Fitness Series: Cardio, Cutting, and More

Date: 2019-07-01

Time to Read: 7 Minutes

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Cardio, Cutting, and More

As I type this post, I’m recovering from my second summer cold in the span of a month-and-a-half which when combined with a calorie deficit does quite a number on my psyche as I watch my 8-10 rep weights suddenly become my 5 rep weights.

The last post covered the basics of the strength-training portion of my fitness regimen. Much of what I discuss in this post references that previous post, so I recommend reading it first. This post covers the more nuanced topics of cardio, adjusting the workout volume, and adding a calisthenics focus during the cutting phase of working out.

For starters, when you’re cutting, there are significant changes.

In the last post, the majority of that information is applicable to the “bulk” or “maintenance” phase or more specifically, the two phases where you’re currently in a calorie surplus or simply eating enough to maintain your body weight (more on this later).

When you’re cutting or eating at a calorie deficit, things are much different. Your strength will start to stall and/or decrease (sometimes dramatically). You’re also not quite able to recover as quickly from workouts. This differs from person-to-person and also from stage-to-stage during the cutting process. You may not see a dramatic performance difference until you’re much closer to a body fat percentage of 8-10%.

For that reason, I make two distinct differences to the program described in the previous post.

First, I lengthen the cycle from four weeks (including a one week deload/rest) to seven weeks. Each week of strength training is followed by a Calisthenics week that involves more esoteric movements and workouts that I’ll get to later.

Second, I reduce the workout volume. While I keep the core working sets on the primary lifts including the final AMRAP sets. I reduce the accessory lift sets from 5 sets to 3. I also dispense with the extra volume discussed in the previous post which includes Joker Sets, FSL, SSL, and Volume Sets.

Next, Let’s look at the addition of cardio in the Cutting Phase.

First, I try to include a significant amount of cardio into my weekly workload. There are many different approaches to cardio and I typically try to avoid performing it on days where my lower body has been worked out thoroughly.

The three categories of cardio:

  • HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) - Hill Sprints, Sled Pushes, Track Sprints, Bike Sprints, Cone Drills. The principle concept is generally a 1:2 or 1:4 time ratio between a high intensity movement (think sprinting) and a much lower intensity movement (think walking).
  • MISS (Medium Intensity Steady State) - Short/Medium Distance Running(1.5-3mi)/Biking(5-10mi)/Swimming, Jump-Roping, Stairmaster. This includes physically taxing cardio activities that consistently last a certain amount of time or distance.
  • LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) - Short/Medium Distance Inclined Walking/Biking. Fairly self-explanatory.

Or any activity that is physically taxing from a cardio-perspective. If you can fit a type of each cardio in each week, then great. I generally aim for three days of cardio (mainly HIIT or MISS) rather than simply one day as I would when bulking. I would argue that HIIT is likely the most beneficial but difficult to duplicate absent a track near your location.

I’ve found the following HIIT stationary bike routine to be effective: Interval Training On A Stationary Bike

My focus on cardio is not to lose fat (that’s a helpful byproduct) but simply to improve your cardio endurance.

Next, the Calisthenics Week that is sandwiched between the traditional weightlifting weeks.

The typical Calisthenics Week is laid out in the following manner:

Week Day Workout
Sunday Legs
Monday Back/Biceps
Tuesday Chest/Triceps
Wednesday Core/Plyometrics
Thursday Rest
Friday Rest
Saturday Rest

The rest days can be spread between the different workout days. Similar to the weightlifting workouts, each workout has a primary lift (or movement in this case).

Workout Movement
Legs Pistol Squats
Back/Biceps Muscle-Ups
Chest/Triceps Handstand Push-Ups
Core/Plyo L-Sit

These would be advance movements, though not too advance for your typical gymnast. However, they are good movements to gradually progress toward completing for a set number of reps (or time in the case of the L-Sit). For most people (including me), these lifts are too difficult to do correctly on the first try and will require a progression scheme to follow before you’re able to do the movement confidently and correctly.

The beginning of the workout is spent attempting to perform the above movements before moving onto the rest of the workout which, depending on that day’s workout, is a prescribed circuit of basic calisthenic movements such as the following:

Leg Workout

Exercise Sets/Reps
Squats 3 Pyramid Sets (6-10 Reps)*
Lunges 3 Sets of 12-15 Reps
Elevated Back Leg Squats 3 Sets of 12-15 Reps
Side Lunges 3 Sets of 10-12 Reps
Wall-Sits 3 Sets of 1:00

A example of a squat pyramid set of 8 reps would be performing 1 squat, followed by 2 squats, followed by 3 squats, and so forth until 8 squats with no break between them, followed by a short 30 second rest and then back down starting with 8 squats. This will burn your legs to a crisp so start small. The next movements can be performed in order or as a large circuit. Everything is performed with just your body weight and can be scaled by increasing repetition (or time) or decreasing rest periods between sets or circuits.

Back/Biceps

Exercise Sets/Reps
Medium Grip Pull-Ups 3 Reps
Close Grip Chin-Ups 4 Reps
Horizontal Rows 6 Reps
Wide Grip Pull-Ups 3 Reps
Neutral Grip Pull-Ups 4 Reps

The above workout is to be performed as a large circuit with anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute between movements and 3-4 minutes between entire circuits. This circuit can be performed anywhere from 3 to 4 times. Horizontal rows are to be performed using a bar or rings (if you have any). Pull-Ups mean an overhand grip (exception being neutral/hammer grip) and Chin-Ups mean an underhand grip. This workout can be scaled by increasing reps or decreasing rest times.

Chest/Triceps

Exercise Sets/Reps
Wide Push Ups 10 reps
Close/Diamond Push Ups 8 Reps
Back Legs Elevated Push Ups 8 Reps
Standard Push Ups 10 Reps
Dips 5 Reps
Upper Body Elevated Push Ups 12 Reps
Front Plank 30 seconds

Same as above, this is to be performed as a large circuit and can be scaled by increasing reps or decreasing rest times.

Core/Plyo

This is the more esoteric workout that I use to focus on various movements that affect the core or explosive jumping.

Exercise Sets/Reps
Hollow Body Hold 3 Sets To Failure
Decline Crunches/Crunches/Ab Wheel 3 Sets of Reps Varying
Hanging Leg Raises/Lying Leg Raises/Any Leg Raise Variance 3 Sets of Reps Varying
Side Leans/Side Planks 3 Sets of Reps Varying
Hyperextensions/Reverse Hyperextensions 3 Sets of Reps Varying
Dead-Hangs/Static Holds 3 Sets
Box Jumps 4 Sets of 5-8 Reps
Depth Jumps 4 Sets of 5 Reps
Kneeling Jumps 3 Sets of 5 Reps
Seated Box Jumps 3 Sets of 5-8 Reps
Hurdle Jumps 2 Sets

These movements are to be performed in-order instead of a giant circuit of movements.

Fitness Series

03 February, 2020
A short series detailing my current workout regimen and how I document and track my progression toward fitness goals.
View All 4 Posts
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About

Blake Adams is a writer, software developer, technical consultant, and financial independence enthusiast living in Oxford, MS.

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