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Reach PT: Cardio For Cardio

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What is Cardio?

Training your cardiovascular system doesn’t necessarily mean running or cycling. Anything that increases your heart rate and gets you out of breath through movement can be thought of as “cardio”.

Ever done a hard set of 15 deadlifts or squats? No doubt you were out of breath! That’s cardio!

Do as many burpees as you can in three minutes. Again, cardio!

Types of Cardio

The three main types of cardio you may be familiar with are are HIIT, LIIT and Steady State cardio.

  • HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). HIIT means several rounds of working incredibly hard for a short period of time, with appropriate rest periods after each set. Hard means maximum effort that can only be sustained for 10-15 seconds. Appropriate recovery between rounds is needed. This level of effort can make some people feel nauseous. In order to reach these levels of intensity consideration should be given to the types of exercise included. Exercises that use the legs and glutes are usually the best because the biggest muscles in the body use the most oxygen. HIIT Works well with exercises such as Burpees, assault bike, sprints, cleans, clean and press, jumping lunges.

    It’s important to note that what is appropriate for one person may not be for another. For example someone who is very fit is unlikely to reach an appropriate level of intensity with 15 seconds of wall balls. But this may be very difficult and intense for somebody with low levels of fitness. In general, it’s very difficult to achieve this level of intensity with planks or sit ups.

Examples of a HIIT session structure:

10 rounds of
– 15 seconds work
– 60-180 seconds rest
Total work time 2 1/2 minutes.
Total rest time 10 to 30 minutes.
Total session time 12.5 to 32.5 minutes.

  • LIIT (Low Intensity Interval Training). As the name implies, this is the opposite to HIIT. As you’re not working as hard, the work time of the session is generally longer. Weight training for hypertrophy is a good example of LIIT. 30 to 60 seconds of steady work, followed by a couple of minutes rest, repeated for 20 sets. Lifting weights, several times a week provides an excellent level of cardio fitness, almost as a bonus.

    In terms of exercise selection, the same exercises used in HIIT can be included in LIIT but, obviously, at a slower pace. Due to the extended duration of a LIIT interval, you can also perform other exercises which, although they may not provide enough stimulus over 10-15 seconds, are effective when done over, say, 4 minutes. Exercises such as brisk walking, jogging on the spot, wall balls, steady rowing, kettlebell swings etc may be appropriate.
  • Steady State Cardio. In contrast to interval training, steady-state cardio means working constantly without breaks. It’s possible to use a low, moderate or fairly high level of intensity sustained throughout the entire session. For example, I may perform HIIT at around 180-190 BPM heart rate. LIIT at around 110-120 BPM. Steady-state cardio could be anything between 110 and 175 BPM, depending on the goal. A 5km PB run would mean running for just over 20 minutes at around 170 BPM. An easy 5Km would be 30 minutes at around 115 BPM.

    Exercise selection for steady-state cardio is usually limited to things that are not going to cause undue stress to the body over for an extended period of time. There is absolutely no need to do an hour of squats, press ups or sit ups so you would tend to choose exercises that fit into the more traditional “cardio” category, such as swimming, running, rowing or cycling.

Cardio For Toning

If you want to tone up then the key activity that will comprise the bulk of your training will be lifting weights. As we describe above, a hypertrophy session will also provide significant cardiovascular benefits. If, however, you’d like to increase your all-round fitness then there’s no reason why you can’t add in some HIIT or steady-state cardio a few of times a week.

Doing Cardio

Couch To 5K. If you are new to running and would like to start from the very beginning, learning to run for a few minutes at a time, then the NHS Couch To 5K is a great resource. You can find more information and download here:

parkrun. A great way to get started with running is through parkrun. “parkruns are free, weekly, community events all around the world”. Saturday morning events are 5k and take place in parks and open spaces”. You can find your local parkrun here:

Organised Races. If you like the idea of entering a race then you can find a list of running and triathlon events here: