The scientific approach to cardio training
Forget mindlessly pounding the pavement or relentlessly revving the rower, if you want to get the most from your cardio training you need to take a scientific approach. That’s where Cardio Peak Training comes in.
After decades of research into the effects of different exercise programs, Les Mills has defined – and proved – the science behind one of the most efficient approaches to cardio exercise.
Cardio Peak Training is a specific blend of high-intensity and steady-state training that gives you the best of both worlds – the cardio endurance that you get from steady-state training and the transformative fat burning benefits of high-intensity interval training.
How Cardio Peak Training works
During steady-state cardio such as running, rowing or walking you reach a certain level of exertion and maintain that for the duration of the workout. On the other hand, if you’re doing a HIIT workout you’ll reach intensity peaks pushing 95 percent plus of your maximum heart rate, followed by periods of complete rest and recovery. A Cardio Peak Training workout is a hybrid of the two; it maintains your heart rate at an aerobic training base, between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, interspersed with peaks of intensity pushing you to 85 to 90 percent of your max. After a peak you only drop back to your aerobic base.
Proof it gets results
The advantages of Cardio Peak Training are highlighted in a 2015 study by Loughborough University. This study analyzed the effectiveness of multi-peak cardio training by following a group of exercisers completing three Cardio Peak Training cycle workouts a week for eight weeks. Researchers measured glucose tolerance, cholesterol, cardio fitness and body composition before and after the trial.
After just eight weeks cardio fitness improved, with an 11.8 percent increase in VO2 (the most discussed measure of cardio fitness) and a 7 percent reduction in (systolic) blood pressure. Body composition also improved considerably, with a 13.8 percent reduction in body fat and a 3 percent reduction in waist circumference. There was also a total cholesterol reduction of 13 percent.
The study’s authors concluded the varying levels of intensity and multiple cardio peaks were an important factor in maximizing muscle adaptations and producing comprehensive health benefits.
Perhaps even more significant was the compliance rate by participants of 95 percent. Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, says this was exceptional, given they were chosen specifically for their sedentary lifestyles. “For those new to exercise, three 45-minute cardio sessions a week for eight weeks is a considerable investment of not only time, but also of physical and mental effort.” He believes the 95 percent compliance rate speaks volumes about the nature of the exercise and its positive effects.
Why Cardio Peak Training is the ultimate cardio go-to
If you thrive on the variety and challenge that comes from interval-based exercise Cardio Peak Training is a great option. Unlike its challenging cousin HIIT, Cardio Peak Training gives you an intense cardio fix without any risk of overtraining. Research shows that doing HIIT workouts too frequently can lead to diminishing returns (you can learn more about the best HIIT prescription here).
Cardio Peak Training is something you can safely do every day – although experts do recommend you spend just 50 percent of your training time on cardio exercise (the remaining should be strength (30 percent) and mobility (20 percent).
With a variety of workout options to choose from there is little chance of getting bored.
BODYATTACK™, BODYCOMBAT™ and GRIT™ are all great examples of Cardio Peak Training, check out our timetables page to view our classes.
This piece originally appeared on lesmills.com