There’s No Such Thing as “Cardio”

James Steele’s full length presentation from The 21 Convention London 2012 is finally up and online. I think James represents himself and his ideas well very well. A worthy addition to the exercise video lineup, to say the least.

This presentation brings to mind one of the most important foundations of HIT : that mechanical work is mechanical work is mechanical work. This is something widely agreed on in HIT … and almost no where else.

It is most glaringly absent in the magical fitness land of CrossFit, all variations of “paleo exercise” (a total contradiction in terms), P90X, “Six Pack Shortcuts”, all group fitness classes, and the entire domain of “athletics”.

These people do not have a fucking clue, and it is very much to their detriment in all contexts.

I wonder at times how much better the discussion would be if this idea really took off. An end to the magical benefits of cardio, jumping around like a crazy person, and jamming your feet into concrete. I think if this ever does take off, everything else will stem from this idea.

In short, I suspect all aspects of fitness correctly stem from the fact that muscles are stupid, and only understand A) contraction, and B) release. Everything else is floating abstraction snake oil for suckers with no connection to reality.

So, volume, frequency, effort, safety, etc. All of these things spring from recognizing the stupidity of skeletal muscle.

About Anthony Dream Johnson

CEO, founder, and architect of The 21 Convention, Anthony Dream Johnson is the leading force behind the world's first and only "panorama event for life on earth". He has been featured on WGN Chicago, and in the NY Times #1 best seller The Four Hour Work Week.    His stated purpose for the work he does is "the actualization of the ideal man", a purpose that has led him to found and host The 21 Convention across 3 continents and for 6 years in a row. Anthony blogs vigorously at and


3 Responses to There’s No Such Thing as “Cardio”

  1. jason April 15, 2013 at 12:26 am #

    To an extent I think even the term conditioning is too vague and truly we should refer to it as “energy system work” because thats the adaptation that people are really trying to bring about- an improvement in one or more of the energy systems of the body. As far as muscles only contracting or relaxing thats true to an extent but it s a gross oversimplification of how the body works. The tissues of the body can be adapted to a wide variety of stressors that changes gene expression that triggers the appropriate adapation to the stressor. To say HIT is the only valid method of exercise is to ignore the fact that the body can adapt in a multitude of ways and HIT is by no means the sole purveyor of strength methodologies.

  2. Eric April 28, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    OK, so I understand your “no such thing as cardio approach” and looking at it just logically it makes sense where before I used to believe. Cardio routines such as bikes and ellipticals, however inefficient, still work muscle just not nearly as efficient as other muscle building workouts. My question is by working the cardiovascular system you do indeed build up endurance, by that I mean the ability to continue high energy processes for longer. I’m sure muscle building workouts build endurance as well but is it nearly as high for the same amount of work? I don’t want to try and say “cardio” is worth it just for endurance building but for some activities endurance is especially important and some “cardio” workout could be adapted into the routine if strength training isn’t adequate enough.

    • Anthony Dream Johnson April 29, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      Hey Eric

      Performing a chest press to failure, while productive for life on earth, will never completely prepare you for a competitive sporting event like a marathon or other “endurance” type events.

      Overall, you seem to be on the proper conceptual track, just need some guidance. Some things to consider :

      1) “endurance” activities are not exercise.
      2) as you indicated, endurance activities have exercise *effects* (to varying degrees). This does not make them exercise anymore than giving birth is (also not exercise).
      3) I think you are confusing muscular endurance (strength) with what James called “economy of movement”; improvements in the nervous system and general control over one’s body for a given (and specific), repeating action, i.e. running.
      4) There’s no such thing as cardio. Therefore, it cannot be adapted into anyone’s routine. What you are referring to is instead skill improvement, and tiny, temporary adaptations in the heart/lungs/blood vessels. Oh, and a ton of muscle wasting.

      Short of traumatic injury and massive swelling, nothing wastes muscle like “cardio” steady-state activities.

      Allow me to put it to you this way : cardio is the number one way to actively get yourself in worse physical shape.

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