Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio for short, is the type of movement that significantly increases your blood flow and heart rate. Regardless of your preferred form of cardio, it should always be a part of your fitness plan. Cardio provides you with multiple benefits such as improved heart health, increased metabolism, enhanced recovery ability, and fat loss. These benefits positively impact your overall training program and improve your daily functions.
Furthermore, you can adjust your cardio routine to fit your goals. While intense cardio helps you burn more calories and melt away layers of unwanted body fat, moderate cardio is more appropriate for hypertrophy goals. The two main types of cardio are sprint-based cardio and steady-state cardio. The difference between the two is energy expenditure. One of the two cardio training methods is more appropriate for you if your goal is to:
- decrease body fat percentage
- increase lean muscle mass
- stay anabolic and avoid becoming catabolic
- avoid body acclimation
- increase raw strength
- improve heart health
Sprint-based cardio involves running at full speed for a certain amount of time. This cardio training approach forces your body to primarily use creatine as its energy source. Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that your body produces naturally. You can also increase your creatine levels by supplementing with creatine in either powder, pill or liquid form. Creatine is used as an energy source to perform short bursts of power or explosive movements.
That is why when you do sprint-based cardio, you’re using creatine as the primary source of energy. This means that the more sprint-based cardio you do, the more overall power you’ll develop and have. This will help you get leaner, stronger, and it will also help you blow past your previous Personal Lifting Records.
The only thing that makes this type of cardio different from other types of cardiovascular exercise is that your heart rate never really fluctuates during steady-state cardio (SSC). Having your heart rate stay at a steady rate during your entire cardio session means that you’re doing SSC. Once you start to increase or decrease your heart rate you’re no longer doing SSC. Here are a couple of reasons why steady-state cardio might not be right for you if your goal is to develop explosive power.
- Acclimation: Just like with weightlifting, your body will acclimate to a workout. The human body is always trying to be as efficient as possible. If you spend too much time doing SSC, your body will simply do the same amount of cardio work (energy output), but it will use fewer calories to do it. This means you’ll have to constantly increase the amount of time you do your SSC. For example, if you start doing 20 minutes a day, then in a few years you’ll have to be doing at least 1.5 hours a day just to burn the same amount of calories.
- Becoming Catabolic: When the human body becomes catabolic, it uses protein (your muscles) as its primary energy source. When you do more than 1.5 hours of SSC, your body will start to become catabolic. The only exception for this is when you consume sugar after you hit the 1.5-hour milestone. That’s why distance runners are always trying to consume some form of sugary food or drink while they’re running. But if you’re trying to get leaner, you might not want the extra sugar intake in your body.
Sprint-based cardio is an excellent cardio training method to help you develop explosive power, burn more calories, and avoid your body’s acclimation to cardio training. You can perform an effective 20-minute cardio workout if you are a beginner, but remember to warm up before you start sprinting. You can do 30-second sprints at full speed with maximum effort, and then take 2 or 3 minutes to recover before your next maximum effort sprint.
As you become more accustomed to this form of cardio, you can increase the number of intervals in your workout and decrease the recovery time in between your intervals. Make sure you consult your physician before you incorporate sprint-based cardio into your fitness routine. It is excellent for heart health, but if you are someone with preexisting heart conditions or a history of heart attacks, you shouldn't rush to add this cardio method to your workout.
Instead, consider steady-state cardio for your fitness program. Additionally, if you have certain injuries or would like to prevent one, consider building your way up to sprint-based cardio by starting with steady-state cardio and moderate intensity workouts. Sprinting can be quite stressful for your body, so make sure you incorporate in only once a week at first.
For optimal health and maximum results, you should alternate between sprint-based and steady-state cardio. Remember to choose the right method for your fitness goal. While sprint-based cardio is great for fat-loss and enhanced explosive power, steady-state cardio is excellent for making and keeping new muscle gains. If you want to know more about how moderate cardio can help you keep your muscle gains while providing you with the best cardio benefits, read our article: DOES CARDIO AFFECT YOUR MUSCLE GAINS?