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Cardiovascular Training

The topic of cardiovascular training is highly debated amongst coaches, or between a coach and client. I hear six of one and half a dozen reasons for or against the addition of cardiovascular training.

If you believe cardio means going for a run, or going to the gym and performing cardio on a cross-trainer with the goal of losing body fat, having a healthy heart and cardiovascular system, please allow me to inform you of what cardiovascular training means, and other forms of training and conditioning that will give you cardiovascular benefits, and more importantly help you achieve your goals.

Aerobic Training

Cardiovascular or aerobic (with oxygen) training typically involves a moderate level of physical exertion exceeding 20mins. As a percentage of energy used to fuel your body, fat metabolism is higher than carbohydrate and glycogen metabolism, however fewer calories per unit of time are burned than with more intense forms of training and conditioning. Commonly referred to as anaerobic training (without oxygen), overall metabolic elevation remains higher the more intense the workout, i.e. repeated efforts/sprints of 10-30 seconds.

Aerobic Capacity

Aerobic capacity is the functional capacity of the cardiorespiratory system, and is measured through a VO2 max test. This test measures your aerobic capacity, peak oxygen uptake and maximal oxygen consumption, and is the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. For endurance athletes a high VO2 max is essential for performance, however this would be of little use to a power or explosive athlete such as a sprinter. Research has shown that not only will a high VO2 max negatively impact power output, but VO2 max has no direct link to cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system is the heart, veins, blood vessels, and takes in pulmonary, systemic and coronary circulation, and has nothing to do with aerobic capacity.

Cardiorespiratory Conditioning

The ability of the respiratory and circulatory systems to supply oxygen to the skeletal muscles during physical activity. Aerobic training can improve cardiorespiratory fitness, however there are other more effective ways of achieving a healthy heart.

Application to Training

Aerobic training should not only stimulate the heart but the entire vascular system. In my experience of coaching clients, exposing them to a specifically designed fat loss resistance training programme, the entire cardiovascular system can be trained, resulting in significant body fat loss and composition adaptations.

In Closing

In my experience of coaching I believe you should train using methods specific to your training goal(s). If you want to enter a marathon or triathlon, aerobic training to enhance VO2 should be programmed into a structured training programme. However if you are looking for fat loss, having a lean body then there are more effective training programmes that will achieve these results.


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