Q: Is there anything out there that talks about the most effective cardio for bodybuilders? I want to try some different, untraditional forms, and I’m not sure if it is going to serve me well in contest prep. Can you rate cardio forms?
A: That’s a great question because not all cardio is created equal for all people and all endeavors. Traditionally, when you are preparing for a sport, such as running, the best exercise is running. But when you talk about bodybuilding, there is no real rule because you are talking anaerobic vs. aerobic application. In my own experience, I have done everything from treadmills and Precor steppers in combination, to distance running alone, to stair walking alone.
Usually, I recommend to people that they try one for an extended period to see what is and is not effective about it. In my case, the treadmill and Precor combination and the stair-striding were most effective. I used to live in a city that had an enormous stairwell that took walkers from the bottom of the city to the top. I don’t advocate running stairs because of the potential for injury and because I think it pushes you into an anaerobic zone far more quickly than walking. You can boost your heart rate to 160 or 170bpm QUICKLY just walking or striding stairs. I used to take stairs two at a time, and really lift my leg high as I reached for a step, and then squeeze my glute deliberately at the top of the stair using my own weight as a means of optimizing resistance.
I can tell you that my body fat dropped rapidly and the tie-in between ham and glute benefitted immensely. If I was still competing, I would definitely choose this as my sole form of cardio. Not only was it highly effective because it leveraged TOTAL body weight (where machines such as treadmills and steppers take over a percentage of that inertia and resistance), but it is also very easy to do anywhere. Any chance you may have to free yourself from dependence on a gym is best. That way, if you travel, if the weather is nice, or whatever the situation, you don’t need to find your way into a gym in order to get lean.
As a rule, avoid things that push you into endurance situations (such as distance running) or into strength/ anaerobic states, because it isn’t what you’re seeking. However, if you don’t want to choose just one type of cardio, experiment with a few and combine them strategically. For instance, distance running, sprinting and walking stairs is a great combination for people who get bored easily and want results.
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