Progressive Overload Applies To Cardiovascular Training As Well

This is a follow-up post to: Can Weight Training Improve Your Cardiovascular Conditioning?

Pseudoscience and bodybuilding go hand in hand – there is even a name for it – broscience.

“Broscientists,” tell us that endurance training hinders muscle growth. Some bodybuilders genuinely fear “running off” their hard earned gym gains by doing cardio. And for that reason, many gym lifters forgo training their cardiovascular system altogether.

“Anything over 6 reps is cardio, bro.” – Broscientist

Let’s get something clear, the most hardcore pro bodybuilders on the face of the planet do cardiovascular conditioning. Here is a quote from Ronnie Coleman on his contest prep for the 1999 Mr. Olympia, which was by far his best condition ever:

This year, I changed things up quite a bit. For example, instead of doing 30 minutes of cardio in the morning and at night 8 weeks out from the contest, I ended up doing one hour of cardio twice a day, 12 weeks out. It helped me get much harder than the previous year. – Ronnie Coleman

Essentially, you should have no problem with bipedal forms of travel. No walking or normal movements should tax your cardiovascular system. Walking up a flight of stairs should be nothing to you.

Are you having trouble recovering between sets, or workouts? Has your body plateaued in muscle growth? Can you maintain your intensity throughout the duration of a workout, or does it falter? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to seriously work on cardio.

“Exercise is random. Training is measurable.” – Mark Rippetoe

The goal, essentially, is to enhance your heart’s ability to pump nutrient-rich blood to your muscles. The first way to approach the heart is through a similar view to that of your weight training sessions. There are three forms of muscle tissue found in your body. The heart is made of cardiac muscle, the other two forms being skeletal and smooth muscle.

The difference between cardiac and skeletal muscle is that you can voluntarily control and contract the latter, while this cannot occur with the former.

The similarity is, however, that both can be hypertrophied.

Even though we cannot voluntarily contract our heart, we can voluntarily increase the workload on our entire body, thus, increasing the workload on the heart. This is of vital importance. A trained athlete will have a bigger heart, than an untrained athlete. You will not pump blood more powerfully pound for pound (can’t increase resting blood pressure), but rather have a larger heart which equals a stronger pump. Your heart will also increase its filling capacity, its ability to fill up with blood before each beat, due to its new enlarged state.

Progressive overload applies to cardiovascular training as well.

Therefore, you will want to use progressively harder workouts. Most cardio machines have different levels of difficulty, which makes progressive overload easy to gauge. As you progress, you should also notice a lower resting heart rate. Take your pulse now, and measure the improvements over the next 6 months to a year. The results can actually be quite drastic if you train hard enough.

To make progress in training you must be tracking and measuring your performance regularly. If you are completely out of shape in this area, then even starting off with one 30 minute cardio session per week can enhance your conditioning.

If you have a good cardio base, but would like to enhance it, you can increase aerobic sessions weekly. I hope you understand by now how important it is to not only take cardiovascular conditioning seriously but to also have a program that tracks your progress and keeps you accountable.

You will want to progressively increase the intensity of your workouts. By exposing the heart to a higher workload, it will adapt and become a much more efficient muscle. The heart is the most vital organ after all. And again, checking your resting heart rate is probably the best way to gauge the effectiveness of your cardiovascular program, aside from how you actually feel in the weight room.

If you are serious about getting started and are looking for someone to help you with your cardio/weight training program, contact me (info @ canfitness.com). Include “Cardio Program” in the title of the email.

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