The Cardio Comedown

It’s a fact. Looking good naked requires visible abs. Abs are man’s aphrodisiac, the center of your physique and one of the few muscles that chicks actually care about. That’s just the way it is. So, how do we get visible abs? One of the arguably most popular answers that come to mind is ‘cardio’ and that’s what I’m going to discuss in this article: the most effective cardio protocol for body recomposition. Most articles on this topic center around the pros and cons of traditional cardio, as in aerobic or low intensity steady state cardiovascular exercise (LISS), compared to high intensity interval training (HIIT), so I don’t want to go into that too much again. Rather, I’m going to take a more fundamental approach to the topic and discuss why we should (not) do cardio in the first place.

Read the full article on Human Engine.

52 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    I stumbled upon one of your articles a few days ago and have been working through all of them with much interest. This article was another one of those myth-busters which makes me wonder my current training schedule.  I have been an irregular visitor of the gym in the past months, so consider myself untrained.

    As a beginning bodybuilder (since anyone that shapes his/her body is defined as such) I started strength training 4 times ~1h a week and was advised by someone to do HIIT for ~20min afterwards.

    Your article discusses that the interference effect is nearly non-existent for sedentary individuals, but does that imply that HIIT is beneficial in addition to strength traning in the first months? So should I perform both the HIIT + strength training for 2-3 months or just strength?

    • Menno Henselmans says:

      Thank you. I wouldn’t recommend HIIT unless your goal is endurance. More volume in the form of resistance training will be more efficient (up to the point of overreaching) because it imposes the stress that results in the desired adaptations.

  2. Dane says:

    This is a really good post. Cheers for sharing

  3. Me says:

    This makes me sad…
    I train martial arts and both (strength and endurance) seems fundamental to it. Also, I like to mantain the proportions of my body (which means training not to a funcitonal goal, but aesthetical). Oh well.

  4. RippedNReady says:

    HIIT 3-4 times worked best for me + strength training sessions. Cardio is essential IMO as long as you don’t over do it

  5. freedlabel says:

    How would you recommend stamina? I realize that since cutting out cardio, I get out of breath quite easily, even more so during sex.

  6. jack says:

    Link is dead.

  7. jack says:

    Link is back!

    What about the health benefits of cardio exercises? Is bodybuilding workouts comparable to it?

  8. Joshua says:

    Hi Menno – Would walking have the same negative effects as described in your article?

  9. Mr Prytania says:

    I read your article and I have a few questions / comments. Friends of mine are bodybuilders for their hobby. They told me “Abs are made in the kitchen and not the gym.” I think that is your summary as well. But you are not addressing cardio as a healthy life marker correct? You’re only addressing its component in terms maximizing the effects of one’s efforts toward bodybuilding. Right? For health (not bodybuilding) what cardio effort do you do? I run 5Ks. Longer distances start to drain and shorter distances don’t seem to have any effect on my body for the effort. Thank You.

  10. Charles Kendrick says:

    If you’re going to do both cardio and weights, what’s the best pattern for combining them?

    I actually enjoy outdoor runs in the 45-1hr duration, and various other cardio activities, so, with a 4-5 day a week workout schedule, should I put my days off after weight sessions, before cardio days? Or is the reverse pattern better (days off after cardio days)?

    What do you think of my longstanding habit of sprinting 2 miles on a treadmill before weights? I seem to need a cardio warmup of this kind to avoid injury during weights, but is it counter-productive to hit the weights right after a cardio session like that?

  11. crab says:

    What a bullshit article. No research, no numbers – just verbal reasoning which I know for sure can always go either way in nutrition, exercise, bodybuilding discussions. And you call this “bayesian” bodybuilding? WTF

  12. Clarke says:

    Well written article, looking in great shape by the way!

  13. Rdmkr says:

    I’m curious about the part where you claim that cardio oxidizes closer to single digit grams of fat than triple digits. A single digit grams burn rate would amount to less than 90 kcal. You don’t specify the time spent, but I might presume you’re talking about a typical 30-60 minutes session. Are you saying the widespread claim that cardio burns several hundreds of kilo-calories, up to and over a thousand given a high enough intensity, in that time is false or am I misinterpreting the statement? I have to read “into” your comment a lot to make sense of it, so if you could provide some more context it would really help.

  14. Miran says:

    Thank you very much for your knowledge and taking the time to offer it to us to use and learn from. I’ve only recently found this article but have been enjoying following a lot of your podcasts on various other sites which lead me here.

    My question here is would training “bro splits” compare to the negatives as cardiovascular training? More clearly, I am a female who trains body part splits, Monday back, Tuesday chest, Wednesday legs(quad specific), Thursday off, Friday shoulders, Saturday arms, Sunday legs(hamstrings specific) etc. Would this high training frequency be as detrimental as cardio if my goal is hypertrophy in muscular size?

    Thank you again Menno for sharing your gift with the rest of us. :)

    • That almost certainly won’t induce any interference effect, as it’s all strength training. You’d have to do really high reps with short rest to possibly induce an interference effect. You may want to see this video though: http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/training-frequency-interview-jeff-nippard

      • Miran says:

        Thank you Menno for your quick reply. I have been doing supersets with shorter rests , not necessarily really high reps unless it was obviously a drop set. An example would be pairing leg extensions(8-10reps) then immediately doing seated leg curls followed by 20 body squats then resting before going at it again. Or if I stayed body part specific I would say do a pull down using the V-bar (8-12reps) then doing seated row using the same V-bar for 8-10 reps before resting.

        I can now admit that I am coming from being someone who used to do daily 60min cardio sessions, and wonder why my program wasn’t working no matter what training style I would use with weights. I’ve always been a strong girl, but since completely cutting out cardio (after serious withdrawl/emotional anxiety) my strength has seriously increased and I love it even more then before. And the extra strength gains obviously helped my come to terms with getting off of cardio.

        So when I found this article it started me wondering if by doing a body part split like this, would this still impede me from actually now building muscle or muscular hypertrophy.

        I will certainly watch the video you posted and look into some of those studies as well to better help myself understand why I should be training a specific way for optimal training.

        Obviously the smartest thing for me to do would be to pay and hire you personally, then judging by your track record, the actual muscular physique I have in mind, might happen that much more sooner and properly.

        Thank you again for your reply and for sending me this link. I truly appreciate you taking the time. And again have been enjoying your various interviews online. Obviously knowledge is power, and I love to learn the best way to attain the goals I have set out for myself, so I will continue to study and read more into this.

        All the best. :)

  15. Rdmkr says:

    Menno, would you say the negative impact of cardio on muscle growth is equal to- or greater than its negative effect on energy balance? If we compare two persons that do the same amount of weight training, one burning 250 kcal a day through cardio and the other eating 250 kcal less a day, would we still see any interference effect?

  16. Aziz says:

    When reading your great article, Menno, something very important comes to mind.

    Well, you mention abs and how important they are to attraction.

    I wonder, if we do eliminate cardio, will not that reduce our stamina during sex?

    It would be really counter-productive to look like a Greek Adonis yet either be out of breath after a minute of “high intensity” during sex, or even worse reduce one’s cardiovascular health which would effect the strength of the erection making it softer.

    What are your views on this concerns, dear Menno?

    • Strength training should result in plenty of endurance to have Kama Sutra level sex. It’s basically just partial ROM hip thrusts without any external loading. Well, depending on the position.

  17. Justin says:

    Menno, can you please elaborate on this? If controlled amounts of cardio have an interference on strength training performance, then why are other professionals and experts still recommending it to increase energy expenditure (i.e. Eric Helms in his muscle and strength training/nutrition pyramids)? I understand a negative energy balance and an optimal diet (in terms of macro-nutrients) is what will inherently determine fat loss for a better body composition but I’m currently having a hard time agreeing with your statements. Maybe I should read the article a few more times.

    • A reasonable case can be made for cardio if you think the costs outweigh the benefits. I think they rarely do for anyone except female physique competitors. Why do some people not act rationally? Because people aren’t rational. Take a look around you in the average gym and see how many people are following reasonable programs. Not many.

      • Justin says:

        But calories can only decrease so much? How do we increase energy expenditure with the least interference to our strength and hypertrophy training?

  18. Adnan says:

    Fantastic read.

    The idea of decreasing calories weekly or fortnightly or whatever it may be in order to deal with metabolic adaptation, is this better physiologically or only mental (I.e. if you can lose weight with a higher calorie amount and enjoy food then why would you not? And only adjust when required). But my question is, if an individual (who isn’t doing cardio) decreased calories gradually and ended up on 1500 calories, Would their fat loss be the same at that same date if they dieted on 1500 calories the entire time? Or would their metabolism have adjusted and they would have had to decrease more calories? I understand more calories is better because of strength gain/maintenance and hypertrophy, but I’m speaking from a fat loss perspective purely.

  19. John says:

    The link doesn’t work anymore ?

  20. John wilks says:

    Link doesn’t work

  21. Vince says:

    If one is not just looking at body composition and cares about cardiovascular health too, wouldnt there be benefits to cardio such as sprints? No more than a couple of times per week. Or are you saying that those benefits can be reaped with the correct type of strength training (shorter rest periods?)

Leave a Comment