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the 90 minute cardio rule


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melkor has cited a rule of thumb that to gain muscle it is counterproductive to do more than 90 minutes of cardio per week.

I commute by bicycle to work, an easy 2 miles each way, and also use a bicycle for short errands. I rack up more than 90 minutes of "cardio" per week just in daily life.

Does this mean that if I ever wanted to build muscle I would need to drive more?? (this question is hypothetical at the moment given my current goals).

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yeah, doing too much cardio acutally burns muscle. my trainer has told me that as well.

but commuting to work ona bike isnt over doing it, unless your riding there like its tour de france, chances are your ok. just dont do assigned cardio at the gym/etc too much.

Wait -- before you give up riding your bike to work and for errands -- I would think the intensity level would also be a factor to keep in mind.  If you are not logging regular cardio sessions (i.e., running, elliptical trainer, etc) on top of your bicycle riding, and you do a fairly intensive strength training program to boot, I would think you would be okay.  If you are riding your bike at a moderate pace and not setting records for speed and hill climbing, working up a total sweat with every ride, I would be skeptical that the intensity of your rides would interfere with strength building.  After all, most of us perform activities of daily life at what would be a moderate pace (walking to and from train, bus, errands, housecleaning, gardening, shopping, child care, etc).

I would suggest that the "90 Minute Rule"  is a bunch of bunk. 
#4  
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I thought it was 90+ minutes a day that burned muscle.  I'm pretty sure that the 90 minutes a week thing is false since I don't work out my legs other than HIIT running, elliptacals, and cycles and my legs have grown substantially in the past three months...

I believe it is 90min in one session, not a weekSmile

 Nope, it's more than 90 minutes of cardio a week. You can suggest all you want, but bodybuilder experience says that more'n 3x30 minutes of cardio a week interferes with the process of serious muscle gain.

 Keep in mind that serious muscle gain is on the order of 0.25-0.5lbs of muscle a week, and this may not be something you're interested in. Not everyone wants to go for the maximum possible in one physical dimension, but seriously, you can't get better at everything at once, and if you're doing serious cardio for more than 90 minutes a week you're pushing yourself to improve in the physical dimensions involved with that activity. You can't simultaneously expect to improve your other physical qualities at the same time unless they're at least complimentary or on the same continuum.

 Muscular hypertrophy is a whole different physical dimension on the scale:

     endurance
     /       .        \
strength   -- speed

 If you're pushing into one corner your potential for improvement in the other one is kinda limited - a sprinter has no endurance, an marathoner can't sprint, a weight lifter can't move at all.

 Which is a royal exaggeration of course, but the more you push towards an extreme, the more you have to give up on improving on qualities from the other corners.

 Muscle growth is over in the strength corner. If you want some, you're going to have to limit your training activities over in the other dimensions.

 Also keep in mind that 'an easy commute' is probably not on the same scale as 'serious cardio' - if you're not pushing hard to beat your previous speed over the distance or trying for a longer route you're not engaged in something that's going to register much on the impact scale. It's only a concern if you're engaged in something that's going to use up some of your body's limited adaptive and recuperative capability.
Do you want to build muscle or get stronger?  If you want to be a body builder then follow their advice.  If you are an athlete that wants to get stronger, then don't pay attention to what the body builders do. 

i don't know...  i know that dance is very cardio, but also strength training.  dancers definitely do more than 90 mins of cardio a day (if they're pros) and look at their bodies!  i think it's all about balance tho...

I have no intention to be a body builder.  Getting stronger would probably be helpful for cycling, climbing, and other fun activities.

What I'd like to do is spend time in the rainy season focusing on indoor work on strength and speed. It sounds like non-intense bicycling for daily life activities wouldn't be a problem for these goals. 

(this rainy season I'll be working on some more fat loss, hopefully other winters on strength without fat loss).

Tom, which part of

     endurance
      /              \
     /       . you  \
    /                   \
strength   -- speed
is such a mystery to you that you keep insisting that you can improve all areas at once? You body does not have infinite adaptive capacity, you are not infinitely malleable, and you cannot improve in all dimensions at once. Move that dot in any direction and you're choosing to improve on that dimension, but you can't improve everything simultaneously, your body does not work that way.

 A world-class powerlifter could join the Tour de France, but both his speed and his endurance will be so lousy that he'll finish the first leg on the same day that the bikers reach goal.

 A world-class biker would be squished like a bug under the loads a powerlifter picks up in competition.

 You need to make a choice - do you want to be middling-good at everything, or do you have a specific physical dimension you want to improve.

 Most people who don't have competitive goals but enjoy one kind of exercise more than the other should pick a training regime fairly close to the middle and train just a bit more of the sort of exercise they enjoy than the other dimensions - you know, speed-endurance for bikers, speed-strength if you want to be a short/middle-distance runner, that sort of thing.

 The extremes are not healthy in any way, shape or form and the training regimes of competitive athletes are only useful as examples of what's physically possible if you push to one extreme; but you can't sit there and tell me that you can be a competitive athlete in the Tour, olympic weight lifting, swimming, marathons and sprint simultaneously.

 Athletes competing in the Decathlon try to do that, and their best results in any exercise are seriously underwhelming by the standards of the specialists.

 If you don't have sports-specific goals sticking to the center and accepting that you aren't going to see the kinds of improvements in any one dimension that you would if you were going to focus on just that one quality seems the more rational strategy - in your daily life you are more likely to find a use for a body that can do a variety of things.

 But don't confuse that with what's optimal for improvement in any one dimension of physical capability.

I have noticed this to be true in myself, that 90 minutes total a week is too much. This came as a shock to someone who used to do more than 60 minutes a day, but it's true! In order to increase my metabolism and actually gain muscle I had to back WAY off on the cardio. I'm not a bodybuilder, just a girl trying to get a stronger and healthier body, which wasn't happening when I was doing a lot of cardio. However, as Melkor mentioned, with different goals you have to change your expectations of yourself, and because I've been focusing on gaining strength I have noticed that I've lost some (but certainly not all) of that long-distance endurance I used to have. As far as cardio, workouts like HIIT are often more like resistance training than aerobic training, and don't usually do the damage of a steady-state cardio like long-distance running or cycling. Riding two or four miles and for errands shouldn't have a negative effect on your muscles if you are doing a relatively easy pace. If you are pushing at 16 mph on hilly terrain for 15+ miles every day, then you might start to see counter-productivity, but for leisurely rides or even if you are just doing a lot of walking I doubt you have much to worry about.

Original Post by alevin:

I have no intention to be a body builder. Getting stronger would probably be helpful for cycling, climbing, and other fun activities.

What I'd like to do is spend time in the rainy season focusing on indoor work on strength and speed. It sounds like non-intense bicycling for daily life activities wouldn't be a problem for these goals.

(this rainy season I'll be working on some more fat loss, hopefully other winters on strength without fat loss).

This isn't strength like what Mekor is touting, this is endurance.


It sounds like you want to feel "strong" after an hour of cycling, or on your fourth route. Both situations require endurance.  

The strength associated with this rule is purely lifting heavy things.

Original Post by melkor:

Tom, which part of

     endurance
      /              \
     /       . you  \
    /                   \
strength   -- speed
is such a mystery to you that you keep insisting that you can improve all areas at once?

His words:

Do you want to build muscle or get stronger?  If you want to be a body builder then follow their advice.  If you are an athlete that wants to get stronger, then don't pay attention to what the body builders do.

Which are not that far from your words:

Keep in mind that serious muscle gain is on the order of 0.25-0.5lbs of muscle a week, and this may not be something you're interested in.

 

I'm one who is not going to get hung up on what serious body builders do, because I have ZERO interest in looking like a serious body builder.  I want to look like a regular person who's in good shape.  Therefore, I am ignoring your 90 minute rule.

Original Post by juliemae2:
 Therefore, I am ignoring your 90 minute rule.

 OOH now you've done it, melkor

I work every week on improving endurance, strength, and speed and so far it's working for me so I insist that it can be done.  Yes there is a compromise but not to the point that you can't improve in all areas at once.

In cycling strength + endurance = speed
*sigh*

 Really, way to miss the point. You can do what you want to and pick whatever goals you have - and for most people I say that sticking close to the center of that triangle makes more sense because most people aren't competitive athletes and don't have specific training needs and competitive goals.

 However, for the people who do have sports-specific goals, who do have specific fitness dimensions they want to improve on, and do have competitive goals, you need to prioritize. If you're a biker, then no strength training for you in the season because your body's busy doing other things and you're going to have worse results if you try to add in strength training as well. If you're a weight lifter or you're going for muscle gain then no biking for you because your body's otherwise occupied.

 Doesn't mean that you can't strength train in the off season or that weight lifters shouldn't go for a swim or a jog in the off-season or a low-volume training period, it's just that if you have goals, you need to prioritize your training accordingly.

 You don't have goals over in the strength spectrum, so you aren't going to prioritize that, fine - that's not ignoring the rule, that's using it; you're focusing on improving the physical qualities that you are interested in and placing a lower priority on the ones you don't care about.

 That any one fitness dimension isn't important to you personally doesn't mean it's not important at all however.

 I'm trying to not confuse my personal priorities for which fitness dimensions are important to me with the reality of how your body works, I suggest you do the same. Otherrwise, you're repeating Kenneth Cooper's basic mistake which was saying that endurance was the only fitness dimension that mattered, and strength and speed were both useless physical qualities that no-one ought to care about or train for.

The problem with your pretty little triangle is that it is one dimensional.  At the center you can have an infant with no strength, no endurance, and no speed (or a grown adult with that profile).  You can also have an Olympic decathlete.  Obviously, the Olympian is stronger, faster, and has better endurance.  He must have worked to improve all of those things, right?  So, all around improvement is possible. 

You don't have to target one corner.  I think you make that point yourself, melkor.  The point of the 90 minute rule, though, is to target one corner - the strength corner.  Yes? 

 The decathlete is stronger, faster, and has more endurance than a non-trained individual, but his twin brother who trained for either strength, speed or endurance specifically will completely demolish him in that one dimension. You can't develop all fitness qualities to their maximal potential at the same time, and your results are going to be poor if you try. The decathlete will have seasonal training goals where s/he works to improve one particular dimension and maintain the others, s/he will not try to improve everything at once.

 However, you are catching on - yes, it's a rough quantification of how much training for any of the other physical qualities will interfere with maximally developing the strength corner.

 I haven't heard any guidelines from the other corners on the triangle, but I suspect that it's similar - more than 90 minutes of heavy lifting will probably interfere with a goal of gaining endurance or speed because your body is going to have to work hard to repair the 'damage' strength training causes.

 From the FAQ up top:
And keep in mind that it's good to have Training cycles and seasonal training goals - your body can't get better at everything at once.
So when you decide that strength training and muscle gain is of low or no priority to you, while developing speed, speed-endurance or speed-strength or any of the other combinations on the continuum are important, well, you design your training plan accordingly. Your goals are personal to you, and there's no value judgment in one or another, just more or less efficient ways to reach that goal.
"What I'd like to do is spend time in the rainy season focusing on indoor work on strength and speed. It sounds like non-intense bicycling for daily life activities wouldn't be a problem for these goals. "

Non-intense bicycling will actually help you acheive your goals.  You need to perserve as much as of you aerobic base as you can.  For cyclists this means logging as many non-intense cycling miles as you can during the rainy season either indoors or out.  You also want to use the off-season to build up strength through weight lifting and structured power intervals on the trainer.  But it is not in your best interest to focus on muscle builing at the expense of aerobic capacity.  This is my opinion based on personal experience and what I've read about training strategies for cyclist in the off season.  There are several good books available that address this topic.  You might want to check out this site:

http://www.roadbikerider.com

or their newsletter:

http://www.roadbikerider.com/currentissue.htm
Yeah, your goals are probably not very far over in the strength corner of things - and for biking there's a lot of strength exercises that are at best neutral and at worst counterproductive. Lance Armstrong carried too much upper body muscle mass to be really competitive for a good long while after his switch from triathlete to pure biker simply from swimming, so ghod only knows what the effect of trying to improve his bench press would have been.

 Sports-specific strength training have only a very vague connection to bodybuilding - bodybuilding is also a sport and a training program designed to enhance your sports-specific performance there probably doesn't have much of anything in the way of athletic carryover to any other sport.

 If you're a runner, you're more likely to find appropriate sports-specific training programs on Runners' world than on bodybuilding.com, neh?
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