Cardio: One of the Dirty Words You Can’t Say on a Strength Blog

By: Schuyler Schmidt

The following is a guest post from Schuyler Schmidt, another one of the up-and-coming executives with WARRIORS S&C. This article sheds light on a few short, intense cardio workouts that experienced weightlifters and beginners alike should include in their routine. Enjoy! – Austin

If you mention the C-word (no, not that one!) to most of the “big lifters” in the gym, they’ll look at you as if you’ve just said you don’t squat or eat massive amounts of protein. When “muscleheads” are asked what their cardio routine is like, “non-existent” is usually the answer. Lifting big and downplaying cardiovascular health seem to go hand in hand.

You can bench press 400 pounds, but can you walk up the steps without getting winded?

I’m not saying that you need to go out and run a marathon or even a 5K. Distance running and heavy lifting are counter-intuitive. What I am saying, however, is that short, intense cardio needs to be in your workout.

By incorporating cardio training into your workout routine, you can:

  • Improve aerobic and anaerobic capacity
  • Improve VO2 max and resting metabolic rate
  • Continue to burn fat after you are done exercising

Sound simple? It is. Queue in Tabata intervals and HIIT.

Yes, you can be insanely jacked and run.

What is a Tabata interval?

Created by Dr. Izumi Tabata in 1996 for a research project (link to study posted below), the original Tabata protocol consists of a 5 minute warmup, seven to eight sets of 20 seconds of exercise at an intensity of approximately 170% VO2 max, followed by a ten second recovery period, and a 2 minute cooldown.

While Dr. Tabata’s original research was conducted on a cycle-ergometer, the protocol can be applied to a variety of exercises– rowing machine, stair climber, elliptical, jump rope, Prowler pushes, running, pushups, medicine ball slams, jump squats, swimming, etc. There are plenty of options, so no excuses.

How do you go about actually doing these?

Tabatas are pretty intense, especially if you aren’t used to doing any cardio. It’s best to ease into it.

  • The first thing you need to do is calculate your max heart rate (220-your age). Find a heart rate monitor, decide what type of exercise you are going to do, and begin to warmup. For example, if you are running, begin by running at a moderate level (50-60% of your max heart rate) for 3-5 minutes.
  • Then, begin intervals. For the next 20 seconds, run as hard as you possibly can (it’s only 20 seconds). Your heart rate should be at or even above your max heart rate. Recover for 10 seconds by either jogging or walking slowly. After 10 seconds, sprint again. Repeat this cycle for a total of 4 intervals.
  • As you shape up, increase the number of intervals, until you are able to complete the original Tabata protocol (8×20 second sprint).

It isn’t necessary to buy a heart rate monitor to do Tabatas. You should be able to tell when you’re really pushing yourself (i.e. during a Tabata you shouldn’t even be able to think about speaking). However, if you want to follow the protocol exactly, I recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. Tabatas should be done no more than 2-3 times per week and not on consecutive days.

Believe me, you’ll want the recovery.

Tabatas sound too intense?

Have no fear, high intensity interval training is here. HIIT is similar to Tabatas in that it uses periods of low intensity exercise mixed with periods of high intensity exercise. For example, walking for 30 seconds, sprinting up a hill for 30 seconds, and repeating would be an HIIT.

Running’s not your thing?

Like Tabatas, you pick what you want to do. It can be as simple as moving in place for 60 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of all-out burpees, recovering, and repeating again.

The whole point is to push yourself for a certain amount of time/distance, briefly recover, and do it again.

Shorten the rest interval and/or lengthen the “all-out” phase as your fitness level improves. HIIT training sessions usually last between 20-30 minutes and should be done 2-3 times per week.

The next time you are at the gym, put the dumbbells down for a few minutes and do something that will benefit your fitness, and, as always, help you “Look Good Naked”!

Check out for sample workouts or make up your own.

Sample Tabata Pool Running Workout

Go to part of the pool where you can’t touch. Tread water by “running” (i.e. act like you are running on land. Opposite knee with opposite arm motion). Once you are comfortable with water running, pick up the pace, and sprint for 20-30 seconds. Hold onto the wall or lane-rope and recover for 10-20 seconds. Repeat sprint/recovery set 4+ times.


What are your experiences with Tabata or HIIT? Have any questions for Schuyler? Comment below and don’t forget to”like” us on facebook!


Schuyler is a second year honours Kinesiology student at Waterloo. She enjoys everything fitness and looks forward to learning more through her classes, training the varsity athletes, Dave Wu’s classes, and the Strength & Conditioning Club. She also plans to minor in Human Nutrition. Having dabbled in distance running to powerlifting, Schuyler has a broad view of fitness and is a firm believer that “one workout doesn’t fit all,” when it comes to exercise. Outside of academics, Schuyler enjoys hiking, canoeing,  jewelry making, and working at a vineyard/winery in her hometown.



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3 responses to “Cardio: One of the Dirty Words You Can’t Say on a Strength Blog

  1. Steve

    I swear by tabata and hiit. add in brazilian jiujitsu training and eating clean and get insane results. Lost almost 90 pounds in less than a year!!!

  2. Pingback: Simple Health: Walking « Becoming a Minimalist

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