Like everything else in the world of fitness, aerobic exercise has been made way more complex than necessary. The human innards, our guts, our internal organs, need exercise as surely as our muscles. What's the best way to exercise, strengthen and build our internal mechanisms? Systematically increase heart rate and hold it there for a specific and protracted period of time. Aerobic exercise done consistently strengthens the muscles involved in respiration and actually enlarges the heart muscle.
A stronger, larger heart has a radically increased pumping ability and far greater stroke efficiency. The arterial pathways are cleared of plaque and sludge as the elevated heart rate forcibly pumps torrents of enriched blood through the arterial highways at an accelerated rate. The resting heart rate decreases; circulation improves and blood pressure is reduced. Consistent cardio increases the total number of red blood cells in the body which helps the body become more efficient at the transport of oxygen. Aerobics also improves the ability of the muscles to mobilize body fat during exercise and builds endurance. Improved endurance means we are able to work harder, longer, more often and recover quicker.
Over time the storage capacity of energy molecules (fats and carbohydrates) within the muscles is increased. Over time when subjected to specific cardio training protocols, the muscles actually reconfigure their composition, increasing mitochondrial density. More are utilized with far greater efficiency. After a torrid aerobic session the basal metabolism is dramatically stimulated and remains elevated for hours afterward. Incredible physiological benefits are bestowed on the conscientious trainee if cardiovascular exercise is performed on a regularly reoccurring basis.
Often during cardiovascular exercise we Purposefully seek to put the body off balance by zeroing in on the heart, lungs or muscles exclusively. We seek to impose cardio stress using different methods in order to elicit differing cardio responses. The purposeful creation of cardio imbalance creates differing cardio effects.
Steady State cardio is when heart, lungs and muscles operate in synchronous balance.
Interval cardio purposefully disturbs the balance in order to spike the heart rate.
Hybrid cardio adds an element of muscular intensity to aerobics and creates new mitochondria.
1st Way: Steady State
The Purposefully Primitive 1st Way of cardiovascular exercise is know as steady state or sustained cardiovascular exercise. The goal in steady state is to attain, maintain and sustain an increased heart rate while moving along at a steady pace. Jog, swim run, power walk - the mode is less important than the primary goal: elevate the heart rate to a predetermined level and keep it elevated in a sustains fashion for the duration of the session.
Regardless the selected cardio mode, be clear that the goal is not to become an expert jogger, runner or swimmer - those are spin off side benefits that naturally occur as a result of performing certain exercise modes on a consistent basis. The cardio goal is to elevate the heart to a predetermined target level. Steady state, as the name implies, consciously seeks to attain a smooth and constant pace for the duration of the aerobic activity. Physiologically, the athlete motors along without triggering oxygen debt. The successful 1st Way practitioner operates just below the point where oxygen demand exceeds oxygen intake, thereby resulting in oxygen debt. The oxygen pulse should be balanced: "senders" (heart and lungs) need to be in perfect synchronization with "receivers" (muscles) as fresh, oxygen-laden blood is smoothly exchanged with toxic-laden blood full of waste products and lactic acid. The Soft Machine propels itself along smoothly and effortlessly, maintaining a delicate balance between senders and receivers.
2nd Way: Burst or Interval State
Burst or interval cardio purposefully injects an element of muscular effort into cardiovascular activity. Classical burst cardio occurs when the trainee purposefully speeds up during an aerobic activity. Short bursts of intense effort are used to spike the heart rate upward quickly and dramatically. The 2nd Way cardio session is a series of bursts interspersed with rest periods or radical reductions in cardio effort.
Done properly, 2nd Way burst cardio has tremendous benefits. Assuming the nutrition is in balance, burst cardio causes the mobilization and oxidation of stored body fat as the basal metabolic rate is skyrocketed and remains elevated for hours after the cessation of the session. Make sure 2nd Way burst cardio is in regular rotation to maximize results!
3rd Way: Hybrid Super-Muscle Fiber Reconfiguration
Hybrid cardio melds aerobics with strength training and in doing so reconfigures working muscles by adding mitochondrial density. Len Schwartz, John Parrillo and Ori Hofmekler independently began advocating different exercise protocols, that each had the intended purpose of reconfiguring muscle composition.
I first sat up and took notice when in 1995 Dr. Len Schwartz began relating to me that he was working on a new type of exercise to develop "Long Strength." Among other positive attributes, the Long Strength exercise protocol would reconfigure the fiber composition of the working muscle. Over time the muscle would morph. By using Long Strength training tactics a muscle would acquire additional mitochondria, cellular blast furnaces. Len used his Heavyhand weights in combination with elaborate foot patterns to create quad-limbed stress.
Quite on his own, John Parrillo began insisting that his fleet of bodybuilders begin doing cardio with great intensity. He insisted that this would alter the composition of the muscle, causing the working muscles to add more mitochondria. He also devised a resistance training program using a 100 rep Giant set specifically designed to construct more muscle mitochondria. By building more cellular blast furnaces, "cardiovascular density" was increased and this resulted in the more efficient use of food/fuel. Nature's genetic growth limitations could be extended.
Ori Hofmekler spoke to me at length about his system of weight training, Controlled Fatigue Training, designed specifically to build a "hybrid muscle," a "super muscle" capable of generating sustained strength for long periods. CFT training would also, over time reconfigure muscles by creating more mitochondria. CFT utilizes pushing or pulling poundage or bodyweight for extended periods in an imaginative series of specific patterns. Hofmekler was convinced that ancient warriors and early man had a preponderance of Hybrid Super Muscle. The ancients needed sustained strength and endurance for fighting, fleeing and rowing their massive boats for extended periods of time.
3rd Way hybrid cardio requires a type of training that is both sustained and intense. Len, John and Ori all devised differing methods to arrive at the same destination: more muscle infused with more mitochondria. Technically we seek to create Type III Intermediate fast-twitch fibers; a cross between Type I and Type IIb. (Click here to learn more) These hybrid fibers utilize both aerobic and anaerobic pathways for energy metabolism. To build mitochondria-infused super muscle requires the use of an extended, blended exercise protocol.
When three of the smartest guys I know all feel the next frontier of modern fitness involves altering muscle composition, I pay attention. How do you build 3rd Way hybrid muscle? Engage in aerobic sessions that have a strong element of resistance.
The downside to the 3rd Way is that I find it incompatible with heavy weight training. by engaging in 3rd Way training I am unable to train for "absolute strength." I find recovery to be a problem and think that 3rd Way hybrid aerobic training needs to be practiced exclusively. I would suggest taking 4-6 weeks and practicing a 3rd Way routine to the exclusion of standardized resistance training. Mixed martial artists are converts to the use of 3rd Way hybrid cardio. To prevent "bonking" during fights they are infusing their cardio with a strength element: they flip tires, throw medicine balls, push weighted wheelbarrows and pound sledgehammers repeatedly to build sustained strength.
Muscle Fiber Nuts and Bolts
Type I muscle fibers are slow-oxidative fibers that primarily use cellular respiration. As a result, Type I fibers have (relatively) high endurance. To support their high-oxidative metabolism, these muscle fibers typically have lots of mitochondria and myoglobin. The appear red. In poultry Type I fibers are the dark meat. Type I muscle fibers are found in muscles of animals that require endurance: chicken leg muscles, the wing muscles of migrating birds. Long distance runners have leg muscles loaded with Type I fiber.
Type II muscle fibers primarily use anaerobic metabolism and have (relatively) low endurance. These muscle fibers are typically used during tasks requiring short bursts of strength, such as sprinting or weightlifting. Type II fibers cannot sustain contractions for a significant length of time. In poultry, Type II fibers are white breast meat. There are three sub-classses of Type II muscle fiber ....
Type III or "Intermediate fast-twitch fibers" are a cross between Type I and Type IIb. They can utilize both aerobic and anaerobic pathways for energy metabolism. This is the "Hybrid" muscle fiber. To build mitochondria-infused hybrid Type III super muscle, use a blended protocol.
Mitochondria are cellular power plants. They generate most of the cell's supply of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is used as a source of chemical energy. Resistance training combined with cardiovascular training, causes the composition of muscles to transform. In doing so we can growth limits Nature has imposed up those muscles resetting genetic limits. More nutrients can be processed and mito-infused muscles possess the ability to work harder and longer. Mito-dense muscles are thus able to grow larger and resist fatigue for a far longer period of time.
In order to engage in a sensible and result producing cardiovascular program you need to use a mix mode strategy combined with a heart rate monitor. This allows you to assess intensity and cross-compare exercise modes. It allows you the ability to determine which modes are effective and those modes that a re a complete waste of training time. The systematic rotation of modes and methods is mandatory. The body will neutralize the beneficial effects of any exercise protocol to which it is continually subjected. By varying the kind and type of cardio, we keep the body off balance and that is a good thing when the name of the game is steady physical progress.
Read more about the experts that I have mentioned above:
Dr. Len Schwartz - https://functional-strength.org/heavy-hands-training-dr-len-schwartz/
Ori Hofmekler - https://functional-strength.org/ori-hofmekler-the-warrior-diet/