It’s possible to build muscle and aerobic capacity at the same time. If you like to lift weights, you don’t have to have the body of a marathon runner to get the benefits of aerobics. In fact, doing the right kind of cardio will help you gain muscle mass. You can get a complete strength and cardiovascular workout in about 40 minutes. This is no “get fit without cost” training program. It is difficult and painful, but you can build muscle while maximizing cardiovascular capacity.
Grow with Cardio
Scientists have discovered that strength training has a huge effect on metabolic health, similar to the benefits of aerobics. Combining aerobic and resistive exercise methods gives you the best of both worlds- improved metabolic health and increased muscle mass.
Muscle size also has a balance control. A chemical called myostatin prevents muscles from getting too large. It is balanced by follistatin, which promotes muscle growth. The workout in this article combines high-intensity interval training and kettlebell training, which boost aerobic fitness and increase muscle mass at the same time.
High-Intensity Aerobics and Kettlebell Training Increase Muscle Mass and Cardiovascular Fitness
High-Intensity Aerobic Training (HIIT)
Short bouts of maximal-intensity exercise build high levels of fitness quickly. Canadian researchers found that six sessions of high-intensity interval training on a stationary bike increased muscle oxidative capacity by almost 50 percent, muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) by 20 percent, and cycling endurance capacity by 100 percent. Training simultaneously for muscle growth and endurance compromises muscle hypertrophy. Strength and endurance training initiate different signaling pathways within the muscle cells.
Short-duration, intense muscular exercise turns on cell biochemical pathways in muscle that stimulate growth. High-intensity interval exercise training (HIIT) causes rapid cardiovascular changes that resemble traditional endurance training, without turning off signaling pathways that stimulate muscle protein synthesis and growth.
Practice the high-intensity interval training workout three days per week. You can do the kettlebell and HIIT workouts on the same day, but the workout is challenging. For HIIT, the elliptical trainer or stationary bike is best, but you could also use a Stairmaster or stair climber machine.
HIIT for Elliptical Trainers
Elliptical trainers are great for interval training because you can train intensely without beating up your knees, hips, and back. Interval training on this machine varies the striding speed, resistance, and ramp height. For beginners, a basic program is to alternate between fast and slow striding rates. For example, set the ramp and resistance at low levels and “run” for two minutes at 70 strides per minute (spm). Alternate between one minute at 110 spm and one minute at 70 spm. Begin with 5 intervals and increase them as you become more fit.
When you can do 10 one-minute intervals at 80 percent effort, you are ready for the HIIT program on the elliptical trainer: 6 to 8 sets of 30 seconds at top stride speed, maximum ramp height (high knees), at the heaviest load you can maintain, at least 100-150 spm with four minutes rest between intervals. You must work at maximum intensity to get the full benefit!
HIIT for Stationary Bikes
If you are a beginner, ride at an intense pace for 10 to 15 sets of two minutes, with one to two minutes rest between sets. When you can complete 15 sets, you are ready for the stationary bike HIIT workout: On the stationary or supine bike, sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, rest for four minutes, and then repeat six to eight times. High-intensity interval training builds aerobic capacity quickly, and the key is to exercise at maximum intensity.
Combining HIIT with kettlebell training builds muscle and endurance at the same time. Kettlebell training uses high speed, ballistic motions that derive power from the hips and legs, while sparing and stabilizing the back.
Kettlebell workouts involve few exercises and don’t take very long, but they’re not easy. The muscles of your upper back, shoulders, chest, lower legs, and spine contract and relax to provide stability during these dynamic exercises. The principal kettlebell exercises – the swing and one-arm snatch – are highly ballistic and involve concentric (shortening), eccentric (lengthening), and static muscle contractions from different muscle groups.
Kettlebells build aerobic fitness and promote weight loss. Kettlebell workouts are closer to interval training than standard weight training. The principle exercises (two- and one-arm swings and one-arm snatches) are practiced continuously and intensely, using high reps. This causes whole-body stresses that more closely resemble repeated 400-meter sprints on a track than standard weight training exercises (e.g., bench presses and squats). The average man should use a 35-pound kettlebell, while the average woman should use an 18-pound kettlebell. Increase the weight as fitness improves.
The HIIT-Kettlebell Workout
This workout is intense but extremely effective. Better yet, you can complete it in 40 minutes and get an incredible whole-body workout that will help you gain mass and improve fitness.
This workout is extremely strenuous. Also, the exercises can cause injury if not done correctly. Don’t attempt it if you are out of shape or have any significant health problems or joint injuries. Purchase a kettlebell instructional video or get professional instruction before doing the kettlebell exercises. This looks like a low-volume, easy workout, but it isn’t. Work hard on every set and you will be amazed at the difference. If you prefer, you can do the HIIT and kettlebell workouts on different days.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
HIIT training on elliptical trainer, stationary bike, or stair-climber: Choose a resistance that allows you to move your legs rapidly and do each interval as hard and as fast as you can.
Do 6 to 8 sets of 30 seconds maximum sprint exercises, resting for a full four minutes between sets. Adequate rest is essential so that each interval is performed at 100 percent.
2 sets of two-arm kettlebell swings: 40 reps
2 sets of one-arm kettlebell swings: 40 reps (10 reps right; 10 reps left; 10 reps right; 10 reps left; no rest when switching arms)
3 sets one-arm kettlebell snatch: 20 reps (10 reps right; 10 reps left) Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday: Rest
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