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Jim Stoppani, PhD, earned a doctorate in exercise physiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut (Storrs) before serving as a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale University School of Medicine. In 2002, he was awarded the Gatorade Beginning Investigator in Exercise Science Award by the American Physiological Society for his groundbreaking research. For the next 10+ years, Dr. Stoppani served as Senior Science Editor for Muscle & Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers and FLEX magazines at Weider Publications. In 2013, he created his breakthrough sports nutrition company JYM Supplement Science, which now includes a line of eight top-selling products.
Cardioacceleration: The Antidote to Boring Cardio
Hate doing cardio after weights? Then don’t. Combine the two for maximal fat burning—and no extra time spent in the gym!
Do you love to hate cardio? I know the feeling. You spend an hour or so lifting weights, and when you’re finished, another 30 minutes on a treadmill or bike is the last thing you want to do. So maybe you skip it altogether.
Only one problem: Cardiovascular training is an important part of your program. It helps maximize fat loss, enhances athletic performance, and boosts overall health.
So what do you do? Ditch cardio and call it a workout, or suck it up and hop on the treadmill?
I say do both at the same timeusing one of my favorite forms of cardio: cardioacceleration.With cardioacceleration, you can squeeze your cardio into your lifting routine while spending virtually no extra time in the gym. Best of all, you’ll see great results in fat burning and conditioning without taking away any strength or size gains from your weight training.
Replacing Rest with Cardio
The premise behind cardioacceleration is simple: During a standard lifting workout, instead of standing around between sets to rest, you do a cardio activity before moving on to your next set.
This technique is based off a groundbreaking study performed at the University of California-Santa Cruz and published in 2014 that showed that subjects who did cardio for 30 to 60 seconds between weight-lifting sets over a two-month period actually showed better recovery than those who took full rest between sets.
Yes, you read that correctly: Doing extra work in the form of cardiovascular training actually improvedrecovery compared to just standing or sitting around between sets.
That cardio activity can be any number of things, but cardioacceleration is best performed with a calisthenic exercise such as jumping jacks, bench step-ups, or even running in place. The reason is that you want it to be in close proximity to the lifting exercise you’re doing to keep training intensity high and your workout moving along.
Let’s say you’re doing 4 sets of bench press where you’d normally rest 60 seconds between sets. Those rest periods would be replaced with a cardio activity like one I just mentioned (step-ups would be a good choice, as you can do it right there on the bench).
By the time your workout is over, if you’ve done cardioacceleration between most or all of your sets, you’ll have seamlessly incorporated a complete cardio workout into your lifting routine. It’s that simple, and it’s just as effective from a cardiovascular standpoint as doing all of your cardio intervals together.
How to Implement Cardioacceleration in Your Workouts
Cardioacceleration isn’t a one-size-fits-all technique. Here are some guidelines to follow for getting the most out of cardioacceleration training and making it work for your current level of fitness and gym setup:
Split your rest periods between cardio and full rest if needed. The bout of cardio doesn’t have to be for the full 60 seconds (or however long your rest period was going to be). Those just starting out with cardioacceleration will need to ease into it; I recommend doing the cardio activity for half of your rest period, then taking full rest for the other half. For instance, if your break between sets is 60 seconds, you would do cardio for 30 seconds and take complete rest for the other 30 seconds. From there, work up to 45 seconds of cardio and 15 seconds of rest, then up to a full 60 seconds of cardio.
Start out with low-volume cardioacceleration. Eventually, you’ll want to work up to doing cardioacceleration between all sets in your workout, but again, feel free to ease into it. Start out by doing it between only half of your sets, or even fewer than that.
Mind your intensity. You want your cardioacceleration exercise to be as intense as possible, but be reasonable. If you’re already doing a demanding exercise such as squats or deadlifts, keep your cardio activity between those sets to something of lower impact and even low intensity, such as bench step-ups or jogging in place. More taxing exercises such as burpees, dumbbell cleans, and kettlebell swings are fair game for cardioacceleration, but save those for less taxing exercises for smaller muscle groups (arms, abs, etc.).
Switch things up. Over the course of a 20- to 30-set (or more) lifting workout, you may be doing that same number of 30- to 60-second cardio bouts. If you prefer to do the same cardio activity between all those sets, that’s fine. But from workout to workout, and even exercise to exercise and set to set, I highly recommend switching up your cardio moves to keep your routine from getting stale and to make your body work in a variety of different ways.
If you’re drawing a blank on what cardio activities to work in, here’s a list of ideas, many of them bodyweight calisthenics that can be done at most any gym or training station:
- Running in place
- Jumping rope
- Jumping jacks
- Bench or plyo box step-ups
- Jump squat (body weight)
- Power push-ups or regular push-ups
- Dumbbell power clean or hang clean
- Kettlebell swing
- One-arm kettlebell or dumbbell snatch
- Heavy bag work (punches, kicks, elbows, knees, etc.)
- Medicine ball overhead throw
- Medicine ball slam
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