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Over the past few entries, we looked at some research on cardio. Some of it applied to athletes and some of it (yesterday's entry) applied to more general population clients. So, how do we bring this all together? How do we set up our training so that we are efficient and not wasting time on things that we don't need to do?

Cardio and Fat Loss

If we are talking about fat loss, I think the biggest place people go wrong is that they try and do too much in the face of a massive caloric deficit. In order to lose weight/body fat, we lower calories. This in turn inhibits our ability to recover from strenuous exercise. Coincidently, people also try and do MORE exercise than they previously did (during a period where they were eating more and able to better recover from the higher amounts of work). I hear it all the time, people have their resistance training program set up as either something like an upper/lower/off/upper/lower/off/off split and they also throw in high intensity interval-training 3x's a week. Even better, some people will opt to train total body 3x's a week (so working out the legs 3x's a week) and then they will perform their high intensity interval-training on the in-between days. The problem with this is that they are over-training the heck out of their lower body and inducing high amounts of fatigue (again, during a caloric deficit, when they can not recover from it). Now, I am not opposed to interval training and I am not opposed to the training splits outlined above.

One thing that you need to consider is that you have to leave time for recovery. The best way to do that is to program your strenuous training on the same day and then recovery training or active rest on the off days. Since I will assume that most don't have the time to perform AM and PM, I will lay out two different training splits (from above) and add the cardio and the weight training on the same day:

Option 1 (upper/lower)
Day1- upper body/steady cardio
Day2- lower body/high intensity intervals*
Day3- off or low intensity activity
Day4- upper body/steady state cardio
Day5- lower body/high intensity intervals*
Day6- low intensity activity or off
Day7- OFF

*Don't run or do anything that takes coordination here. After lifting legs, there is a lot of fatigue and the possibility of injury is too great. Instead, opt for something like the rowing machine, the versa climber, the bike or an elliptical trainer. If you have the option of performing AM cardio, you can do some running there. The other option would be to do your sprinting before leg training and then perform a low volume leg workout. Again, with the later option, care must be taken as the lower extremity is fatigued from running.*

Option 2 (total body workouts)
Day1- total body resistance training/intervals*
Day2- moderate intensity cardio
Day3- total body resistance training/intervals*
Day4- moderate intensity cardio
Day5- total body resistance training/intervals*
Day6- moderate intensity cardio
Day7- off

*Like the above situation, you would not want to perform hard sprinting or something that deals with lots of coordination (agility training) at the end of a workout where you have just trained your legs hard. If agility and speed work (running) are something you need to work on, you could manipulate two of the total body days to have lower intensity/lower volume leg work and perform the speed and agility work on those days. While the 3rd day could be a more high intensity leg workout and intervals on a piece of equipment that is not the treadmill.

One other idea for your interval work, before I move on. You don’t have to perform your interval work on a piece of equipment. You can use body weight exercises (body weight squats, jumping jacks, hill climbers, squat thrusts, push ups, etc.) instead, and often they give you a nice change of pace from sitting on a bike and chunking out 15-20min. of 30sec hard:30sec easy.

Cardio and Athletics

Cardio for athletes is a bit different (as evident by the 2 studies I had recently posted). You don’t want to waste time performing long/slow duration cardio when there are other things that need to be focused. However, as stated above, you run the risk of overtraining if all you ever do is weight train and perform hard intervals. Your body needs to rest. There are a few ways to make things work.

1)Tempo training- Tempo training is a great way to get your cardiovascular work done while not having to jog for 60min. As well, tempo training can be extremely valuable for working on things like technique. I like to think of tempo training as just less intensive intervals. You aren’t going all out during the work interval, but you aren’t just plopping along and taking it easy either. If I had to put a number on it, I would say around 75% intensity. This can be something like going out to the track and running the straights and walking the turns (or whatever distance you would like to use. You an also go for time instead, run for 60sec:Jog for 60sec). The rest intervals don’t have to be jogs or runs either. You can perform your tempo run and then perform body weight calisthenics or abdominal/core circuits for equal or double the amount of time you ran your tempo interval for (1-2 units of rest for every 1 unit of work).

2)Circuits- Circuits can also be helpful in giving the athlete a break from intensive training, while having them improve work capacity and other adaptations that take place from this sort of training. I don’t do circuit training in the typical manner. Usually, I use body weight movements for circuit training, and focus on a combination of core exercises, body weight exercises that work on areas that need improvement or areas that are typically injured in the athletes given sport, and some stretches for tight muscles. Basically, we are doing some corrective work with the circuit. The time interval that I use for circuits is usually something like 40-45sec. continuous work followed by 15-20sec. rest (to get ready for the next movement. This method can also be used for clients just starting out who are de-conditioned and need to work on overall health. You can start with 30sec work: 30sec rest and slowly progress up to 45sec work: 15sec rest as they increase their level of fitness) and I repeat the circuit for the desired amount of time.

An example would look something like this:

45sec work: 15sec rest
Repeat 5x’s (6 movements x 1min. per movement x 5 rounds = 30min total)
1b)YTA (3 reps of each; keep repeating the sequence for the entire 45sec)
1c)lunge matrix (3 reps on each leg in all three planes, keep repeating for
1d)Side to side tube walking (5 steps to the right/5 steps to the left back-and-
forth for 45sec)
1e)Active hip flexor stretch right leg
1d)active hip flexor stretch left leg

3)Active rest- sometimes the athletes just need active rest from hard training. In this instance, I like to go for the easy cardio and typically do it in a cross-training fashion that gets them away from what they typically do (IE, if they are a runner, they may perform active rest in the pool, or on the rowing machine or the elliptical).

Here are a few options as far as training splits go:

Option 1 (upper/lower)
Day1- speed and agility/low volume leg work
Day2- Tempo work/upper body training
Day3- off or active rest or low intensity body weight circuits
Day4- speed and agility/low volume leg work
Day5- Tempo work/upper body training
Day6- off or active rest or low intensity body weight circuits
Day7- OFF

Option 2 (total body)

Day1- speed and agility/Total body training
Day2- tempo work
Day3- speed and agility/total body training
Day4- tempo work or body weight circuits
Day5- speed and agility/total body training
Day6- off or circuits
Day7- OFF

Obviously there are a lot of ways to make it work and split it up. I will say that for Option 2 (total body), you need to be careful about leg work and speed and agility work in the same day. You may not do all your speed and agility work on the training day, opting to place it the day after lifting (and potentially after a day where the legs where not trained as hard). This would take some sequencing of the workouts as far as what is focused on (upper or lower body) and to what intensity, in order to make it work and do speed work on the in-between days. Your situation may be different, so it is tough for me to be totally concrete about what you may do. Evaluate the position you are in and what will work best for you. An example of what I am talking about may look something like this (an example of lifting twice a week):

Day1- heavy upper body day/lighter lower body day
Day2- speed and agility work
Day3- Heavy lower body day/lighter upper body work
Day4- tempos or circuits
Day5- Speed and agility
Day6- tempos or circuits

Other than that, with athletes; don’t waste time! You need to be efficient with your programming to help the athletes get what they want from their training. If it is a hard training day (and the athlete is mentally and physically prepared for it) then train hard! If it is a day that is active rest, then rest.

Hope that gives you some ideas.


Got questions? In the Phoenix area and want info on training prices/packages? Need help with your program?

Email: optimumsportsperformance@gmail.com

That was really good, loads of info there!

Thanks :)


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