Monday, April 8, 2013

No such thing as Cardio

James has contributed a chapter to the new version of Hillfit, which should be out in a couple of weeks,  in which he covers the things he goes through in this talk.


JamesSteeleII said...

Thanks for sharing Chris!

Looking forward to seeing the new Hillfit.


Aidan said...

Interesting lecture. I'm intrigued by the definitions of intensity though. Unless I'm grasping the wrong end of the stick, it seems to be defined as working a particular muscle to exhaustion. Intuitively this seems limited to me - if I do squats to failure I can see that this would have an effect on my cardiovascular fitness (I appreciate I may be operating within a flawed conceptual paradigm here). After all, I'm working some big muscle groups and I'll be out of breath at the end. But compare that to doing bicep curls to failure - this may be the same intensity locally but systemically it doesn't come close.

Then there's intensity in terms of rest. I could do a weights session with lots of rest between each set and it would feel quite easy. If I do the same thing super-setting with minimal rest then that will be an entirely different level of intensity.

Are these things something that's controlled for, or are the experiments not yet delving into such things?

Anonymous said...


I think you are mixing up "global metabolic conditioning", and "cardiovascular fitness"; as well as possibly, economy of movement.

None of these things are one in the same.

Furthermore, improvements in the lungs and blood vessels are relatively small compared to what is going on at the cellular level over the entire body.

That means the conventional notion and importance of "cardio", is dramatically over stated.

Cardiovascular fitness in itself, may turn out to be nothing more than a fleeting, temporary adaptation.

The heart in this mix may be a different story. It too benefits the most from high effort strength training, not short choppy physical activity performed for 30-90 minutes at a time.

See Skyler's talk.

- Anthony

JamesSteeleII said...

@ Aidan

Thanks for your comments.

Regarding the use and definition of intensity I'd suggest having a look at another article I've published recently.

(email me if you can't get a copy)

I try to avoid the term now unless it is specified as to the intensity OF something (this realisation I came to after that talk was completed hence still using the term intensity interchangeably with effort).

In this case though (and as pointed out in the article) the squat/bicep curl example can be thought of as a case of confusing the specific sensations felt during the exercise with the actual effort directed at the exercise performance.

In the case of the adaptations occurring Anthony hit the nail on the head also. The adaptations that improve measures of cardiovascular fitness reside predominantly at the peripheral level. So although you are acutely blowing steam during a set of heavy squats as compared to the bicep curl it is the musculature being used that bears the adaptations mainly.

Regarding whether things like rest have been controlled in the studies examined, if you read through the paper


you'll note that both those with minimal rest between sets/exercises and those with more traditional rest periods both produce significant improvements.

Unfortunately I know of no comparative studies in this case nor are there any comparing other variables.

The thing that is known though is that as long as you work the muscle of interest to a high intensity of effort i.e. to MMF, then it will adapt in a manner as to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Hope that helps


Aidan said...

Anthony and James, thank you both for your replies. It's certainly a very interesting topic and one I haven't fully got my head around yet - I suppose it's a bit of a mental shift.

I can't get to that first article you linked to James, so I will take you up on your kind offer and email you.