Observing clients when walking on the treadmill with dumbbells in their hands pressing overhead, performing various upper body exercises, or noticing some indoor group cycling programs fusing weight training into their programs on the bike, is cause for concern. Remember, when you are simply attempting to perform cardiovascular endurance training, the focus needs to be primarily on that component of physical fitness.
When external load is added, not only is distraction an issue, which has many pitfalls including injury, but the added load, when in the hands or worse on the ankles, may increase the risk of injury to the upper/lower body as well. If you are attempting to add intensity to your cardiovascular endurance training, there are many methods which safely and effectively address this goal.
Swinging or pressing dumbbells or other free weight may injure the connective tissue and joints of the body as well as lead to spinal issues due to the fact that the dynamic core engagement required to ambulate may be inhibited or disrupted.This disruption may lead to lack of stability in the spine and eventually injury as well. Therefore, the message is perform your cardiovascular endurance training “pure” and receive the plethora of benefits possible. Perform your muscular strength training program “pure” and receive the plethora of benefits possible.
This is not addressing circuit training programs which include both cardiovascular and muscular strength training elements as those stations included are specific to each modality. For example, in our circuit training programs, there are cardiovascular stations that are dedicated to high intensity interval training and then there are muscular strength training stations designed to improve muscular strength. There are also stations which focus upon compound exercises which address the functional movement patterns required in most exercise programs to ensure a balanced exercise program.
Follow a few tips below regarding increasing intensity without adding external load.
Also, if you are a client who wishes to climb, trail run with packs, firefighters and others that require external load training due to the demands of their activity, then that is exactly how you train. However, with our clients who require this type of training we utilize sandbags, weighted vests and backpacks designed to simulate their activities preparing them for the specific rigors of their lifestyles and jobs. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Tip #1 If you want to increase your intensity on stationary cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, then try increasing the incline, vary the terrain, or increase the level of resistance.
Tip #2 The larger your range of motion movement pattern is, the higher the intensity and the more force you will produce. For example, pull higher from the anterior hip joint into hip flexion which will then translate into greater hip extension through the stride. Pump the arms in bilateral opposition, front to back, which will not only assist your lower body gait, but will increase your intensity as well.
Tip #3 Perform high intensity interval training by integrating all out exertion intervals with active recovery intervals throughout your program two-three, non-consecutive days/week.
Tip #4 Integrate variety of skills. Run, walk, cycle, climb, row and swim, all of which are excellent forms of cardiovascular endurance training.