MISTAKE #1: IMPROPER WORKOUT TIMING
Cardio has traditionally been thought of as a warm-up activity, thus many bodybuilders do it before weight training. This both robs energy from their iron workout and limits their fat burning. Others prefer to do it in a separate workout. This is also not ideal.
A 2007 study demonstrated that when trainers did cardio immediately after a weight workout, they burned approximately twice as much fat as when they did cardio in a separate workout. This was due to the subjects’ elevated growth hormone levels after hitting the iron. Research has also shown that when subjects do cardio before weights, their growth hormone levels are significantly lower during the weight workout than when they started right off with the weights. Lower GH levels when you are lifting means limited muscle growth and strength gains.
- Do the bulk of your cardio immediately after weight training. Research has shown that the fat burning is at its greatest during the first 15 minutes, although we recommend at least 20.
- If you need to crank up the cardio and hit it twice daily, as in the final weeks before a contest, do one of those sessions in the morning before eating any carbs, but have 10-20 grams of fast-digesting whey protein first to prevent muscle loss and actually burn more fat (see mistake #5).
- Toney Freeman is among the bodybuilders who include some cardio action as a warm-up, especially on leg day, to loosen up and prime the pump. Like T-Free, keep your preworkout time on a stationary bike or StepMill to 10 minutes or less.
MISTAKE #2: INCORRECT INTENSITY
Bodybuilders tend to be of two minds on cardio: slow and steady, so as to not exhaust their energy reserves, or fast and furious, adopting the same take-no-prisoners approach they apply to barbells and dumbbells. In fact, both approaches will burn fat, but neither is ideal. Studies have demonstrated that the best approach combines both low and high intensity. It’s called high-intensity interval training, and it will not only stoke your fat-zapping metabolism, but it will also reduce the amount of time you spend striding in place.
- Begin with a three-minute warm-up at a slow pace. Then alternate one minute at a quick pace (fast jog on treadmill) with 30 seconds at a slow pace (walking on treadmill). End with a three-minute cooldown at a slow pace.
- Depending on your endurance, when first doing HIIT, you may need to lengthen the slow-pace intervals, but build up to where you’re alternating quick and slow intervals at a ratio of 2:1 for 20-30 minutes.
- HIIT can be done on a running track, alternating one minute runs with 30 second walks.
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