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Serious High Intensity Cardio For Getting Ripped



Aug 11, 2010
Bodybuilders use aerobic exercises as a way to burn extra calories and to reduce body fat before competition. The trend over the last few years has been, “more is better.” Great bodybuilders like Shawn Ray often perform not one, but two 45 minute aerobic sessions daily performing one session in the morning and another session at night. When Nasser El Sonbaty was finishing second and third to Dorian Yates at the Olympia in the late 1990’s, he would perform up to three hours of aerobic exercise every day! Though Shawn and Nasser are incredible bodybuilders and their aerobic programs seem to work, there are other – and I think much better – ways to perform aerobic work to burn bodyfat.

Before discussing the better ways to do aerobics, I want to point out why excessive aerobics, the amount Shawn and Nasser often do, is detrimental to a pre-contest bodybuilder. The first problem with excess aerobic work is metabolic adaptation. When the dieting bodybuilder eats radically less calories, his body often adapts to the radical drop in calories by burning less fuel. It does so by lowering its metabolic rate. The same issue is true with caloric expenditure. When the bodybuilder decides to perform 2 long aerobic sessions daily, the body eventually adapts by burning less calories during each aerobic session! In other words, the bodybuilder who performs lots of aerobic exercise actually ends up burning off far less calories than he expects. The body’s adaptation response is to begin to burn fewer and fewer calories during those long and frequent aerobic sessions. In fact, if more aerobic work was the absolute key to getting ripped, then the individual performing the greatest amount of aerobics would likely be the most ripped for competition. The fact is, someone like Jay Cutler achieves his best condition with as little as three or four 40 minute aerobic sessions each week.

Excess aerobics causes muscles to shrink. Two long daily sessions will cause the body to shift away from burning exclusively fat and cause the body to begin to burn protein – some of that protein will be muscle mass! When you burn away muscle mass, even a small amount, the metabolic rate drops and testosterone levels drop. The result of a loss of muscle and declining testosterone levels is a slow down in the metabolism. Too much aerobic work also causes 2b muscle fibers, the ones with a great capacity for growth, to shrink. So in an effort to strip away body fat, the bodybuilder who performs two long daily aerobic sessions is not only slowing his metabolism, losing muscle and decreasing his testosterone levels, but is shrinking the type of muscle fibers that help him look big and muscular - the really dense and rugged 2b fibers.

What’s the alternative? Diet. In terms of preserving muscle mass and retaining size in the 2b muscle fibers and keeping testosterone levels from dropping, it’s always better to perform less aerobic work while concentrating on your nutrition plan. In other words, it’s better in the long run to diet more strictly and perform less cardio work than to eat more and perform lots of cardio exercise.

Besides a more well planned diet program, the bodybuilder can perform interval aerobic work. Intervals require strong bursts in aerobic exercise where the heart rate may approach 80% of its maximum for a brief period of time followed by a 3 to 4 minutes cook down period. In the cool down, the bodybuilder would severely cut back on intensity allowing the heart rate to fall to the 50-60% range. This type of training, moving from a high heart rate for 1 and up to 2 minutes followed by working at a much lower heart rate for 3 to 4 minutes not only burns more total calories and fat than low intensity aerobic work such as two daily 45 minute sessions at a much easier workload, but stimulates the use of muscle glycogen. Specifically, interval work stimulates the enzymes that help re-manufacture muscle glycogen. The benefit here is that the bodybuilder engages in this type of aerobic work will - because of stimulated enzymes that help make muscle glycogen – store most of the carbohydrates from his next meal (the meal immediately after the aerobic work) as muscle glycogen rather than body fat.

Another type of aerobic work that is technically not “aerobic” is wind sprints or simply sprinting. Sprinting requires the bodybuilder perform 18 seconds or less of 100% all out effort such as running down a track, running on a treadmill, ‘sprinting’ on a bike or rowing using maximal effort on a rowing machine. After the 18 seconds or less of all out work, the bodybuilder would rest completely until his heart rate is close to resting. A good strategy is to repeat this procedure ten times; ten individual 18 second or less all out sprints using maximal effort followed by 10 rest periods where the individual waits as long as it takes for his heart rate to approach a resting level. The bodybuilder who combines sprinting with a low carbohydrate diet will see definite decreases in levels of bodyfat especially if he follows a lower carbohydrate diet. That’s because sprinting coupled with a lower carbohydrate diet decreases glycogen stores and as glycogen levels decrease, the body begins to burn more fat as fuel. Sprinting also strongly taps the enzyme system that causes the resynthesis of glycogen. The benefit for the pre-contest bodybuilder is a high carb meal following sprinting activity will almost certainly be stored only as muscle glycogen rather than body fat. Lastly, sprint training causes a marked surge in Growth hormone levels. When growth hormone levels surge, the body decreases its breakdown of muscle tissue for fuel. Where 2 long aerobic sessions certainly can cause the burning of muscle tissue, sprinting can actually prevent the loss of muscle tissue by increasing the release of growth hormone which not only helps save muscle tissue, but causes an additional breakdown of fat stores.

by Chris Aceto


TID Lady Member
Feb 25, 2011
Great article! I know for myself being someone that will lose muscle easily, I don't like to do alot of cardio. I do zero in the offseason, and minimal when I'm prepping and it seems to work for me. I find it crazy when I see people doing 3hrs of cardio during prep, especially females who probably have more trouble gaining and keeping muscle do to our hormones.

Plus I don't like cardio!! :)


Sep 22, 2010
Look at the sprinters legs vs the long distance runners legs... Nuff said.


Apr 26, 2011
Great article! Proves the saying, everything is better in moderation very true.. Excess cardio does more harm than good to the body.. Look at the men and women who do marathons.. They put so much stress on their hearts through the excessive cardiovascular exercise that they have much shorter life spans than those of us who do a couple 30-40 minute sessions a week..