Who Ever Said Lifting Heavy Things Ain’t Cardio………

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is kidding themselves.  Or, most likely, has never really lifted anything other than pink dumbbells or their remote control.   Not too long ago, one of my female clients told me an awesome story where she was finishing up her training session at her other gym, when some older gentleman (hello Creepy McCreepypants!) approached her and said something along the lines of:

I notice you working really hard, and was wondering what program you’re following?

When my client showed him her sheet, he then asked:

This looks great, but uh, where’s the cardio?

Meanwhile, my client was literally hunched over, hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath after having completed a “finisher” of overhead med ball stomps paired with spiderman push-ups – for ten minutes.  Without stopping.

She got a good chuckle out of that one, and I certainly can’t blame her.  Similarly, I’m always amused whenever someone asks me how much “cardio” I do on any given week, and I see their reaction when I tell them zero, zip, nada, none.

People are often left dumbfounded when I tell them I never do any “cardio.”  Of course, this isn’t to say that I never get my heart rate elevated, which, speaking technicaly, is what “cardio” really is (i.e., anything that elevates your heart rate).  I elevate my heart rate all the time.  Just the other day, for instance, I performed a set of ten reps with 510 lbs on the trap bar deadlift, and afterwards I felt like my left ventricle was going destroy the back of it’s pants.

I challenge anyone to tell me that that isn’t cardio.  It’s not aerobic (a sustained elevated heart rate), but it is cardio.

Even still, and this is just the strength coach in me talking, I feel that “cardio” is drastically over-emphasized in today’s society.  Now, before everyone starts reaching for their pitchfork, hear me out.  I am not in any way saying that including some direct cardiovascular training is wrong, or a waste of time – it’s obviously a component of a well-rounded program.

All I’m saying is that I feel it’s waaaaaaay over-emphasized, and that people have no idea what the term “cardio” really means –  as if all that “BRISK” incline wallking you see many people do on the treadmill six times per week while they watch The Price is Right (or Grey’s Anatomy, depending on the time of day) is somehow superior to placing a barbell on their back and squatting it.


Again, I AM NOT saying that traditional cardio is bad, or dumb, or shouldn’t be included in a program.  If anything, I just want people to understand that lifting weights can be “cardio” in nature, too!  You don’t have to be on a treadmill, or stair-master, or ellptical trainer for 45 minutes a day, 4-5-6 days per week, hating life, contemplating Sepuku, in order to get a cardiovascular benefit.  I know I just rocked someone’s world out there, but it’s true.

So, to summarize:

1.  Older guys who admit to “watching you,” is downright creepy.  Nuff said.

2.  Anything that elevates your heart rate is technically “cardio.”  Taking it a step further,  I think it’s the semantics that people often get confused on.  There’s a difference between “cardio” (elevated heart rate) and aerobic (a SUSTAINED elevated heart rate).  As Alwyn Cosgrove has noted on several occasions:

“Everything that’s aerobic is cardiovascular, but not everything that’s cardiovascular is aerobic.”

3.  Who’s getting a gold star for pulling 510 lbs for ten reps?  I AM, that’s who.

4.  Traditional cardio is important – no doubt about it – but if we’re honest with outselves, I think most would agree with me that it’s over-emphasized.

5.  Donna Feldman is hot.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Lisa V

    I think women deal with creepy men at the gym all the time. I was doing trap-bar DL's one day and when I finished a guy came over and started helping me take the weights off ~ nice I guess, but then he asks me to come watch him doing his straight-leg DL's...in the Smith machine. I'm thinking he wants me to watch his form or something, turns out he just wants me to watch him...eeewwww. He makes a big production with the lifting straps, heavy breathing, etc. I have never seen him again, thank God because next time I would have to say "no thank you."

    January 28, 2011 at 6:04 am | Reply to this comment

  • Condeezle Rice

    Great post. It's funny that people will argue they don't have enough time for a thorough warm-up and/or resistance training, yet you'll see them on the elliptical 6x/week for 45 minutes. It may be because they like watching Grey's or The Price is Right, but I think it has a lot to do with it being extremely easy (both mentally and physically).

    January 28, 2011 at 6:16 am | Reply to this comment

  • Danny

    I find it has to do with the emotional connection they have with "cardio." People have been told to focus solely on calories burned, and cardio does in fact brun the most calories per hour, unless you're going at a snale's pace. Most people, women in particular, also like it becuase they can "see" how many calories are "burned." Although we know this estimation is off sometimes by the hundreds, it provides some visual incentive to do it often. There is also a "high" from sustained aerobic activity. As somone who runs 2-3 times per week (just because I like running, for me and noone else and not just to burn calories), I can relate. But, I've also developed a love for lifting heavy shit because I've seen what it does for me and clients. I guess it's one of those things that if people keep hearing about lifitng heavy shit, they'll eventually stop listening to Dr. Oz and actually start doing it.

    January 28, 2011 at 6:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jen

    What is it about Creepy McCreepypants? He went to my gym, too, before I switched. He said to me, "Can I say something without making you mad?" Which immediately I thought, "Please don't say anything..." because if you have to start a sentence with THAT, then you probably shouldn't say it. Anyway, he then says, "You look like you have soft, smooth legs." *uncomfortable pause* Uh, thanks? I heart the website, Tony.

    January 28, 2011 at 6:32 am | Reply to this comment

  • Matt

    Lisa and Jen, Please keep sharing your gym stories. They are making my day. The site looks great Tony!

    January 28, 2011 at 6:51 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Danny: great points! The mass-media certainly doesn't help matters; and you have to wonder who's more at fault: people or the magazines they read?

    January 28, 2011 at 8:52 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Condeezle Rice: just goes to show - people LOVE doing things that are easy and that they're good at. Hence why you'll always see every bench press being occupied on Mondays.

    January 28, 2011 at 8:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • Gwen

    There are a lot of Creepys at my globogym. One of my favorites was when I was doing a 225 DL and Creepy felt the need to come up and say "Wow. I've been watching you lift. You're strong...for a girl..." Really, Creepy? Thanks. My life is now complete.

    January 28, 2011 at 9:08 am | Reply to this comment

  • Steve

    Great post, Tony. I have the same conversation with people/clients all the time. I always tell them that their "cardio" (tradtional steady state thumping) should come in the form of enjoyable activities on the weekend or in spare time (i.e. hiking with the dog, etc. etc). Love the new format!

    January 28, 2011 at 9:38 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jill

    We had a fella at our globogym that was muscular and most likely juiced, that always wore a leotard looking thing..several sizes too small..with a fanny pack strategically placed the front, loincloth style. We girls spent a lot of time and effort trying to determine if there was anything under the fanny pack...it fit way too tight making us suspicious. Conclusion: juice causes shrinkage. Creepy McMissingsomethingfrommypants!

    January 28, 2011 at 9:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • Laura Nguyen

    My gym has lots of creepies too. I am a very small female (4'11, ~105 lbs) and I was doing a set of deadlifts, repping with 155 lbs, and Creepy wanted to lift the weight to see how heavy it was. Upon lifting it with some of the most atrocious form I've ever seen (rounded back, pretty much squatting it up), Creepy claimed "oh it's heavy", commended me, and walked away. Wha???!!!

    January 28, 2011 at 10:06 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chelle

    I once had an older "gentleman" say to me, "That's an awful lot of weight for a little girl like you!" I told him I could lift heavier.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:12 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lauryn

    Creepy McCreepypants hangs out at my gym too. He has approached me on a number of occasions to ask why I work out so hard when I'm so thin. He's around 60, looks like he may have been strong in a past life, but now just has ILS, and wears his lifting belt the entire time he's at the gym. I watched him to preacher curls one day where his entire body lifted off the seat on every rep. Hilarious.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:19 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jeff

    U girls are lucky. U never have to watch Creepy Old Guy blow-dry his gonads in the locker room "while" trying to make eye contact with everyone

    January 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Scott Herman

    First of all, congrats on the new website it looks fantastic. Second, 510 for ten is impressive but not as impressive as squatting 225 for 32 half reps with no shirt on.

    January 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply to this comment

  • SteveO

    Best comments thread, ever. I like it when Mr. McOldDongle comes out of the shower and sits on the bench next to me where I'm changing - without a towel on. Thanks for that bud.

    January 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Condeezle Rice

    @SteveO: piggyback about this being the best comment thread ever. At my old gym we had a guy who was notorious for just staring at you whenever you were naked. Not trying to sneak a glance but shamelessly staring. Then there's the guy who conveniently would strike up conversation with you just before you were about to get naked to take a shower or put on clothes...and just not even try to pretend he's not looking at your body...SO CREEPY! Girls you think you have it bad, but at least your creepers aren't in your gym bathrooms.

    January 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Niel

    Hey Tony, I'm guessing people do the easy stuff more so because they're afraid of trying different stuff - not necessarily hard. Now why anyone would fear deadlifting is beyond me!

    January 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    Whoa - I had no idea this thread was going to be so popular. Since we're all in the sharing mood, I have a creepy gym story to share. There was one guy who used to train at the very first gym I worked at who insisted on doing butt-ass naked push-ups right in the middle of the locker room floor. WTF!!!

    January 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Condeezle Rice

    @TG - I hope he wasn't using a full ROM!!!

    January 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Scott Herman: Soooooo true. Glad you could make here, man. We could learn from you.

    January 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Reply to this comment

  • R Smith

    Tony, Living as I do in Florida, a few brain cells die each day, every day from all the "runners" I see on the streets near my house. (Mind you, these are NOT people who should be running yet.) I want to stop my car, get out and say, "Let me help you with that: squat, lunge, row and do some pushups. That'll fix ya' up in no time." RS

    January 29, 2011 at 4:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Scott Brady

    Great article Tony. I too do no cardio and maintain 4-5% BF year round. Good nutrition and smart strength training 3-4 times a week. @Jeff: yup, there's a fella at the gym I work/train at that likes to blow-dry his undercarriage too! wtf @Tony: wrt Scott Herman's post... lmfao

    January 29, 2011 at 4:50 am | Reply to this comment

  • Iceman

    @ Tony G: A naked guy doing push ups in the LR is pretty un awesome. I think my local creeper tops him though, plus he had a sidekick. Walked in the other day to nude creeper standing in front of the sink, with his partner in creepiness literally shaving his back!! My eyes haven't stopped bleeding

    January 29, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply to this comment

  • Matt

    @Iceman - Nice. Since I got the ball rolling, I'll share although I can't hold a candle to this insanity. I am shaving in the locker room (not my back!). As I look at my handiwork in the mirror, I notice a locker room stalker checking out the goods. Nice, my stalker is developmentally disabled too!

    January 30, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Matt

    I didn't mean my stalker was truly developmentally disabled. Just the kind of retarded where he doesn't realize I can see him checking me out. Sorry for any offense.

    January 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Reply to this comment

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