ANEAROBIC exercise is working your muscles as intensely as possible with an overload on them, in this case, weights for the shortest possible duration. Aerobic exercise is the complete opposite: very little stress on the muscles and prolonging the exercise for a longer duration. Where people go wrong with aerobic exercise is they assume you have to be in agony by the end of it and completely exhausted. This is absolute nonsense! With that, all you are doing is burning up glycogen stored in your body which gives both you and your muscles energy.
By exercising this way, you are exhausting yourself and you are definitely inhibiting your chances of building any muscle. What’s more, you are not burning fat which is the reason most people do aerobic exercise anyway. How you should be performing aerobic exercise is as follows: if you are using the stationery bike, for example, place the tension setting on very low so that there is no real stress on the muscles and you can peddle consistently with no real pain building up.
You can do the following to work out how fast you should be peddling or the speed you should be at whichever aerobic exercise you choose. Take the number 220 and subtract your age. The number remaining, i.e. your target heart rate should be about 60%-65% of this number. (You can take your pulse or buy a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate.
Let’s apply this to a real life scenario:
I am 32.
Therefore 220 – 32 = 188
188 x 60%-65% = 113-122 target heart rate/beats per minute.
How long you exercise for and how often depends on your goals. You need to complete a warm-up of around 5 minutes, taking it steady and letting your heart rate speed up slightly to prepare for what is to come. The same applies for your muscles. You want to then exercise at the rate mentioned above for around 20 to 40 minutes depending on your fitness level and whether you are trying to lose weight or simply trying to maintain your existing weight and fitness.
There are other factors to consider. If, for example, I am dieting and trying to burn body fat, I may only do 20 minutes of aerobic exercise as my diet at that time would be very strict. Doing more than that could be too much and if I carried on, I could potentially be burning up muscle tissue rather than any more body fat. If you are trying to gain bodyweight I suggest you avoid aerobic activity altogether for a while. Only do this for a few months, however, as cardiovascular exercise is an important part of any programme. Performing aerobics even just once a week can help maintain general fitness, health and stop you becoming too out of shape in the body fat department.
Off-season I will perform aerobic exercise a couple of times per week to help with my fitness in the gym to ensure I can push the sets as far as possible. Pre-contest, I double the amount of aerobics I do off-season and increase my cardio routine to daily to ensure I achieve the best shape. This is only in the last few weeks before a contest and I perform the aerobic exercise on the same day I do weights for this short period of time. I do not recommend doing aerobics on the days you do weight workouts at any other time as it’s important to stay 100% focused and ensure you have maximum energy for the day’s weight programme.
Before finishing on the subject of aerobic exercise, I would like to make a few final points on the benefits of aerobic exercise. Your metabolism will rise allowing you to burn more unwanted fat, even when you are at rest. What happens when you perform aerobic exercise is that you dig into the deep fat stores and use them up. This doesn’t stop when you cease the exercise because you are changing your metabolism and speeding it up. Once you have been doing aerobic exercise for a while your metabolism will literally be burning fat 24 hours a day. It assists you in the gym because of your increased fitness whilst helping flush away lactic acid and other toxins that build up in the body through intense exercise, and which can actually slow down the recovery process. Your heart rate will reduce when you are at rest as you become fitter and you will also lower your blood pressure.
Remember, though, as with the weights, start out gently and build up over time. My final point is if you are very overweight, take it easy on the weights and focus more on the aerobic exercise at first. As the bodyweight reduces, increase the intensity on the weights. If you are trying to lose weight, it’s important you still use weights otherwise your body will lose muscle mass. Your bodyweight may be a little lighter but you will not be healthy and strong which is why some people lose a lot of weight but still look saggy and feel they need to lose more weight. In reality, all they have lost is vital muscle and tone, and what they need is some resistance exercises to get the look and healthiness they want to achieve.