Let’s be honest: cardio is not everyone’s cup of tea. The long and boring stomping on a treadmill not only bores you, it sometimes spoils your mood so much that you don’t want to go back to the gym again.
That’s why my answer to the question about the “best” kind of aerobic training is: the best is what you like.
If you can exercise regularly, you’ll get the most out of your energy systems training (I use this term to combine low-intensity cardio and various weighted variants – TES), both for your health and for your figure. In this article, I’ll describe the best (and worst) ways for each neurotype. If you want to strengthen your cardiovascular system and get rid of extra pounds (rather than good mood and sanity), then pick the most suitable type for you.
Type 1a (lack of dopamine and little acetylcholine)
TES (Energy System Training) without weights: VIT
You just can’t stand traditional low-intensity cardio – you always want to exert yourself more and leave the gym sooner. And you’re not as affected by lactate buildup (as on 1b – see below); so I recommend the common interval protocol: 30 seconds of relaxed walking followed by 30 seconds of acceleration.
If you’re not starting out in the best shape, go easy: 45 seconds of relaxed walking, 15 seconds of acceleration.
The total duration of the TPP is no more than 12 minutes. Start with 8, for example, and gradually increase. When you reach 12 minutes, increase the intensity of the work intervals (increase the speed, change the incline of the treadmill, put on weights) rather than the total duration.
Weight-bearing TPP: farmer’s walk, Zercher’s walk, sled pushing
Since you like to work hard, you’ll love this one. It is most effective to choose one type per workout rather than combining several different ones. Do short approaches of 10-15 seconds each, carrying decent weights. Even if you work relatively easy, don’t shorten the rest pauses too much – this increases adrenaline production (the main problem with your psycho-type). 15 seconds of load and 60-75 seconds of rest during the same 12 minutes, you will get 8-10 sets in total. Do not increase speed, the best way for you to progress is to increase working weights.
Most inappropriate: long low-intensity cardio: if you want to completely hate cardio, there’s nothing more effective than a good old-fashioned hour of jogging. This is the most psychologically exhausting kind of cardio for you.Also note that overly strenuous VIT, circuit training and crossfit are not suitable.
Type 1b (lack of dopamine and lots of acetylcholine)
No-load TES: Lactate-free sprints
You have excellent prerequisites for some sports: good technical skill, speed, power, strength. But there is one critical disadvantage – you have the worst (of all psychotypes) tolerance for lactate accumulation. So prefer speed training, e.g. short sprints – 12 seconds each, although some can go up to 20. And rest more between runs – up to 90 seconds. Don’t pause too long or you’ll lose your edge. Since you produce less adrenaline (as opposed to 1a), you can do something else between sprints, such as abdominal exercises. The total duration is no more than 15 minutes, you can get from 6 to 10 runs.
Weight-bearing TPP: sleds, ropes, sledgehammer or kettlebell swings (also in the lactate-free range)
In first place is still the same speed. Choose a form in which you can fully exert yourself in the minimum time. Or try a combination of different loads, for example:
- Sled sprint – 10 seconds / rest 45 seconds
- Hitting a tyre with a sledgehammer – 12 seconds / rest 45 seconds
- Kettlebell swings – 20 seconds / rest 75 seconds
- In total 4-6 laps
If you prefer one type of exercise, follow the same pattern: 10-20 seconds load, 75-90 seconds rest or active recovery.
Another suitable method is iron complexes, e.g.: front squat + front squat + deadlift or bench press, then you can add an optional back squat + behind-the-back jerk.
Here the variations can be any, I just advise not to prolong the complex (up to 30 seconds).
The most unsuitable: any load that causes accumulation of lactate: it can be very effective for weight loss, but it is completely unsuitable for your psyche – you will only get tired and worsen your sports results. You are born sprinters, but, alas, not marathon runners. The popular Tabata protocol (20 seconds load, 10 seconds rest) is also not suitable for you.
Type 2a (lack of norepinephrine (adrenaline) and little GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid))
Non-load-bearing TPP: Fartlek (running with acceleration)
In fact, a lot of things work for you, but you get bored quickly. I have found that fartleks work better than anything else. If you’re not familiar with this type of interval training, it’s very simple: in low-intensity runs, you insert pieces with acceleration – as planned or as desired. Train for fun, making sure that the workouts don’t become the same. The total duration is up to 20-30 minutes, but you can go up to 40 minutes.
Weight-bearing TPP: Strongman circles
You like variety and the opportunity to test yourself (this is why many 2a are into crossfit), so I’d recommend the strongman laps. You have better lactate tolerance and can do each exercise for 20-30 seconds (with rests up to 60 – depending on fitness).
- Farmer’s walk – 30 seconds/rest 45 seconds
- Kettlebell swings – maximum repetitions for 30 seconds/rest 45 seconds
- Sledge push – 30 seconds/rest 60-75 seconds
- Total of 4-5 laps
The most inappropriate: the same
Almost anything works for you, even low-intensity cardio! But after 2-3 weeks, you’ll hate any kind, and varying the duration/intensity won’t save you. Whatever your favourite exercises and workouts, you should change them regularly. Alternate methods during one training week or refresh the programme after 2-3 weeks.
Type 2b (lack of norepinephrine (adrenaline) and lots of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid))
Non-exercise TPP: Longer intervals (with accumulation of lactate)
As research shows, the accumulation of lactate is linked to the release of growth hormone – which helps use fat as energy. I highly recommend Phil Campbell’s book ‘Sprint 8’ about all this. As for our neurotypes, not everyone tolerates this kind of exercise well, but 2b is lucky – you’re the perfect fit because you tolerate the effects of lactate better than anyone else and adore pamp. The “pain” of the “infernal burning” only encourages you.
I recommend protocols of long sprints of 30 seconds with active rest (walking) up to 90s. If you’re in good shape you can take your sprints up to 45 seconds – the effect will be better. But add gradually, over-intensity/over-duration will be detrimental. Aim for 6-8 such intervals.
Powerlifting with weights: any exercise (that you like) of sufficient duration
Use the same pattern (30-45 seconds load, 90 seconds rest) in any exercise you like: farmer’s walk, pushing or pulling sleds, rowing, swinging, throwing (trashers), ropes, etc. Try to increase your speed (do more repetitions) over a specified period. Farmer’s walks can be done a little longer – 45-60 seconds.
Most unsuitable: short sprints
10-15 second sprints are not completely useless, but far from optimal for your type. It’s unlikely you’ll reach your maximum speed at this distance (and you won’t enjoy it). But if you’re just getting into running, you can use short sprints to get into the load, for example:
- Week 1: sprint 10 seconds / rest 90 seconds X 6
- Week 2: sprint 15 seconds / 90 seconds rest x 6
- Week 3: sprint 20 seconds / 90 seconds rest x 6
- Week 4: Sprint 25 seconds / 90 seconds rest x 6
- Week 5: Sprint 30 seconds / 90 seconds rest x 6
Type 3 (serotonin deficiency)
No weights PES: Good old fashioned low intensity cardio
Light, long runs are great because you don’t want any unnecessary shocks. On the contrary, the calmer the workout, the healthier it is. Sure, it uses fewer calories during and after your workout, but it does stimulate the release of enzymes that help mobilise and use fat as fuel. Classic low-intensity running does more to help your body use up fat stores.
Yes, studies show that too much cardio raises cortisol and suppresses testosterone, but they usually involve 90-120 minutes of running (or even 2-3 hours of rigorous endurance training). If you train with iron 3-4 times a week, 2-3 runs of 30-60 minutes at about 70% of your maximum heart rate is sufficient.
TES with weights: long push-pull sled pulls, rowing machine
Farmer’s Walk, Zercher’s Walk and other weight-carrying activities are not very suitable, try sled pull-push and rowing or elliptical trainers. You’re better off increasing the duration of the approaches rather than the working weights or intensity: sets of up to 2 minutes with a fairly relaxed rhythm. A total of 20-25 minutes.
Most inappropriate: heavy stringman sets
Too much exercise increases cortisol levels and anxiety, which only makes the workout worse. And you are better off concentrating on one exercise/type of physical activity rather than splashing out on circuits/complexes.
Maximum-acceleration runs (sprints, uphill sprints, etc.) are also unlikely to be suitable.
For many jocks, energy system training, OHP or cardio are a ‘necessary evil’. I would call them a ‘useful evil’ as they do improve fitness. Yes, you can get rid of excess weight by focusing only on nutrition; but this is far from always healthier. It is more useful to keep a smaller deficit while adding the right kind of TPP – you will feel better and recover faster from iron work.