We don’t want to go into the weeds here, but we have to address the evil twins of exercise, cardio and core, and hopefully save you a lot of difficulty and failure. They mean well and they’re not evil, just misunderstood. This is our attempt to convince you to prioritize your efforts towards strength and conditioning over cardio and abs. Hear us out. Still train cardio and core, just not as much as you may think you need to.
When people first begin to exercise, a majority of them start with what is commonly and somewhat incorrectly referred to as “cardio”. We know they mean activities that challenge your endurance and breathing such as running, spin class, rowing, ellipticals, stairclimbers, aerobics, and hundreds more. These are activities that are typically slow in speed and long in duration; the kind of activities that make you feel like you’re working out, even when you aren’t burning a lot of calories.
The biggest irony of the term cardio is that all exercise is cardio. Cardio is short for cardiovascular system; the heart and blood vessels. If you’re moving, blood is circulating. The demand for blood is especially high when the demands on the muscles are high (i.e. during strength training). If you place a heart rate monitor on yourself when lifting weights, you’ll notice that your heart rate can get higher than levels achieved during cardio.
The distinction between cardio and strength training lies in that cardio activities make use of the aerobic system more than others. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and its counterpart, anaerobic, means "without oxygen”. Running is more aerobic; strength training is more anaerobic. Both are always being utilized, but based on the activity, emphasis is placed more on one than the other.
Tip: With any type of exercise, it doesn’t take much to make a person tired within seconds, so don’t assume being out of breath or training to failure is beneficial to you.
In summary, build muscle and put your body to work for you.
What is referred to as Cardio, we call Conditioning because it benefits more than just the cardiovascular system and breathing hard. Try to erase “cardio” from your vocabulary.
Conditioning means training to meet the demands of your sport, job, or lifestyle. If the demand isn’t there, then conditioning may not need much emphasis. Most people don’t need lots of conditioning, but there are certainly benefits.
Core refers to everything that surrounds your spine, basically your trunk (the body minus limbs). It’s way more than just abs. Abs refer to the rectus abdominis, the muscle that forms the shape of the highly desirable six-pack. There’s a catch, it’s a small muscle that is stimulated primarily by high-rep training, but doesn’t grow too big or burn off a lot of calories. Better trained abs doesn’t mean you’ll see them. If you want to see your abs, focus on building muscle in the entire body as well as your diet. Diet is where the real work needs to be put in to see your abs.
You should still train your abs, but focus on all muscles surrounding the core. Core training is more functional in that it serves to benefit the entire body, not just the aesthetics of one part of the body. The core is designed to create stability, resist movement, and to transfer power. Our belief is that the hips are the core of the core. When we train the hips, we train the core, which effects everything outside of it. So focus on what your hips are doing and your core will thrive.
Running to get in shape has a steep price. It does’t burn that many calories, has a very low success rate, and a high risk of injury. We aren’t against running, but the only time we encourage running is if you love it, it’s your sport, or you get tested on it. Triathletes are the other exception. They do well because they give their body more variety. Otherwise, we say don’t run.
If running is your thing, promise that you’ll warm up. Runners that incorporate 2 days a week of strength training can avoid the common downfalls of runners by mitigating injury and boosting performance.
As an alternative we recommend sprinting, but before you start sprinting, get some proper instruction. Sprinting is explosive and anytime you add speed you need to build up slowly first.
By now it should be apparent we are proponents of strength training. Even the scientist who made aerobics popular says his research was misinterpreted and he favors strength training. We place so much emphasis on strength training because it offers the greater rewards with the least amount of risk. In other words, the success rate is higher.
The downside is that it does have a steeper learning curve, but anyone can develop the skills needed.
We don’t believe anyone should only do strength training or only train in any one thing. With the information from this lesson, you can decide where you want to place your emphasis. The results will speak for themself and it’s never too late to change up your training to suit you best.