Are you still betting on Cardio for Weight Loss?
Conditioning work prepares you for battle - cardio makes you really good at running away from it. -Chris Shugart
Having discussed the different energy systems and how metabolic conditioning is a great way to enhance them, I want to dig deeper today and present you the difference between cardio and conditioning as well as when's the best time to do conditioning work.
A Cardio vs. Conditioning
The traditional definition of cardio is any physical activity that brings the heart rate up above 110 beats/minute. Cardio mainly works the aerobic energy system, which is mostly relevant for endurance activities. If your goal is running a half marathon or finishing triathlon you should work on that system. However if you're looking for increasing lean muscle mass and getting rid of some body fat cardio will be somewhere between being a big waste of your time to even counterproductive.
Building muscle (which is also the best method to reduce your body fat in combination with proper nutrition) heavily relies on the glycolytic and phosphagen-based energy systems. Those energy systems will be improved most effectively via conditioning exercises (I am talking about prowler/sled work, medicine ball stomps, battle ropes and all this badass stuff that looks fun and actually is fun - contrary to running for hours...).
But why is conditioning so superior when it comes to supporting the buildup of a strong and athletic body (something most of us wish for, don't we?). The keyword is "adaption". Something you should be familiar with when it comes to strength or hypertrophy training. The body adapts to training which is why we have to constantly and regularly change the parameters (weight, reps, sets, tempo, exercises selection) in order to become bigger and/or stronger. Progressive overload therefore is the key to keep gaining. Metabolic conditioning highly helps us to progressively overload as we are able to squeeze more reps and tolerate a higher volume as well as time under tension (=tempo) because we can rely on improved glycolytic and ATP-based energy systems that are most relevant to those activities.
-> The takeaway here is that cardio only makes you good at cardio (which is why you have to run more in order to get better at running distances) whereas conditioning makes you better at everything athletically.
When is the best time for conditioning? There are actually 3 good times to do conditioning:
Either right after your regular workout session as a "metabolic finisher" to profit even greater from the EPOC-effect (the "Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption"); better known as afterburner effect.
On rest days as part of active recovery.
In the postabsorptive state (the time between being recently fed and fasted), which is the point where most of your recently ingested food is mostly digested and the nutrients are available in your bloodstream. This is only an option for athletes having the time to train twice a day (for example conditioning in the morning, strength training late afternoon/evening).
D Exercise Selection
When it comes to conditioning you want to make sure that you keep progressing just like in your weight training. Switching and cycling your exercise selection and resistances therefore becomes crucial. My favorite conditioning exercises are sprints (air bike or rowing machine), anything involving a sled or prowler (pushing, pulling or dragging), battle ropes in all variations, carrying heavy stuff, stomping medicine balls.
Ready for battle? Have you implemented conditioning work into your weekly routine yet?