Mobility Circuits: The Steady State Cardio You Can Do Without A Treadmill
“Hello sir. I know this message will come to you as surprised, but pleese allow me to go into the details of our business relationship with you.”
The Nigerian Prince scheme is one of the most popular scams on the Internet. It involves getting an email from someone who claims to be of royalty, and them going into great detail about the unfortunate turn of events they’ve experienced. But, because you’re a good person, and they’re royalty, you can pay a little money to help them out and in return they’ll pay you millions.
Every year single year millions of people still fall victim to the misspelled words and poorly worded emails in hopes of cashing in on millions.
Like someone eagerly sending money to a fictional Nigerian Prince, we’ve all been sold a myth on steady state cardio. And we’ve bought it hook, line, and sinker.
“Cardio makes us fat and slow. It turns men into women, and prevents women from ever losing a single pound of fat. We should be doing HIIT instead of sweating for hours.” – The Internet.
When the pendulum swung against cardio most people in the world rejoiced. Finally, there was an excuse for skipping out on the elliptical altogether.
But because of the cardio neglect, most people are leaving gains on the table. It may seem counterintuitive, but cardio can help you make gains in the gym, and you can do that cardio without stepping foot near an elliptical.
But first, what is traditional steady state cardio, and why do we need it?
Steady state cardio is typically described as hanging out in the 60-70% range, or zone 2. It should feel like you’re working, and you should be breaking a sweat, but you shouldn’t be completely gassed after a few minutes of work.
The magic of this kind of cardio lies in the fact that it increases our aerobic capacity and makes our hearts more efficient by increasing stroke volume, or the amount of blood we move with each heart beat. And despite what the Internet will have you believe, it works well for helping you get shredded as well.
By making adaptations to steady state cardio we become better at clearing waste products from muscle tissue, recovering between intense sets, moving more blood with each heartbeat, and in the end we’re are able to recover from more overall lifting volume.
That last point is where cardio and getting jacked come together like a couple of people well versed in the Kama Sutra.
A lifter who has a well-developed aerobic system is going to be able to handle more volume than an identical lifter with a poorly developed aerobic system. And because that lifter can handle more volume, they can potentially add more size and strength.
Major key alert.
The key to steady state cardio is that you’ve got to keep moving. This is where most people who like to say they lift weights for cardio are just plain wrong. Your heart rate may be elevated during sets, but you’re also taking breaks and allowing your heart rate to come back down.
If anything, lifting weights and getting your heart rate elevated is much more in line with HIIT style cardio than anything else. HIIT, in all its awesomeness, doesn’t cause the same adaptations as steady state cardio.
If you’re looking to get the health and physique benefits of steady state cardio, you’ve got to keep moving and keep your heart rate in that 60-70% range.
And here’s where most people get cardio wrong: they associate doing steady state cardio with hopping on the elliptical or going for a run and grinding away for countless hours while wanting to pound their head into the pavement. But that’s wrong.
*There are some things that above I mention and don’t explain in excruciating detail. If you’re interested in learning more about the adaptations that take place thanks to steady state cardio, and why those adaptations don’t take place with HIIT then I’ve got your back here and here.
Most people lack thoracic spine and hip mobility. If it takes hundreds of pounds sitting on your back to allow you to hit depth on a squat, then you’ve got issues that you need to be working on.
Shoulders and hips are some of the most important, yet injury prone joints in our body. If you don’t care for them by working on mobility, at some point they’re going to make you pay. That, in a nutshell, is why mobility is so important.
Another factor that far too many people overlook is the “feel good” aspect of training. The gym is supposed to be a tool that enhances your life. Not rules it, or detracts from it. Developing good shoulder and hip mobility is an easy way to make sure you’re always feeling good.
Like cardio, mobility isn’t sexy. Unlike cardio, there hasn’t been a well crafted Nigerian Prince scheme crafted against mobility, yet
We know we need to be doing it, but it’s so easy to skip out on that we stop paying attention to it completely. But just because it isn’t loading up the bar and pulling heavy deads doesn’t mean you should skip out on it.
There’s value in doing things that make you feel good, which both cardio and mobility do.
The cardio/mobility love child.
Imagine for a moment that cardio and mobility met up at a bar, and mobility was laying the mack down on cardio, spitting serious game, and saying all the right things. Mobility winds up taking cardio home, they get all hot and nasty, and wind up creating a love child.
That’s child is what we’re looking at now, and it has the power to change the game. It’s a concept that was first introduced, to my knowledge, by Eric Cressey. His post on the subject is absolutely worth checking out.
Poor movement and aerobic capacity are issues that plague most lifters, which is a damn shame since they can be solved at once by integrating mobility circuits.
Mobility circuits function as another way to get in steady state cardio, while also improving mobility in the thoracic spine, hips, improving soft tissue quality, and overall athleticism.
At the same time that your performance and joints are improving, so is your physique. Thanks to the increased fat burning from steady state cardio, most people typically start getting leaner. Not a bad deal.
How to do mobility circuits.
This point isn’t quite as straight forward as saying hop on a treadmill for 30 minutes. But the plus side to it is that you don’t even need a treadmill to get mobility circuits in. All you need is a space to move.
When implementing mobility circuits I like to pick 5-6 different mobility exercises, a couple of core exercises, and maybe some light dynamic work. From that point on the goal is to keep constantly moving, with your heart rate in that 60-70% range, for the next 20-30 minutes.
Remember, the entire point of cardio is to keep moving. If you’re taking a break every 20 seconds to talk about the election then you’re completely missing the point. You’re losing out on the benefit of steady state cardio.
Mobility circuits in action:
Set a timer for 25 minutes and perform the following non-stop:
Yogaplex x4 per side
Squat to stand with Overhead reach x4 per side
T spine flow x4 per side
Bird dog x8 per side
Dead bug x8 per side
Hip flow x4 per side
Depending on the day I also like to throw in 30-45 seconds of light jump roping to get off the ground but still keep my heart rate elevated. Easy paced jump roping is a nice change of pace to use because this is a lot of mobility work to be doing at once, and I also happen to like jump roping, so if I can find an excuse to work it in I’m going to do that.
If you don’t have a jump rope or you don’t fancy yourself as the second reincarnation of Rocky Balboa then you can work in skipping, light jogging, or anything else that keeps you moving.
The Nigerian Prince isn’t ever going to ship you the millions that you’re dreaming of, and doing steady state cardio isn’t going to ruin your physique or athleticism. And you don’t ever have to step on the elliptical to get it in. Give mobility circuits a try. Your physique and performance will be better for it.