Before we begin, we must make an important clarification: What do we mean when we say cardio workout? At first, the question may seem simple but is not.
"Cardio" is short for cardiovascular exercise. This is a type of workouts loading the cardiovascular system." I.e. any activity that increases the heart rate and improves the function of cardiovascular system is cardio. This can be power fitness training with weights, high-intensity interval training, running, cycling, swimming, dancing, CrossFit, cangoo, box, even walking up stairs.
But we all know that when we say "cardio" we don’t mean all this. Most people (including me) use the word "cardio" as a description of aerobic training (aerobics). During cardio muscles function in aerobic mode - breathing and heartbeat increase to ensure the supply of oxygen to the muscles. We are talking about a low to moderate intensity exercise, characterized by rhythmic and monotonous pace which we can keep for a long period of time.
It is important to make distinctions with anaerobic exercises (weight training and sprinting) which have a short duration but high intensity - in anaerobic workouts muscles do not rely on oxygen to perform muscular contractions.
But enough about the subject. For the moment, just remember that from here on in "cardio" will mean only "cardio".
Benefits of cardio
From a health perspective, the regular performance of cardio leads to:
Improved function of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems;
Increased activity of the immune system, which means less sick days a year;
Reduced risk of cancer, hypertension, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, diabetes and many other diseases;
Executed correctly, cardio workouts also help burn fat, increase endurance and provide a good mood. In a more prolonged period aerobic exercise improves bloodstream, resulting in better engorgement of the muscles.
Who is it good for?
Suitable for everyone. Whatever the purpose, body types and experience of exercise, aerobic workouts have a place in any fitness program. Of course, I’ll immediately make it clear that the volume and frequency of cardio is not the same for everyone. A 55-pound ectomorph would need significantly less cardio than a 120-pound endomorph.
Cardio for beginners
The aim of novice fitness enthusiasts is the development of cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Cardio trainings are held in the gym or outdoors. Three times a week is a good start for any beginner.
For example, if you choose running, start with 2.5 km, if you are male, and 1.5 km, if you're a woman. Maintain a constant speed, initially you don’t need to measure time. If you can’t run the distance at a time, alternate running and walking. The goal is the next workout or the one after to run the total distance at once. Over time, gradually increase the distance until you reach 4 km for men and 3 km for women. Now is the time to start timing. Strive to improve your achievement with every workout. For beginners it’s good to follow this approach for about 18 months. This will develop the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
Cardio while gaining mass
During the general cycle cardio helps gaining of lean muscle mass with minimal fat accumulation. Training sessions are held 1-2 times a week (non-training days too). Suitable option are high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which combine aerobic and anaerobic mode. Make the following rounds 6-8, 15-20 second sprint followed by 1 minute light jogging. It is desirable that each sprint should not be initiated with a pulse less than 120 beats per minute.
Cardio while burning fat
During the competitive cycle the objective is enhanced fat burning, ripped body and separation of the muscles. Cardio sessions are held 3-5 times a week. Heart rate should not exceed 135 beats per minute. The use of neoprene belts, wedges, etc. is a big mistake. This not only increases fat burning, but leads to loss of a lot of water and minerals, which must then be restored with diet. You can do cardio workouts in the morning on an empty stomach, but the duration in this case should not exceed 30-40 minutes. Excessive cardio decreases testosterone levels in men and estradiol in women, which adversely affects the results. For an enhanced effect you can take L-carnitine (preferably liquid) 30 minutes before workout.
Part II and III soon!