Cardio Myths

Myth #1: Short bouts of high intensity anaerobic training have no carryover to longer-duration aerobic endurance.

It was once thought that training at a high intensity for short periods of time—say, 10 minutes—would build your endurance for no more than 10 minutes. That’s why old-school coaches had their fi ghters run for an hour every day. The strategy was, “Hey, if a guy can run for an hour, a 15-minute fi ght should be a breeze.” I already discussed in Myth #1 why you shouldn’t run for long periods when training for anaerobic activity.

Ironically, you can do the reverse: Intense anaerobic training will increase aerobic strength. Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese researcher, performed some exciting research with regard to high-intensity metabolic training. His lab demonstrated that, if you train at a very high intensity (20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, for four to fi ve minutes), you will improve your aerobic as well as your anaerobic energy systems. However, building aerobic endurance alone does not carry over to anaerobic capacity. Stick to the Tabata Protocol, and you’ll kill two birds with one stone.

Myth #2: Long-distance running will build MMA endurance.

To be a successful MMA fi ghter, you’ve got to be powerful. Long-distance running actually drains your power because it trains your body to work for long periods at a very low intensity. This type of endurance does not carry over into a demanding fi ght where constant grappling and high-octane striking is the norm. The energy system that fuels long-drawn-out cardio sessions, aerobic metabolism, can only produce miniscule amounts of power at a time. Therefore, low-intensity aerobic training should be avoided. Have you ever seen a super strong marathon runner?

It’s the anaerobic energy systems that dominate during a fi ght. Since anaerobic means “without oxygen,” you can’t train anaerobically for a long time before taking a break. As a rule of thumb, limit your endurance training to fi ve continuous minutes before stopping. After all, an MMA fi ght has fi ve-minute rounds, so your training should follow suit. And if you’re training correctly with total-body, high-intensity exercises, you wouldn’t want to do more than fi ve minutes at a time, anyway.

Myth #3: Burning more calories while exercising is always a better way to get lean.

In 1994, Dr. Angelo Tremblay’s team of researchers conducted a groundbreaking study that was published in the science journal Metabolism. They compared two energy system-training protocols. One protocol consisted of 30-45 minutes of low- to medium- intensity cardio; the other protocol was shorter, with a much higher intensity. The group that exercised longer burned more calories, but the high-intensity group lost signifi cantly more fat. In fact, when all the numbers were calculated, the high intensity group lost nine times more fat for every calorie they burned while exercising !

The reason? It appears that high-intensity training will cause you to burn more calories and fat during the hours after a workout. In other words, you shouldn’t just focus on how many calories you burn during a workout, you should also consider the kind of exercise you do during that workout. If it’s a very high-intensity session with maximum effort followed by minimal rest (Tabata Protocol), your body will crank up its metabolism, and that metabolism will remain cranked-up long after you leave the gym.

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