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How To Get the Most Out Of Your Cardio Training


The importance of cardiovascular exercise is undisputed and the benefits that are associated with regular cardiovascular exercise are well documented BUT do you know how much cardiovascular exercise to do, how intense your cardiovascular exercise should be and what it should feel like?

Quite often we are told by fitness professionals that we need to do between 10 and 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week in order to see adaptations from the training. As true as this is, if you do not have the proper intensities, your adaptations will be limited!

What is Cardiovascular Exercise?

Cardiovascular exercise is activity that elevates your Heart Rate (HR) and keeps it elevated for a specific amount of time.

How do I measure my intensity?

The most accurate and one of the easiest methods to monitor your intensity when doing cardiovascular exercise is HR. HR is easily measured by most pieces of cardiovascular equipment by placing your hands on the designated handles however, this is not always easy to do nor is it recommended when you are running on a treadmill. Because of this it is my professional opinion that a HR monitor is the single best investment you can make on your body along side your footwear. A HR monitor will allow you to exercise and maintain an intensity throughout your cardiovascular and resistance training workout that will stimulate larger gains!

What intensity should I work at?

It would be easy for me to tell you that you need to run at a speed of 5.0mph and an incline of 1% for 35 minutes but that would not be appropriate for everyone. In order to assign intensities for people relative to their ability, we use percentages of maximal HR. Based on your ability you should be working at intensities from 40-100% of your age predicted maximal heart rate. The higher the intensity you are working at, the shorter the duration of the training session.

How do I know what intensity to start at?

Begin working at 40% of your age predicted maximal HR and try to complete up to 60 minutes of continuous cardiovascular exercise. If you are able to complete 60 minutes at 40% of your age predicted maximal HR then you can increase your intensity by 10% of your age predicted maximal HR.

How do I calculate my intensity?

In order to calculate the target heart rate range for your training all you need is a calculator and your age.

220 – your age = your age predicted maximum heart rate (APMHR)

APMHR x the percentage you wish to work at = the Target Heart Rate for your training

For example, if you wanted to work at 50% of your APMHR and you are 50 years of age, your calculation would look like this.

220 – 50 = 170bpm

170bpm x .50 = 85bpm

Frequently Asked Questions

If I can train at a higher intensity, should I? YES!

If I want to lose non-lean mass, does it matter what intensity I train at? YES! The higher the intensity you can train at, the more calories you will burn!

I don’t need to lose weight, should I still do cardio? YES! The heart is a muscle that needs to be trained like the rest of the muscles in the body!

If I do cardio, will I lose muscle mass? NO! If you are conscious of your diet and the amount of protein you are consuming, your lean tissue will not be sacrificed by doing cardio.

Quick Cardio Tips

  • Stay tall with your chest up, shoulders back
  • Keep your core engaged
  • Focus on controlling your breathing
  • Do not lean on the machine when doing your cardio, use the machine for balance if/when needed

General Recommendations

  • EVERYONE should do cardiovascular exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, 3 – 6 days a week. If you can do more, you should!
  • As you begin to improve, increase the intensity by 10% at a time
  • Do not neglect your heart; it is the single most important muscle in the body!

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