Nov 14 – Lower Body & Plyos
Nov 21 – Cardio & Abs
Dec 5 – Upper Body & Plyos
Dec 12 – Cardio & Abs
Dec 19 – Lower Body & Plyos
Wednesday Spin Class 5:30pm 24 hour La Jolla West
7680 Girard Ave, La Jolla · Make a reservation (858) 551-7800
Sunday Spin Class 9:30am 24 Hour La Jolla West