Stan Efferding & Mike O’Hearn want you to stop making cardio a religion.

Cardio sucks. Everyone knows it – and it’s particularly a thorn in the side of strength athletes and bodybuilders. However, the benefits of cardio for heart health and endurance are well known. As the fitness industry continues to grow in the mainstream – cardio has become a must-do activity for athletes and the regular person. In fact, it’s not uncommon to be guilted for not including cardio into your lifestyle – at risk of your life longevity. While cardio certainly has wonderful benefits, Mike O’Hearn believes many athletes are actually hurting their fitness goals with too much cardio. Pro bodybuilder and powerlifting legend Stan Efferding agrees. In Generation Iron and Barbend’s latest episode of the Mike O’Hearn Show, Stan Efferding explains how most fit individuals are doing way too much cardio.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States – especially for males. This reality has driven science and fitness experts to stress improving lifestyle via a better diet and increased cardio activity. While this may be an important truth for the average sedentary American – the message has also affected the athletic world. Mike O’Hearn and Stan Efferding are seeing a troublesome trend in modern athletes – they all do too much cardio.

Mike O’Hearn gets down into the weeds discussing this concept in detail with Stan Efferding – explaining how modern athletes often do cardio to the detriment of their fitness goals. Let’s break it down.

What Are METs In Cardiovascular Health?

A MET is the ratio of your working metabolic rate in relation to your resting metabolic rate. MET stands for metabolic equivalent – it’s the energy exhausted per unite of time. In simplest terms, it’s a scientific way to measure the intensity of exercise or an activity.

The base level, one MET, is your energy expenditure at rest. So when thinking about METs, you get a better idea of what it is measuring. 10 METs would be spending energy ten times more than when you are at rest.

Stan Efferding explains that for good cardiovascular health and decreased mortality rate – an individual should be able to maintain 8 METs during activity. 8 METs would be the equivalent of riding a bike on flat terrain. In comparison, running (at about 7mph) would equate to about 11-12 METs. This is important in understanding why he believes athletes and fit individuals are spending too much time on cardio. Let’s move on.

“Cardio is not a religion.”

– Mike O’Hearn

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Mike O’Hearn (@mikeohearn)

Stan Efferding Explains The Reason Athletes And Fit People Should Do Less Cardio

Mike O’Hearn and Stan Efferding make it clear from the top that this discussion is about fit individuals and athletes specifically. Their advice about cardio would change significantly for the average person or a person who lives a sedentary lifestyle.

Stan Efferding breaks down athletes into three categories regarding cardiovascular health:

  1. People who meet 8 METs without needing cardio exercise
  2. People who do cardio or weightlifting in order to successfully meet 8 METs
  3. People who do cardio or weightlifting but still do not meet 8 METs

Stan Efferding claims that studies show the individuals who meet the first category are able to successfully commit to 8 MET activities despite not doing regular cardio. This can be due to genetics or overall lifestyle (such as an active job). But what is important to note, is that the individuals in category three, who do cardio regularly but still can’t meet 8 METs, have a higher mortality rate than the individuals in category one who do zero cardio.

What Stan Efferding is trying to point out here is that cardio in and of itself is not the singular solution to cardiovascular health. It’s not about the individual action, it’s about the outcome. What is important is that your cardio or weightlifting or activity leads to improvement in your ability. If you can’t measure an outcome – then you are simply doing a repetitive task, like cardio, for no reason.

This ties into the notion of diminishing returns in exercise. Over time your body will adapt, so you must adapt your training. If you do the exact same cardio routine every day for the rest of your life – you will not necessarily be gaining a cardiovascular benefit from the cardio.

“I find very few individuals who need more cardio if they are already generally fit.”

– Stan Efferding

Cardio Should Not Be A Religion, But It’s Also Not The Devil

Mike O’Hearn and Stan Efferding also want to stress that they are not saying you should never do cardio – or that cardio accomplishes nothing. What they are trying to say is that many fit athletes who don’t do cardio… probably don’t need to start doing it. The outcome or result of your lifestyle is more important than the exact mode that gets you there.

If you are a generally fit person but still suffer from factors such as high blood pressure, high lipids, or high blood sugar – cardio will help you become healthier, lower those levels, and decrease your mortality rate.

But if you are a bodybuilder without these issues and you can hit a consistent 8 METS of activity without cardio – that’s okay too.

At the end of the day, Stan Efferding values movement most above all else. If that movement is cardio and it fits your overall athletic goals, great. If that movement is weightlifting without cardio, that’s also okay.

Stan and Mike have far too often run into athletes who pressed too much cardio throughout their training regiment – and are now leading into a competition with limited options to improve because the cardio has worn them down. This is the worst situation when you are close to a competition. It leaves you with limited to no options and may pull away from your success at the competition.

This is why Mike O’Hearn and Stan Efferding are stressing to pull back on cardio if you are an athlete. Odds are you are doing too much. There are ways to keep longevity high without having cardio diminishing your muscle mass or your athletic ability. It ultimately depends on what sport you compete in – but for bodybuilders, don’t succumb to the pressure. You may not need cardio to stay healthy while you prepare for your competition. Each individual varies – but don’t fall for the blanket “cardio is always important” opinion.

Wrap Up

You can watch Mike O’Hearn and Stan Efferding talk about cardio in full detail by watching our latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above. Make sure to catch new episodes every Friday only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.