Cardio Cycling For Six Pack Abs

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As many things in the fitness and strength field, methods are taken for granted. People eat too many calories for too long, use the same high volume approaches for months and lift with the same intensity for years. While these are obvious statements and identify why many of use dislike the general gym population, the physique enthusiast in us isn’t too far removed from blame.


Sure, we cycle our training and aim to increase muscle mass while losing body fat. We focus on proper nutrition and aim to get more protein in every single day but are we making a cardinal sin by overlooking our cardio?

Without a doubt, yes!

Most people want to cycle their carbs, calories and training but almost no one even considers cardio cycling. Do you ever remember reading a article or talking to someone that was going to cycle their cardio and follow a program like 2 days low then 3 days high then 2 days off? Never!

Everything we do in the gym is a way to manipulate and change our bodies. Want a more musclar back? Well then you’d work to use weight on your pull-ups and increase your deadlift, maybe changing from a floor deadlift to a rack pull, right? Then why do we treat cardio like a constant evil instead of a powerful tool to change our bodies?

We’ll all agree  that doing more is the simplest and most basic way of progression right?  We can get by  with just doing more with weight training for a small period of time. More reps, more weight, it works for a short period of time. Now consider doing more with cardio, aside from the momentary benefits, it doesn’t aid us in losing body fat a whole lot.

Since most of us do cardio while we’re dieting, we need to factor in that our overall training volume is higher in addition to a lower basal metabolic rate as well as decreased anabolic hormones. By using the same form of cardio or the same duration, our bodies become more efficient at doing that work which reduces our energy expenditure. So the only way to off-set this almost  guaranteed adaptation is to make the cardio more difficult.

What’s more difficult?  There’s actually four different method of cardio cycling to burn more calories

1) Use a different piece of cardio equipment.

Research has shown acute rises in the fat burning hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine when subjects alternated different pieces of cardio equipment. Think about it from a logical perspective for a second. We know that different foot, hand and joint positions during weight training will work the muscle differently and may affect central nervous system fatigue as well. Why wouldn’t we get the same changes with our cardio. We’ll use different muscles on the treadmill versus the stairstepper right?

2) Use more volume

This is the typical approach that is used and as previously mentioned, will be helpful for only so long.  A typical volume progression would look like this

Week 1: 30 minutes

Week 2: 35 minutes

Week 3:40 minutes


Not bad if you are just starting out but as mentioned above, your body will become more  efficient at performing the cardio thus burning less and less calories per session. So after awhile, you’ll have to do more time to burn the same calories. Not a good model after a few weeks.

3) Increase the intensity

If you are performing steady state cardio all you need to do is steadily increase the intensity level that you work at.

Week 1: You’d work at an intensity level of a 3 for 25 minutes

Week 2: You’d work at an intensity level of a 4 for 25 minutes

Week 3: You’d work at an intensity level of a 5 for 25 minutes

If you’re performing interval training then you can either increase the level of your work interval or reduce the time in your rest interval.

4) Add more weight

This is done for the crowd that likes bodyweight or track training. Simply throwing a X-vest or any other weight vest on will allow you to slowly increase the load that’s used during your training.

When To Cycle ?

Now comes the whole point of the article, when to cycle. See, it’s not just about getting more out of your cardio. It’s about burning more bodyfat. Keep in mind, this doesn’t apply to a general population that is just following a strict Atkins type of diet. Most athletes or physique enthusiasts will at some point vary their eating habits. Most individuals will consume their carbohydrates with breakfast and post workout and will vary calorie amounts based on what they are training in the gym.

In that case, the most  effective time to perform more intense cardio would be on a low carbohydrate day. Provided enough protein is eaten, you won’t be at the risk of losing muscle and you’ll further enhance your fat burning state that you are in due to your nutritional requirements that day. If you wanted to build your quads, for example, then the quad day would be a high carbohydrate day followed by a short amount of lower intensity cardio or a day completely off of cardio, done in an attempt to ensure that those nutrients are pushed toward building your quads.

That’s cardio cycling..

Here’s a good podcast explaining how to cardio cycle for six pack abs in greater detail.

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. darrin_lean_muscle
    9 years ago

    Hey Jimmy,

    Love the layout of the new site, and I love the fact that you don’t ignore cardio. I’m sick of the gurus telling us to cut out cardio (and I’m also sick of those who say the only cardio you should do is HIIT). The science I’ve seen, plus my own experience, tells me that you can do cardio and build muscle and get lean – and even enjoy it!

    Keep rockin!

  2. I’ve found that weight vests can help you overcome “design limitations” to help with cardio training.

    My knees won’t take running on the roads anymore. Too much abuse from my younger days. I can walk, so I went walking with a 40lb weight vest and tackled some hills. That’s about 30% of my body weight. Heart rate up at 155 in no time. Walking’s low impact so I get my cardio AND no joint problems.

    Great information on your site by the way, I’m a new follower

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