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Iron Cardio Iron Cardio
Darkhorse
08-31-2005
By: Marc Lobliner at http://www.scivation.com/scivation_25.html

Scenario One: The clanging of Olympic plates, the grunting from a lifter completing a challenging set, the feel of oxidized iron on the palms of your hands. . . . If these are a few of your favorite things, then you’re a bonified weightlifting enthusiast.

Scenario Two: The whirling of the treadmill, the beeping of the heart-rate monitor, the incessant yapping from two female members about their workout attire. . . . If these are a few of the things you despise, then welcome to the club, you’re an official member of CHA, otherwise known as Cardio Haters Anonymous. While we cannot deny the benefits of cardio for your health and, of course, your lean physique, many of us loath that time spent in your gym’s cardio area, that seems to march on forever – regardless of how many football games are on the TV screens. There’s got to be a better way. Well good news for CHA members – there is a better way, and it involves what you love most – free weights, of course. After all, what kind of cardio workout did you think we were going to teach you?

Circuit Breaker

The concept of combining weights and cardio isn’t really new; the original concept is known as circuit training. Circuit training was popularized in the early ‘80s and involved bouncing from one free-weight station or weight machine to the next with minimal rest between sets. It was a great concept that unfortunately was dismissed by hardcore lifters because of its common association with neophytes, women in pink leotards and skinny guys wearing tube socks. Yet, those in the hardcore club that also did cardio to maintain low bodyfat should’ve realized that combining weights with cardio is far superior to the treadmill, or other cardio stations.

Iron cardio borrows the main concept from circuit training but takes it a step further, making it perfect for the hardcore lifter as a means of getting lean and maintaining muscle mass. Instead of grouping together exercises that isolate separate muscle groups like the biceps curl or lat pulldown, iron cardio utilizes just one exercise that stresses most major muscle groups each workout. The exercises of choice for iron cardio have their foundation in Olympic weightlifting, and include:

*Clean and Jerk (with barbell or dumbbells)
*Snatch (with dumbbells)
*Clean and Jerk and Snatch performed unilaterally (with one dumbbell).

Of course, you’re not limited to these. Feel free to also try the barbell snatch (after you’ve mastered the dumbbell version), and the hanging clean, or make up your own routine. Be sure to frequently switch the exercise to avoid overuse injuries that could hamper your cardio and your lifting.

Iron-Clad Benefits of Olympic Cardio Training

When you cross free weights with cardio, you benefit in so many ways that traditional cardio workouts don’t provide.
Body Double. Most forms of cardio (walking/running, cycling, stair stepping, etc.) involve only the lower-body muscles and neglect more than half of the body’s muscle mass – the upper body. Olympic lifting movements involve both the lower- and upper-body musculature. By using the total body with light weight, you’ll activate more muscle cells to participate in fat burning. The more muscle cells burning fat, the more total fat gets burned.


-Longer Burn. Because most of the body’s muscle cells pick up their metabolic rate with iron cardio, your metabolic rate stays elevated for a longer period than typical cardio. This means you burn more fat post-training, even when just sitting around. While there’s no research to quantify this in iron-cardio-type workouts, a recent study from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, discovered that a whole-body weightlifting workout kept users’ metabolic rate significantly elevated for two days after the workout – and most of the calories burned came from fat.


-Raging Hormones. Growth hormone (GH) plays a major role in the growth of muscle and the burning of bodyfat. Higher-rep training as in iron cardio dramatically increases the amount of GH released into the bloodstream.


-Sparing Partner. Long periods of low-intensity exercise (such as walking) tend to convince some of the fast-twitch fibers (those that grow biggest and strongest) to convert to slow-twitch fibers. Iron cardio on the other hand maintains your fast-twitch fibers. Sparing these fibers preserves your muscle growth potential.


-More Power To You. The lighter weight used in iron cardio workouts allows for faster execution of reps. This type of explosive movement builds speed and power that enhances your overall strength.


-Function Junction. Because these exercises require so many different muscle groups to work together to perform these complex movements, you train your muscles in a functional manner. Functional strength carries over well into daily activities and helps to prevent injury.


-To the Core. These types of movement rely on a stable core. With each rep you’re also doing a rep that’ll strengthen the deeper core muscles like the transverse abdominus and psoas muscles.


-Heart Felt. High-intensity cardiovascular exercise like iron cardio increases oxygen expenditure and forces the body to adapt by becoming more efficient at oxygen transport (increase in VO2 max). That means healthy benefits for your heart, lungs and other components of your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. M&F

The Exercises

Barbell Clean and Jerk
The clean and jerk is an Olympic weightlifting competition lift that involves taking the loaded bar from the floor to overhead in three separate but synchronous moves. Because the shoulders are much weaker than the legs, perform this exercise as a power clean for four reps and as a full clean and jerk for one rep, alternating in this fashion.

Start Position: Stand over a loaded barbell on the floor with your feet about hip-width apart and line the bar over the balls of your feet. Bend at the knees and lower your hips as you grab the barbell with an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder width. Your shoulders should be over the bar and your back arched tightly.

The Pull (Clean): To start the pull, push through your feet to lift the barbell as you explode upward with powerful leg and hip extension coupled with an upright row, using your shoulders, trap and back muscles. The bar should be kept close to the body at all times.

The Catch: Squat under the bar as you catch it on your shoulders and whip your arms around so that your elbows are pointing forward, not down. Next, extend at the hips and knees so that you’re standing straight up with a slight bend in your knees and the bar resting on your upper chest. If you stop the exercise here – as you’ll do four out of five reps – it’s called a power clean.

The Press (Jerk): Extend forcefully at the knees and hips as you press the bar straight overhead. You can perform the press with your feet stationary or split your legs driving one foot forward and the other back, then bring your legs together while keeping your arms extended overhead.

Completion: Return the bar back to the start position and repeat.

Dumbbell Clean and Jerk
Perform in a similar fashion to the barbell version but using a pair of dumbbells in place of the barbell. Because the movement is slightly more difficult to master, go a bit lighter.

One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch
The snatch is the other Olympic weightlifting competition lift that involves taking a barbell from the floor to overhead in two consecutive moves. To learn the snatch, start with the unilateral dumbbell version as it’s easier to learn and doesn’t require as much coordination as the barbell and two-arm dumbbell versions.

Start Position: Stand over a dumbbell placed between your feet that are about hip-width apart. Squat down and grab the dumbbell with your right hand using an overhand grip. Your shoulders should be over the dumbbell and your back should be tightly arched.

The Snatch: With one smooth motion forcefully extend at the hips and knees as you swing the dumbbell forward and up with your right arm. The extension at your hips and knees should be minimal – just enough to start the dumbbell moving from the floor. Immediately squat back down by flexing at the hips and knees as you extend the dumbbell straight overhead.

The Squat: With the dumbbell extended straight overhead, forcefully extend at the hips and knees to stand straight up.

Completion: Return the dumbbell back to the floor between your feet and perform the next lift using the left arm. Alternate arms each repetition.

One-Arm Dumbbell Clean and Jerk
This exercise should be done similar to the barbell clean and jerk in execution. The start position should be similar to the one-arm dumbbell snatch.

Two-Arm Dumbbell Snatch
Perform this exercise similar to the one-arm version, but start with the dumbbells on the outside of your feet.

4 Iron Cardio Routines

You can set up your iron-cardio workouts in a number of ways. You can either use more traditional set/rep schemes using very short rest periods between sets, or you can go with an extended set. Several examples of each are provided below. Remember to start off low for both weight and time. Choose extremely light weight when starting out, as you’ll want to first concentrate on developing your form and then your length of time or reps.

Descending Sets Protocol

One of the drawbacks to using weights for cardio is dealing with the inevitable fatigue that’ll limit your reps and ultimately the duration of your cardio workout. Hence, the workout here is based on decreasing the number of reps you do per set as you fatigue. The workout below is good for the barbell or dumbbell (bilateral) clean and jerk or snatch. Keep the rest periods between sets to under 60 seconds and work on decreasing that rest interval over time. Start with a light weight that you can get 20 reps with and increase the weight when the workout becomes too easy. For the clean and jerk, be sure to follow a 4:1 pattern of power cleans to full clean and jerks, or your delts will die long before the rest of your body. There are 14 total working sets and the workout should take about 20 minutes to complete.

Descending Sets Routine

1 set 15 reps (warm-up with bar)
2 sets 15 reps
2 sets 12 reps
2 sets 10 reps
2 sets 8 reps
2 sets 6 reps
2 sets 5 reps
2 sets 4 reps

Straight Sets Protocol

With straights sets you pick one rep range and attempt to hit it with each set. Good exercise choices are the barbell or dumbbell (bilateral) versions of the clean and jerk or snatch. For the cleans, be sure to go with the 4:1 power cleans-to-clean and jerks scheme. This workout gets exceedingly more difficult as fatigue sets in, so you’ll need to choose a weight that you could get for about 10 more reps than your rep range goal. You also may need to rest a little longer between sets, but since this is iron cardio you’ll need to limit that to no more than 90 seconds in the beginning and work at getting it under 60 seconds. Start with only three sets and slowly build to six.

Straight Sets Routine

5-6 sets 15-20 reps

This workout can also be done using the one-arm dumbbell clean and jerk or snatch. Alternate arms with each rep, which will allow you to get higher reps each set. You should also follow the 4:1 scheme for the clean and jerk.

One-Arm Straight Sets Routine

4-5 sets 20-30 reps

High Sets/Low Reps Protocol

For those who want to get a cardio workout in but hate the idea of high reps, you can attack the same concept from reverse. This means you do lots of sets for very low reps. Good exercise choices would be the barbell or dumbbell (bilateral) versions of the clean and jerk and snatch. You can go a little heavier than with the other workouts, but because of the high number of sets, you should use a weight that you can get 10-12 reps with, even though you’re only doing three reps. Keep rest time between sets to under 60 seconds.

High-Set, Low-Rep Routine

15-20 sets 3 reps

Extended Set Protocol

The extended set version of iron cardio is probably the most like typical cardio -- as in it’s nonstop. With this workout there are no sets, you don’t even have to count reps – just time. To prevent your weaker upper-body muscles from fatiguing early, use the one-arm dumbbell versions of the clean and jerk or snatch. Follow the suggested 4:1 scheme for the cleans to save your delts, too. Pick an extremely light dumbbell (10 pounders will be a good start for many) and shoot for 10 minutes to start. Your goal is to first increase your time to 15-20 minutes, then increase your weight.

Extended Set Routine

1 set 10-20 minutes  
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