Strength: Cardio Principles



Cardio (Def’n): Any type of exercise that causes the heart to  beat faster and harder for a certain period of time.

This section gives you some concepts and principles from my perspective on how to use cardio to your advantage.  First off, the benefits:

Benefits of Cardio:

  1. Improve Heart Health
  2. Increased Metabolism
  3. Improved Hormonal State
  4. Improved Recovery Ability
  5. Better Control of Blood Sugar

Obviously, cardiovascular activity has some huge benefits, but how can you apply it to meet your needs?

Let’s make sense of the following terms first:

Anaerobic Exercise: any short-duration exercise that is powered mainly by metabolic pathways that do not use oxygen. Such pathways produce lactic acid, resulting in metabolic acidosis. Examples of anaerobic exercise include sprinting,, intense cycling, heavy weightlifting.

How do you know if it’s anaerobic exercise? 

The best way to determine this is through the “talk test”.  If you cannot talk during or after exercise, it means you are without oxygen, which is exactly what the word anaerobic means.  A person sprinting in a 100m race will be winded at the end of a race, unable to talk, with lactic acid pain running through his body.  At this point you are burning carbohydrates as fuel.

Aerobic Exercise:  is physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic  energy-generating process.  Aerobic means “with oxygen” meaning you can go for long durations while breathing, such as long distance runs, cycling or speed walking.  The primary fuel for this type of exercise is Fats.

By increasing your speed with aerobic activity, you burn a higher degree of fat, until you reach your anaerobic threshold after which you are out of oxygen and begin burning carbohydrates.  You will then most likely slow down, as lactic acid sets in, and will be forced to maintain a pace where you are breathing again, shifting back to aerobic activity.

Which is better, aerobic or anaerobic activity?

Both types of exercise serve a purpose in your exercise routine.  Here’s my perspective on the three forms of “Cardio” and when they should/could be used:


This includes jogging, light skipping, ellyptical machines, stationary bikes, low impact aerobic classes, etc. These exercises are aerobic in nature meaning you can perform them for long periods of time, with fat as the primary source of fuel.  You can burn significant amounts of calories as well. (You know you are in this state when you can talk while performing the activity)

  • For general fitness improvements, I like steady state training.  Once you have reached a general level of fitness after 4-5 weeks, you will need to ramp things up.
  • Too much of this type of exercise potentially wastes plenty of your time, with the trade off being negligible after 4-6 weeks, considering the amount of time you may be putting in.
  • I really like this sort of training for 2 reasons:  a) For circulatory reasons, to remove lactic acid after a tough workout and b) As a way to clear your head, reflect on a nice leisurely walk, perhaps taking a hike, enjoying the company that comes with you, or taking in some scenery.
  • This type of exercise is beneficial for those sports which require the type of endurance necessary for sustained activity such as soccer players of a pitch for 90 minutes, marathoners, rugby players.
  • This type of exercise is also beneficial for those who have a build that is conducive to running and for those who are passionate about running long distances.


This form of training is highly effective in burning fat.  Long after a high intensity training session is completed (One in which your primary source of fuel is carbohydrates), your heartrate is elevated well after the activity is completed and you are burning fat (at a higher level, metabolically)

My more scientific description:

In the recovery state, oxygen (EPOC: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) is used in processes that restore the body to its resting state.   These processes include: hormone balancing, replenishment of fuel stores, cell repair, and anabolism. EPOC  fuels the body’s increased metabolism from the increase in body temperature which occurs during the exercise just performed. 

Exercises are any type that induce an oxygen deficient state over a short duration of time, where you are out of breath after working hard at 85-100% of your max capacity.

  • Sprints
  • Hill Runs
  • Intense cycling
  • Intense Battle Ropes
  • Jump Squats
  • Intense weight training for a duration of 30 seconds or more

There as a great study done at McMaster University on High Intensity training and its positive effects. Click the link below for more on this topic:

The big challenge with this type of exercise is the motivation required to push yourself to complete the training.  It’s hard work, it feels bad, and it’s tough on an untrained body.

Does it work? Absolutely.  

I’m a fan of this type of training and try to put it in 2 times per week for short durations as part of my fitness routine.  Below is a model of my training on video, called the Metabolic Meltdown.


This form of training is a hybrid of the High Intensity Model mentioned above. Less punishing on the body, you can tolerate this type of training a little more while seeing similar benefits as the above mentioned model.  The difference? Instead of working near full capacity, you slow down the pace of the exercise, or the duration of the high intensity part of the workout.

For example: On an exercise bike, I will follow the following model:

10s (High) – 20s (Moderate) – 30s (Low) 

  • 10 seconds all out pedalling followed by
  • 20 seconds moderate speed pedalling followed by
  • 30 seconds slow pace pedalling
  • Repeating this 1 minute module for 4-10 rounds.

The point here is that you are still getting some  of the effects of the high intensity training while taking the edge off the high impact you feel on your body.

You may even modify the module to allow for a less intense pace:

  • 10 seconds all out pedalling followed by
  • 30 seconds moderate speed pedalling followed by
  • 60 seconds slow pace pedalling
  • Repeating this  module for 4-10 rounds.

The point here is you can control the intensity a bit while working your way to a higher intensity over time.