Today we are featuring a post from Matt at Protein Promo. With a degree is exercise science, he works with clients to develop the best individual workout plan. What he and many professional see often are people who defer to consistent cardio as their main form of exercise. But is this actually what we are designed to do? Today we explore the Chronic Cardio Catastrophe, and how we can all break free from this mold.
Guest Post: Chronic Cardio Catastrophe, Are You Doing What You’re Designed To Do?
When discussing the paleo movement in its simplest terms, we are effectively talking about maintaining a diet that matches up with that of our ancestors. Paleo = Palaeolithic era. Clever right?
In summary, this involves consumption of plant and animal based foods and excluding gluten/grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes. If it looks like it was made in a factory, then we shouldn’t be eating it.
And for most of us, this makes complete sense.
Those individuals from the Palaeolithic era were lean, strong, and athletic. This is a physique that many would like to replicate. We can do so by eating those foods that we as humans were designed to eat. Simultaneously we avoid all that nasty stuff that came with the ‘wondrous’ age of agriculture. Such as sugary breakfast cereals and packaged treats.
Interestingly, while most of us pay close attention to the paleo movement in terms of diet, we rarely consider it in terms of movement.
As a result, many fall into the typical trend of performing long duration bouts of low intensity, steady state exercises such as rowing, cycling, jogging, or swimming. Now while I will not deny that this type of exercise has shown to have positive benefits to our health and well-being, it may not be the best option when trying to improve our body composition. Such as getting stronger and leaner. We are trying to replicate the physical capacity of our ancestors.
Now if we were to think about it logically for just a second, it won’t take long to realize that it is highly improbable that our ancestors went for a casual Sunday morning jog. Or that they ever traveled at submaximal intensities.
In fact, their bouts of physical activity would have been extremely intermittent. This is ultimate because their key goal would have been one thing. Survival.
This means that the extent of their physical activity would have ultimately come down to two main things. 1) finding and hunting food, or 2) escaping large and dangerous predators. This would suggest short and explosive bouts of activity comprised of sprinting, jumping, and climbing. Also a host of other strength based movements, like pulling themselves onto high ledges and wrestling large animals.
Taking this into our consideration then, it becomes apparent that long bouts of low-intensity exercise don’t fit in the Paleo lifestyle. It is also likely to be insufficient in promoting the development and improvement that we desire.
That being said, what can we do instead?
Traditional Strength Training
Now, with exception of spending months out in the wilderness with no legitimate hunting equipment, it is quite difficult to replicate the physical demands of our ancestors entirely. Fortunately, we have an extremely viable alternative. Strength training.
Strength training provides a unique modality of exercise that allows us to stress the muscle of the entire body, leading to vast improvements in strength, muscle growth, athletics, and explosive power. All while also promoting reductions in body fat.
It is in our best interest to strength train using ‘fundamental movement’ patterns. These movements, in particular, replicate both athletic movements, and movements essential to activities of daily living.
For the most part, this means combining compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, overhead presses, and rows, with heavy loading and fewer repetitions. This combination is optimal to develop total body strength.
Body Weight Training
In conjunction with more traditional methods of strength training using compound movements and heavy loads, it is also integral that we utilize body weight exercises.
These exercises require a huge amount of motor coordination and trunk stability and ultimately lead to the mastery of our own body. This ability was typified by those individuals living in the Palaeolithic era, who had the capacity to move their body in any way necessary. Everything from climbing trees, to hauling themselves up a cliff, to running at lightning speed. If they needed to do it, they could.
For us, this means using exercises like pull ups and push ups to develop the strength required to move and control our own body in a variety of positions, leading to improved strength and muscular development.
Plyometric exercises are traditionally used by sprinters and track athletes to develop explosive power. The exact same explosive power that allows humans to sprint, jump high, and change direction rapidly.
The capacity to perform these tasks quickly and explosively was once integral to survival. By training regularly, we can not only improve our speed and power but also increase our body’s ability to perform in highly demanding situations.
Plyometric exercise involves the use of jumping and bounding movements. Think box jumps, single leg hops, and broad jumps. These movements lead to significant improvements in muscular power and athleticism.
These movements are best performed at the start of our workouts when we are fresh, as this will allow the optimal development of power.
The final activity that we can utilize to replicate the training demands of our ancestors is sprinting.
The act of sprinting requires the integration of every single muscle in our entire body, and as such creates a HUGE metabolic demand on the body. This results in peaking fat metabolism and energy expenditure.
Additionally, sprinting is the one movement our ancestors performed regularly that we can perfectly replicate. Moreover, considering the improvements in strength, power, and speed that sprinting results, it is the perfect exercise to use at the end of our workout.
While low-intensity physical activity does have some positive health effects, it is inferior in comparison to higher intensity training.
By using strength and body weight training, plyometric exercises, and sprinting, we can near perfectly replicate the activity demand of our ancestors. This allows us to build a well-rounded, strong, powerful, athletic, and Palaeolithic physique!
What is your favorite form of exercise? Let us know in the comments below.
Learn More About the Author
Matt Hunt, a writer for Protein Promo. With a master’s degree in exercise science, Matt is an exercise scientist specializing in rehabilitation and athletic development. Training clients in a one-on-one setting has provided him with a practical understanding of the various aspects of the health and fitness industry.
Find him on:
Thompson, Paul D., et al. “ACSM’s new preparticipation health screening recommendations from ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription.” Current sports medicine reports 12.4 (2013): 215-217. Viewed at: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/fulltext/2013/07000/ACSM_s_New_Preparticipation_Health_Screening.4.aspx
Häkkinen, K. “Neuromuscular and hormonal adaptations during strength and power training. A review.” The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 29.1 (1989): 9-26. Viewed at: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/2671501
Cogley, Robert M., et al. “Comparison of muscle activation using various hand positions during the push-up exercise.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19.3 (2005): 628-633. Viewed at: http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/abstract/2005/08000/comparison_of_muscle_activation_using_various_hand.24.aspx
Fatouros, Ioannis G., et al. “Evaluation of plyometric exercise training, weight training, and their combination on vertical jumping performance and leg strength.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 14.4 (2000): 470-476. Viewed at: http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2000/11000/Evaluation_of_Plyometric_Exercise_Training,_Weight.16.aspx
Townsend, Jeremy R., et al. “Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) following multiple effort sprint and moderate aerobic exercise.” Kinesiology 45.1 (2013): 16-21. Viewed at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289681223_Excess_post-exercise_oxygen_consumption_EPOC_following_multiple_effort_sprint_and_moderate_aerobic_exercise
Join the Our Food Fix Family
Subscribe to our list to receive FREE recipes, healthing living resources, and planning and efficiency tips.