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Ultimate Guide To Cardio: Discover the Perfect Balance for Optimal Results

Ultimate guide to Cardio

Welcome to the Ultimate Guide To Cardio, where we’ll explore the ideal amount of cardio for reaching your goals without compromising your health. Whether you want to lose weight or enhance your overall fitness, finding the right balance between cardio and resistance training is key. Let’s dive in!

Here are the key takeaways from the “Ultimate Guide to Cardio” text:

  1. Cardio can enhance your strength training and overall fitness when done correctly.
  2. Aerobic and anaerobic energy systems contribute to various exercise forms, including lifting weights and sprinting.
  3. Improving aerobic conditioning can help you perform more reps with a given weight and reduce fatigue during strength training.
  4. As you get stronger, focusing on aerobic conditioning is essential to ensure it doesn’t become a limiting factor.
  5. Combining different modalities, like low-intensity cardio, lifting to failure, and high-intensity intervals can create the best conditioning plan for powerlifting.
  6. Start slow and gradually increase your aerobic training load based on your progress and recovery.
  7. Cardio doesn’t have to negatively impact your strength and size gains, especially when choosing low-impact exercises like cycling or incline treadmill walking.
  8. Improved body composition can improve hormonal and metabolic markers, promoting an optimal environment for muscle and strength gains.
  9. When programmed correctly, the combination of strength training and aerobic training can improve your results and body composition.

Cardio: How Much Is Ideal for Your Goals? (Optimal Cardio Guide)

Ultimate guide to cardio

When it comes to cardio workouts, you might wonder, “how much cardio should I do?” The simple answer is: to do as much cardio as necessary to achieve your goals without impairing your physical performance, recovery, or health.

It’s essential to strike a balance, as cardio can be considered a medicine that requires careful dosing for the best results.

Recent studies have highlighted potential risks associated with excessive cardio workouts:

  1. Endurance athletes may face a higher risk of heart dysfunction compared to non-runners, with the problem worsening as they age and log more miles (1,2).
  2. Marathon runners may develop more arterial plaque than sedentary non-runners, increasing the risk of stroke and dementia (3,4).
  3. Overdoing cardio can lead to chronic stress on your body, making it difficult to recover adequately from workouts (5).
  4. Many endurance athletes experience issues with their knees, backs, hips, tendons, and bones.

While it may seem dramatic to say that excessive cardio can be harmful, this statement has some truth. If your goal is to look and feel great, more cardio and exercise, in general, aren’t always better. Moderate cardio can improve health, but too much can have adverse effects (6,7).

Now that we’ve established the importance of finding the right balance let’s delve deeper into determining the optimal amount of cardio based on your specific goals.

Cardio for Weight Loss: How Much Is Just Right? (Unlock the Secrets to Efficient Cardio)

If you’re wondering, “how much cardio should I do to lose weight?” then you’re not alone. Most people believe that weight loss is directly tied to their cardio routines. However, research indicates that regular cardio alone does not guarantee fat loss; some individuals might gain weight (8,9).

You can achieve and maintain a lean body with just one to two hours of cardio per week, alongside weightlifting. Overdoing cardio can lead to muscle loss, reduced strength, and compromised overall health.

There are several challenges when it comes to relying solely on cardio for weight loss:

  1. It’s easy to consume the calories you burn during cardio without realizing it (a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit is all it takes).
  2. Your body adapts to exercise, reducing caloric expenditure (31). As your body becomes more efficient, it requires less energy to perform the same activity (10).
  3. Cardio doesn’t preserve muscle, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy physique (11). Resistance training should be included in your weight loss regimen to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.

Combining cardio with a proper diet is essential to optimize cardio for weight loss. Aim for no more than two hours of cardio per week when dieting for fat loss. Incorporating these strategies into your fitness routine can help you achieve your desired results without sacrificing your health.

Discover the Best Cardio for Weight Loss and How Much You Need

Ultimate guide to Cardio
A woman is performing intense cardio outside.

When it comes to weight loss, not all cardio exercises are created equal. While low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS) – such as walking, jogging, or biking – is popular, it may not be the most effective choice for fat loss. Instead, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which alternates between high-intensity exertions and low-intensity rest periods, has been proven to be more effective for fat loss (12, 13, 14, 30).

Numerous studies have shown that shorter sessions of high-intensity cardio result in greater weight loss over time than longer, low-intensity sessions. HIIT is particularly effective at reducing stubborn abdominal fat, including visceral fat (29, 15, 16).

The benefits of HIIT include:

  • Increased resting metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after exercise
  • Improved insulin sensitivity in muscles
  • Higher levels of fat oxidation in muscles
  • Significant spikes in growth hormone and catecholamine levels, both of which aid in fat loss
  • Post-exercise appetite suppression (16)

Moreover, shorter cardio sessions help preserve muscle and strength, which is ideal for optimizing body composition (17).

To get the best results, opt for 3 to 4 sessions of 25-to-30-minute high-intensity interval cardio per week. This moderate amount of HIIT will not lead to overtraining and will help you achieve your desired level of leanness.

Cardio can both help and hinder muscle growth, so finding the right balance is essential. When planning your workout routine, prioritize weightlifting first and do your cardio afterward. This approach will ensure you have enough energy for heavy lifting and optimize your overall fitness results.

In conclusion, incorporating a few hours of resistance training per week is crucial, with cardio serving as a supportive element. By striking the right balance between HIIT and weightlifting, you can achieve your weight loss goals effectively and efficiently.

Why Skipping Cardio Could Be Holding You Back in Your Fitness Journey

woman lifting barbell
Photo by Leon Ardho on

Cardio plays a significant role in improving your overall fitness, and avoiding it might hinder your progress. Weightlifting, while metabolically taxing, can benefit from an enhanced aerobic energy system (19, 20).

Here’s how incorporating cardio into your fitness routine can help you achieve better results.

Reps, Fatigue, and Aerobic Contribution

Even anaerobic exercises have a larger aerobic contribution than expected. For example, in a study on 200m sprints, about 30% of the energy produced came from aerobic sources (21).

In short, the more powerful your aerobic energy system, the more reps you’ll be able to perform with a given weight or percentage of your max. This leads to either more work with the same fatigue or the same amount of work with less fatigue, both of which are beneficial.

Planning for Strength

As you get stronger and lift heavier weights, your energy expenditure increases, making it crucial to improve your aerobic conditioning. Studies have shown that lifting heavier weights burns more calories, making a stronger aerobic system necessary to keep up with the increased energy demands (19, 20).

Workout Reliance on Aerobic Energy

As you progress through a workout, you become more reliant on your aerobic energy system. One study demonstrated this effect using 30-second all-out cycling rounds interspersed with 4 minutes of rest, revealing the increased reliance on aerobic energy as fatigue set in (22).

Weightlifting and Aerobic Capacity

Training for muscular failure can lead to gains in aerobic capacity, but these gains result primarily from local tissue-level adaptations rather than the global adaptations achieved through dedicated cardiovascular training (23). In other words, relying solely on weightlifting for aerobic improvements means missing out on some potential benefits.

Intervals vs. Low-Intensity Cardio

While interval training can improve aerobic capacity and is more time-effective than low-intensity cardio, it does not provide all the same benefits. Additionally, interval training is more demanding in terms of recovery, potentially affecting your strength training negatively (23).

In conclusion, incorporating cardio into your fitness routine can help you achieve better results by enhancing your aerobic energy system and allowing you to perform more reps with less fatigue. Balancing weightlifting with cardio exercises will improve your overall fitness and help you reach your fitness goals more efficiently.

Can High Rep Lifting Replace Cardio for Lifters? A Comprehensive Analysis

focused cyclist riding bike during competition in town
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on

Cardio training is essential for overall fitness, but can high-rep lifting effectively replace traditional cardio modalities for lifters? In this blog, we’ll explore the findings of a 2017 study by Androulakis-Korakakis et al. on the effects of different exercise modalities on aerobic fitness and strength in powerlifting and strongman athletes (24).

Key Findings

  1. HIIT cycling and HIIT lifting (high-rep squats and deadlifts with short rest periods) seem to have similar effects on strength.
  2. HIIT cycling likely improves aerobic conditioning more than HIIT lifting.
  3. HIIT cycling may be a more prudent choice for coaches and athletes, as it’s likely safer and offers greater flexibility when structuring a training week.

The study aimed to examine whether high-rep work as cardiovascular training could mitigate the interference effect – the phenomenon where people generally gain less muscle mass and strength when doing both strength and aerobic training versus exclusively strength training (25).

The Study Over eight weeks, competitive powerlifters and strongmen performed two sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) per week using either squats or deadlifts with 60% of 1RM or cycle sprints as the exercise stimulus.

Both groups saw improvements in predicted VO2 max (a measure of cardiorespiratory conditioning) and predicted 1RM knee extension. However, the group performing cycle sprints improved the predicted VO2 max, indicating that cycle sprints may be a more effective conditioning tool than high-rep squats and deadlifts.

Application and Recommendations

Strength athletes looking to add HIIT to their program should consider cycling a more effective and safer option than high-rep squats and deadlifts. HIIT cycling leads to larger increases in aerobic fitness and can be more easily accommodated in a training program.

To optimize your conditioning plan for powerlifting, combine various modalities (low-intensity cardio, lifting to failure, and high-intensity intervals) while minimizing the impact of conditioning work on your heavy strength training.

Our general recommendations include the following:

  1. Begin with two low-intensity sessions per week, lasting 20-30 minutes each, with your HR around 130 or 60-70% of the max heart rate. Biking is ideal, but incline treadmill walking is also suitable.
  2. Increase aerobic training load when necessary, and do so slowly – add 10 minutes more aerobic work per week.
  3. Monitor your resting heart rate and the work rate required to hit an HR of 130.
  4. Once you reach three weekly sessions of 40 minutes each, evaluate your level of conditioning.
  5. If your aerobic fitness plateaus at low-intensity training, start including interval training using low-skill movements like cycle sprints or kettlebell swings.
  6. Perform 2-3 sets to failure per muscle group weekly, focusing on accessory work and safer exercises for local aerobic adaptations.

In conclusion, incorporating cardio into your strength training routine is crucial for overall fitness, and HIIT cycling may be a better option for lifters than high-rep lifting.

Combining different training modalities can help you achieve optimal conditioning and reach your fitness goals more effectively.

Cardio and Lifting: How Cardio Can Boost Your Strength and Size Gains

Ultimate guide to cardio

The fitness world has long debated the relationship between cardio and strength training, with many fearing that cardio may negatively impact gains. However, evidence suggests that cardio can improve strength and size, particularly when done correctly.

This section will explore cardio’s short-term and long-term effects on strength and size gains and how it can benefit your overall fitness journey.

Short-term Effects of Cardio on Strength and Size Gains (26)

  1. Concurrent training (cardio and lifting together) can increase strength and size.
  2. In the short term, concurrent training is about 31% less effective for hypertrophy and 18% less effective for strength.
  3. The frequency and duration of aerobic training impact strength and hypertrophy gains – more frequency and volume of aerobic training lead to smaller improvements.
  4. The mode of exercise matters: running negatively impacts strength and size gains, while cycling does not.

These findings suggest low-impact cardio, such as cycling or incline treadmill walking, won’t negatively affect your strength or size gains when performed at reasonable volumes and intensities. In fact, low-intensity steady-state cardio may even aid recovery from workouts by promoting muscle blood flow without causing further damage.

Body Composition Benefits of Cardio

Aerobic training can positively influence body composition. The combination of aerobic and resistance training has been shown to improve body composition more than either in isolation (27, 28).

Resistance training increases metabolic rate, while aerobic training decreases hunger more than resistance training, potentially making the combination especially potent for improving body composition.

Improved body composition enhances hormonal and metabolic markers, such as insulin and leptin sensitivity, increased testosterone, and reduced estrogen levels. These improved markers contribute to a better biochemical environment for muscle and strength gains.


Cardio training, when performed correctly, can complement your strength training routine and even enhance your results. By choosing low-impact cardio exercises and managing volume and intensity, you can experience the benefits of improved body composition, strength, and size gains without compromising your progress. So, don’t be afraid to incorporate cardio into your fitness routine – it may just be the boost you need to achieve your goals.


In conclusion, incorporating cardio into your strength training routine can yield numerous benefits, such as improved body composition, increased strength, and enhanced size gains.

By selecting low-impact cardio exercises and managing volume and intensity, you can experience these advantages without compromising your progress. It’s time to embrace the power of both cardio and strength training in your fitness journey.

Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level? Don’t hesitate to contact our expert personal trainers, who can design a tailored program that combines the best of both worlds – cardio and strength training – to help you achieve your goals. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and begin your journey toward a stronger, healthier, and more balanced you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does cardio exercise mean?

Cardio exercise, short for “cardiovascular” and also known as aerobic exercise, refers to activities that involve the continuous movement of large muscles in your arms, legs, and hips.

During these activities, your heart rate increases, and you breathe faster and more deeply, allowing your body to utilize oxygen more efficiently.

What are the benefits of cardio exercise?

Cardio exercise enhances heart and lung health by raising your heart rate. Regular aerobic workouts, such as swimming, can improve your body’s ability to use oxygen, leading to a reduced resting heart rate and breathing rate, both important indicators of cardiovascular health.

Is it safe to do cardio every day?

There is no specific upper limit for how much cardio you should perform daily or weekly. However, if you consistently push yourself during workouts, taking a day or two off each week for rest may help prevent injury and burnout.

Do squats help burn belly fat?

While all strength-training exercises contribute to fat burning, compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses are particularly effective. These exercises engage multiple joints and muscle groups, resulting in greater fat loss and increased calorie-burning muscle development.

Is an hour of cardio per day sufficient?

Relying solely on cardio is not enough for optimal fitness. Consider evaluating your diet if you need an hour or more of cardio daily to compensate for extra calorie consumption. Combining a balanced diet with cardio and strength training is more effective for weight management.

Can I lose weight by doing only cardio?

Although cardio burns calories and can aid in weight loss, incorporating at least two to three days of strength training per week can accelerate the weight loss. This combination of exercises will help build calorie-burning muscle while shedding fat.

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