Featured Cardio Training Equipment: heart rate monitors, exercise bike, dumbbells, barbells

Most Personal Trainers have a collective blind spot. They do not see the intrinsic value of strapping clients into heart rate monitors. Our question is; how do you access cardio intensity during exercise without a monitor? Personal Trainers tend to be detail oriented types that will split infinitesimal hairs discussing the value of certain resistance exercises; they will go into maddeningly nuance relating set and rep strategies; they will insist you understand nutrient micro-content and delve into subtle manipulations of fat, carbs and protein – yet mysteriously they dismiss the need to know how hard the human heart is working (in real time) in relation to the exercise prescription they have proscribed for the client or student. Only by using a heart rate monitor can we assess the impact of cardio exercise in real time.

Bill Pearl at age 63: Bill doesn't practice cardio in the classic sense of sitting on an exercise bike and riding it for cardio effect – though a decade earlier he had been a competitive bicyclist who rode hundreds of miles weekly. Bill uses non-stop weight training with dumbbells and barbells to create a cardio effect. "Does the heart really care how it gets elevated?" Pearl works at a rapid pace for two solid hours, using his moderate-intensity, high volume weight training system to jack up his heart rate. From set number one until the conclusion of the final rep of the final set, Pearl's heart rate never drops below 120 beats per minute 75% of his age-related heart rate maximum. Often, during his maximum exertions, his heart rate would exceed 170, a whopping 108% of his heart rate max.

"Aerobics," as a concept, is infected with myths and preconceptions. Our cardio training strategy is simple: elevate the human heart to a preplanned level for a preplanned duration. As Iron Icon Bill Pearl once famously said, "The human heart does not care how it gets elevated, just as long it gets elevated – who cares the tool or mode used?" This terse sentence points out a number of cardiovascular truths: the primary goal of cardio exercise is to elevate the human heart rate and keep it elevated.

One cherished cardio myth holds that the primary goal of cardio exercise is to burn calories. The actual number of calories oxidized during an aerobic session is quite disappointing. An average sized man tooling along at a rapid, sweaty, 12 calorie per minute burn rate, will oxidize a puny 360 calories, the caloric equal of an order of fast food fries. Many people labor under a mythical illusion that mild cardio magically burns off thousands of calories. That is hardly the case.

Pearl's Zen clarity implies freedom of mode: cardio exercise can be done in a thousand different ways; as long as the heart rate is successfully elevated to a predetermined range for a predetermined duration, what difference the mode or tool? There exists a universe of exercise modes and methods by which we can build and strengthen our guts, improve internal organ function, improve health and spike the metabolism.

About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.