The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Arguments Against Cardio

I've tried to stay away from the cardio hate because frankly I think it's really easy to demonstrate the superiority of weight lifting to traditional machine based cardio. 

But, some things must be stated...

This is what I see...

Or better yet...

My general rule is that if I see an exercise or machine that is being used by the majority of average gym attendees and they all come out of the gym looking the same after a few months, I avoid it like the plague.

There are seas and seas of individuals who have memberships to gyms simply to have access to cardio machines. Some of them will use them occasionally, sluggishly crawling out of bed before work and forcing their tired, worn carcasses onto these sedentary robots. Others will commit 1 to 2 hours of their day breathlessly chewing the ends of their water bottles, completing the metaphor in my mind. Which one is more flawed? Answer: Both are acts of futility.

Cardio is a tool, and a rather effective one, but cardio alone is a force of destruction...

Starvation and cardio are recipes for fat city for when you fall off of that rat wheel. There's talk about metabolic adaptation and how cardio can actually cause you to hoard more fat later on... I don't buy that pig, and I'm skeptical of the studies, but the very basic understanding of getting used to one level of caloric intake whilst doing massive amounts of cardio and then suddenly dropping that form of energy release without decreasing food intake is obvious energy balance spill over.

If you were an individual who tracked their calorie/macro intake in a semi anal retentive manner and made adjustments of the sorts and not just a person who "avoids carbs", "eats clean" or "makes good choices" while at the same time snacking all damn day on soy vanilla kale crisps or whatever hippies eat, you might avoid this kind of trap.

What cardio teaches you:

Cardio teaches you to be numb, to zone out, to move passively. It's the kind of exercise we give to the smallest caged of our little friends whom we're uncertain even care for us. (Hamsters.) Some people even tilt their water bottles and nibble at the ends to...I've already used that one.

What weights teach you:

Explosive, energetic power, central nervous system full boar, you are the tiger, the lion, the bear, the gorilla. The cobra that feasts upon the hamsters. You charge the squat rack as if it were a gazelle, destroy the reps and then lay and bask in the blood of your victim in the African sun. You've earned your rest and your meal.

The Point of Cardio

Cardio, too has it's place in this jungle. As I explained to my good friend Jon the other day, when things get desperate in the weight loss realm, we get a little stupid. And a lot of stupid can get a lot of results, that's why I'm not afraid to say "Do more cardio." The top body building coaches and people who regularly get superstars in insane shape in short periods of time are not afraid of forcing the deficit with an hour of cardio here and there. But, they have an end goal in sight and are getting people into far better shape than the average walking around joe needs to be, sometimes at ridiculously unhealthy levels of body fat where their skin looks like shrink wrap. But, this cardio regiment is always supplemented by an extremely controlled diet in a very controlled fitness environment, usually in the presence of a coach and/or nutritionist. When you're at a highly competitive level, things like pre, peri, and post workout nutrition come into play, which if you're scratching your head at that concept or don't know what it means to eat a balanced diet, well then you definitely should not be chained to a cardio machine, because...

This equation doesn't work...

You can be all the stupid on an elliptical and if you're not eating in a deficit, you're screwed. That's why cardio is a tool to supplement a deficit, not the means to create a deficit.

The Issue of Progression.

Whenever I add 5lbs to a squat, bench, deadlift or weighted pull up, I know that I've gotten stronger and I've successfully built more muscle. If I weigh less than last week and hit the same weight this week, if not progressed, I've successfully lost fat and retained (or gained) muscle. 

If you start off doing your workout life by doing 1 hour of elliptical every day, where do you go next? An hour and 10 minutes? An hour and 20? Are you eventually going to commit 5 hours of your day to low intensity steady state (liss) or medium intensity steady state (miss) cardio? Don't you have responsibilities? Job? Kids? Family? Friends?

You're left with the task of being honest with your body and yourself about how much "effort" you're putting in, or you have to start tracking and beating your times. Something that the average cardio addict is not interested in doing.

Perceived Effort

I know if I've failed on a lift. I either will be trapped in the hole and have to dump the weight off of my back in a squat, be pinned underneath a bar and have to roll it off my groin on a bench, or it simply won't leave the ground with a deadlift. It's a pretty simple pass or fail system. 

If you're in the midst of what is a pretty fuckin miserable diet, you're gonna half ass your cardio. That's why treadmills and step machines are usually the go to for physique coaches. The client either does the speed or falls off the machine. Where a self propelled machine like a bike, elliptical, or whatever those other things are called, you can sit on that thing and half ass your way through a whole episode of House.

How do I know this? Mutha fuckas, I've been there done that...

Story Time...

Summer of 2008, I had just started working out again.

I went from 225lbs to 187lbs over the course of a summer by means of lots of bike riding, running, walking, a fairly aggressive, somewhat intentional calorie deficit and a very frantic server job. I would "cardio" for an hour or so every day, listening to This American Life, The Chicago Lyric Opera Podcast and an assortment of 21st century compositions on my old, busted ass iPod while occasionally falling off into thoughts about how I was gonna get girls to like me. 

I obviously don't have any shirtless pics from that point in my life because I was still very embarrassed about my appearance, but I was the definition of skinny fat. Long limbs, but retaining a lot of fat on my hips, gut and had one hell of a doughy chest. I had fat deposits similar to that of a well mannered lady. 

Eventually I started eating again, met my ex-fiancé and proceeded to become "fat and happy."

And thus is whenst my years of Big Kasey began....

But, I'm not finished...

Even when I went down the path that eventually led me to become the Ol' Yeargain you all know and love, I was still flawed...

At first when reading and researching how to lose weight and build muscle, I discovered the program 5x5. This is a fantastic program..if you actually do it correctly and take the time to learn how to actually do these lifts. But I didn't want that, those lifts were hard and I couldn't do the weight I wanted. I wanted to not be fat anymore and I knew how to curl and do a shitty bench press, so wham bam, here I come bro splits!

Instead of focusing on the big lifts, I had the great almighty influence of Brosiodon and proceeded to come down with one hell of a case of bro-itis. Luckily, I had also shocked myself into sticking to a semi aggressive calorie deficit and became great friends with cardio machines. This recipe worked. It did, I promise. Calorie deficit with a weekly cheat day combined with bro splits and intermittent fasting worked for me. I lost nearly 70lbs with that recipe alone.

This is where I ended up:

It really wasn't until I started countin my macros, putting a large emphasis on specific protein consumption and worked my ass off on making my deadlift strong that I actually started to force a real change in my body.

My Current Cardio

I personally do at least a little bit of cardio everyday. I do about 8 mins of the lowest resistance and the lowest incline possible on the elliptical before I lift. I do this for a basic warm up for my body and to allow the caffeine and Yohimbine to kick in a bit before I do the real work. I don't try to "kill it," I'm tryin to wake my ass up so I can focus on technique so I don't crush my larynx with a barbell. 

On my off days from my big lifts I'll do some dumbbell swings and occasionally some sprints or box jumps if I feel like pretending to be athletic. 

Here is my current conditioning under this template.

I'm not shredded to the bone, but Ol' Yeargain ain't doin too bad. The days when I do an hour of cardio are over. I hope to improve this conditioning over the next few months, (practically at a snails pace) but I don't plan on changing my protocol too drastically if at all.

What to take away

I've done plenty of stupid in the realm of exercise the past few years, all in attempts of obtaining a goal, a goal that I thought could only be achieved by suffering. Well, I suffered, I scratched, clawed, and forced the results, despite every fiber of my being screaming out against me. I hit "the wall" daily. How I didn't quit, I will never truly know.

The Point is, it wasn't nearly as necessary as it seemed in my mind. I could have achieved similar, if not better results if I had just focused on the big compound lifts at the very beginning, and on my off days lower my calories in the form of carbohydrates and putting in my cardio work then to facilitate weight loss and nutrient flow to the muscles (active recovery.) Not hitting the cardio machines every day, eating in a crazy deficit, wrecking myself with massive over feed cheat days, and bro splitting my body into oblivion.

Until next time, take a lesson from Ol' Yeargain's book of woes and if you're lookin to make a change, make a change that will stick. And as always,

Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing It.

The Opera Bro 


  1. The more I read, the more I fell deep into it.
    get more info

  2. However, we need to be clear here, low impact does NOT necessarily mean low intensity. There are plenty of cardio workouts that can be extremely intense!
    the mighty