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Generally speaking, today there are three forms of cardiovascular training that are prevalent: steady-state cardio (continuous activity for a long duration at a relatively low intensity); high-intensity interval-training, or HIIT (high-intensity bursts alternated with low-intensity “active recovery” or full rest); and metabolic conditioning, or “metcon” (made popular by CrossFit; high-intensity work incorporating all varieties of exercises and rep schemes and often prescribing no formal rest periods).
So which form of cardio should you be doing? That’s a debate that rages on daily in gyms across the country and on social media and Internet message boards, typically in a rather passionate manner. “Truth is, they all work,” say Grinnell. “It just depends on your goals at the time as to which way you sway more. As a beginner, it’s beneficial to do all three so your body feels its different energy systems, and you can find what works best for you.”
That said, Grinnell strongly suggests performing the following three cardio/conditioning sessions each week. These can be done on non-lifting days (Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday if you lift Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday); or after lifting sessions (Cardio Workout 1 in the same session as the Workout A lifting workout, and so on).
Note: If you’re performing a cardio workout on an off day, perform the dynamic warmup before the workout.
Cardio Workout 1: Steady State
Perform 20 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (about 140 to 180 heartbeats per minute) on a bike, treadmill, elliptical, or other machine or activity of your choice. If you’re deconditioned, start at 20 minutes and add five to 10 minutes each week.
Cardio Workout 2: HIIT
Using the treadmill, bike, or rowing ergometer, go at an easy pace for two to five minutes to get a feel for the movement. Then perform eight rounds of 30 seconds as fast as possible followed by 30 seconds of rest. If HIIT is new to you, you can increase your rest intervals to 60 seconds and/or reduce the work interval, moving toward the prescribed 30 on/30 off prescription.
Cardio Workout 3: Metcon
Perform as many reps and rounds of the below circuit as possible in six minutes. Add one minute every two weeks as you improve your conditioning until you reach 10 minutes.