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You've heard about the benefits of high-intensity cardio loads for weight loss, but you are frightened by the prospect of losing muscle mass. Find out the truth!

Author: Jacob Wilson

QUESTION: Today, people constantly talk about high-intensity cardio loads, but I know a lot of guys who still devote a lot of time to low-intensity training today. Personally, any program that does not adversely affect the muscle mass will suit me. What do you advise?

Undoubtedly, the visiting card of bodybuilding is extreme muscularity. Another trademark is the muscular relief drawn to the smallest detail. Look at most of the training programs, and you will see standard approaches to solving these problems: strength training for muscle mass, followed by cardio loads for burning fat. It's simple, right?

Science confirms the effectiveness of these techniques. But at the point of their intersection, in the phase of "simultaneous training", the situation is sharply complicated. For example, the studies published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 1998 found that 10-week strength training in combination with cardio infusions leads to more weight loss than isolated power loads. Unfortunately, in the same study it was shown that the connection to aerobic exercise strength exercises slows down the growth of force indicators. Other studies have shown similar results – after integration of cardio-loads into the training cycle, muscle growth slowed sharply.

Why cardio-growth slows growth? There are several explanations for this. First, aerobic training is an additional amount of workload, which significantly complicates recovery after a standard strength training. Secondly, scientists insist that the processes of physiological adaptation to cardio-loads are the exact opposite of what happens against the background of strength training. The adaptation of the cardiovascular system comes to the fore, which nullifies all the effects of strength training.

Both described scenarios have a clear impact on those who are striving to recruit muscle mass: in the drying phase they are too cautious. The question is, is it possible to maximize the effect of cardio-loads and at the same time eliminate all the negative? Together with colleagues from the University of Tampa, I studied this issue for the past few years, and we have good news for you: it's possible. It all depends on what type of aerobic training you choose, and how much you will perform it.

Turn the pedals away from the treadmill

In one of our recent studies, the effect on muscle growth of various types of cardio loads, their intensity and the dilution in time of aerobic and strength training was studied. Our goal was to find out which cardio-operations negatively affect the results of strength training. For example, comparing running and riding a bicycle, we came to the conclusion that running is accompanied by a more pronounced slowing of muscle growth. This correlates with the results obtained in 2009 by another laboratory: walking uphill leads to a more pronounced decrease in power indicators than a bicycle.

There are two reasons why this happens. The first theory: the movements used in jogging or walking uphill are so different from the biomechanics of strength exercises (for example, squats) that this leads to a fall in the results of strength training. Unlike running, in riding a bicycle, hips and knees are much more involved.

The second theory: cycling is based on concentric movements that do not lead to significant muscle damage, while running causes significant muscle damage during the eccentric phase and stretching. That's why, after riding a bicycle, recovery is faster than after running.

The intensity and duration of the load are even more important than its type. We came to the conclusion that long-term loss of fat mass is least pronounced in the case of moderate, but very long cardio loads. And the most noticeable weight loss can be achieved with the help of short and high-intensity sessions, for example, sprint races. We also found that the longer the aerobic training, the more significant the loss of dry weight. At the same time, we recorded a very slight decrease in muscle mass and strengths against a background of short (no more than 20 minutes per day) cardio loads.

"And what about the fat burning zone?" – You scream from the treadmill. You, of course, mean the research conducted in the early nineties by Dr. Romijn. He came to the conclusion that the lion's share of fats we burn during long (45-60 minutes) aerobic loads with an average intensity (no more than 65% of the maximum heart rate). The consequence of this experiment was the emergence of "fat burning" programs in almost all cardio machines. However, the Achilles' heel of this study is that the processes occurring in the body during exercise do not always correlate with the long-term effects of training. And on this I want to sharpen your attention!

Recently, our laboratory conducted such an experiment. We compared low-intensity, long (60 minutes) aerobic sessions with 4-10 sprint races at maximum speed for 10-30 seconds. As we thought, prolonged cardio-operations adversely affected the volume of muscles. And now attention: surprisingly, the sprint increased the amount of muscle. Conclusion: sprint has an anabolic effect and at the same time contributes to drying and creating a relief!

I know that many people had the same idea: "If all this is true, then why are so many bodybuilders successful with the help of long and low-intensity cardio loads? It turns out, in their case, it worked . "I answer: it's not that long aerobic sessions are ineffective in terms of burning fat – they are effective. The whole question is, how should you as an athlete do to optimize your training process and achieve the maximum result in the shortest possible way? In our case, the answer is obvious: a high-intensity sprint leads to a greater loss of fat than jogging. In addition, the sprint retains and, possibly, even increases muscle mass.

On the other hand, with the sprint not everything is so simple, it needs a correct systematic approach. Bodybuilders striving to reduce fat mass should perform from 4 to 10 races at maximum speed for 10-30 seconds. When I talk about maximum speed, and I mean that at the end of the race you have to turn inside out. However, I advise you to begin with a lower intensity and gradually raise the bar.

Having typed the form, and on it it is required about one month, you should make the schedule of the sprint races. For example, if you are planning three sprint sessions per week, I recommend doing one short and very intensive session – six ten-second runs uphill, one medium intensity training – six fifteen-second runs on flat terrain. The last training should be the longest – four thirty-second sprints at the maximum speed. In addition, I am a big fan of such exercises as pushing a car, pulling or pushing a trailer, etc.

And the last. Try to share cardio-operations and leg training for at least one day. Our laboratory, and others, too, proved that cardio affects the working group of muscles. So if today you have done high-intensity cardio for the legs, it directly activates muscle growth in this anatomical area. The results of the studies showed that at least 24 hours should pass between the cardio-load and the leg training. Otherwise, you risk slowing your growth.

Perhaps this will sound like an admonition, but think about the time that you will save if you do not walk for hours on the treadmill. It's definitely worth it to add an extra point to your training schedule.

Is it better to do a sprint before or after training or even on some days?

The rest time will most likely be until the respiration / heart beat is completely restored.

I understand that you can replace the crossfit with a crossfit?

I think it will be great if you compile a training program on this topic!

Hello, interested in the rest time between the sprints described


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