Let’s Build a Cardio Base with LSD


In the first part of this article series (Part 1) I outlined why you need to incorporate Long Slow Distance (LSD) training into your training calendar. In this post I will detail exactly how to implement a cardiovascular base building program.


Ideally we would implement two eight week blocks of concentrated LSD training within a twelve month training year. For my own training I will complete a LSD block in January/February and in July/August. You could do a block of training once or twice a year.  More than that and you are filling six months or more of your yearly training with cardiovascular-centric training. Training sessions will be long and boring (for most sane people) so we want to go through these training blocks as few times a year as necessary.

Throughout the rest of the year, one day a week is dedicated to a long LSD session and two days are dedicated to other conditioning modalities. I complete a 60 – 90 minute session of LSD on Sundays and depending on what is on the competition horizon, I dedicate at least one 15-20 minute training session to some form of high intensity interval training and one session 15 – 20 minute session to VO2 MAX training or tempo training.


The mode of exercise is the brass tacks of what training equipment or modality are you going to use to train the heart and cardiovascular system. Fighters have traditionally gravitated to road work. There is nothing wrong with running/jogging and my personal opinion is I see more consistent and better gains with road work. But road work alone, especially during a LSD centric block of training could lead to injury or aggravate old injuries and beat up knees.

We want to mainly use the largest muscles of the body and the training should be rhythmic. Stationary Bicycle, rowing, running/jogging, heavy bag, jump rope, versa climber, Jacob’s ladder, elliptical trainer, rucking, etc.  Our goal in this training phase is to peg our heart rate at a specific number of beats per minute. Because some of the gains in VO2 MAX and stroke volume involve peripheral vascularization (actually growing blood vessels in muscle tissue) and changes in at the mitochondrial level, involving the arms in some way, at least some of the time, is preferable, especially if you use your arms in your sport.

To break up long sessions you could mix modes, ie.: 13 minute session of jump rope (4 X 3 minute rounds with 30 seconds rest between rounds), 15 minutes on the Air Dyne, 15 minutes on the treadmill, 13 minutes heavy bag (4 X 3 minute rounds with 30 seconds rest between rounds), and 20 minutes running/jogging outside. Mixing modalities also helps to lessen overuse injuries.

For shorter interval sessions I usually use the Air Dyne bike or C2 rower.


If left to their own devices, most athletes and regular people will train LSD too hard. Going for a run becomes a death race. Endurance trainers call these training sessions “junk miles”. They are junk miles because they are not hard enough to train VO2 MAX or anaerobic threshold and they are not easy enough to allow for full filling of the ventricles to allow a training response to enhance stroke volume.

We eliminate this “go by feel” training by training with a heart rate monitor.

I like the Polar “Bluetooth” heart rate monitor with the Polar soft strap. The soft strap allows for contact training (like sparring in BJJ) and the Bluetooth allows you to train without a watch. The monitor feeds straight to an app on your smartphone.


There are many methods to determine the ideal heart rate for LSD training. I’m going to suggest Dr. Phil Maffetone’s 180 formula.

180 – your age = your training heart rate or MAF

According to Maffetone, you should modify this number:


  1. “If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.
  2. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.
  3. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.
  4. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.”


So a 35 year old who has never trained LSD before would come up with the following training heart rate:

180 – 35 = 145 – 5 (see number 2 above) = 140

So our untrained 35 year old would peg their heart rate at 140 beats per minute for the entire LSD training session. I like to see the average HR on the Polar Training as close to 140 as possible. Will your heart rate go higher than 140 during a 3 minute round of jump rope? Possibly, but try to keep it around 140. Will the heart rate go lower than 140 during a 30 second “rest period” between rounds? Sure, it really doesn’t matter, just try to get the average heart rate at 140 and try to spend the majority of your training session at or around 140 BPM.


I don’t count sport specific training towards my cardiovascular training. So if I spar for 30 minutes, 3 times a week, that time is not counted as a cardiovascular training session. One exception is if you are in a “training camp” for an event. As we progress in the training camp our cardiovascular training becomes more specific to convert our general gains into specific gains.  Joel Jamieson at 8 Weeks Out, has excellent material regarding conditioning and specific conditioning for events.

I keep weight training simple, hard, and intense. I only recommend lifting two times a week during an LSD training cycle. We are looking to maintain strength, not enhance strength.  It’s possible to reduce strength specific training to one session and maintain a majority of strength but two sessions seems to be ideal.

Ideally, we would train strength and cardio on separate days. If we have to train them on the same days, ideally we would separate our training sessions by at least four hours. If you are a normal person, you may not be able to do that so, train cardio first and strength second. There is emerging science to back this recommendation up which has to do with muscle growth signaling. But if you don’t want to do train cardio first, then strength train first. I don’t think it’s a deal breaker either way.

A sample eight week program:

Weeks          Session 1                             Session 2                          Session 3

1                     LSD 30                                  LSD 20                              LSD 30

2                    LSD 40                                  LSD 30                              LSD 40

3                    LSD 50                                   LSD 40                              LSD 50

4                    LSD 60                                   LSD 50                              30:30 x 5

5                    LSD 70                                   LSD 30                              60:60 x 6

6                    LSD 80                                   LSD 60                              3:1 x 3 x 2

7                    LSD 90                                   LSD 60                              3:1 x 3 x 3

8                    LSD 90                                   LSD 70                               5:1 x 4

LSD: Choose a modality or mix of modalities and after a 5 minute warm up, keep your heart rate at MAF for the required time. Time is in minutes (60 = sixty minutes).

30:30s: Choose a modality and stick with it throughout the entire block of training. Go as hard as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds. Complete the prescribed number of rounds.

60:60s: Sticking with the modality you choose for 30:30s, go as hard as you can sustain for 60 seconds; rest for 60 seconds for the prescribed number of rounds.

3:1 x rnds: Same modality as 30:30 and 60:60, 3 minutes as hard as you could sustain, 1 minute rest for three rounds. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat for the prescribed number of rounds.

This isn’t the only way to build a cardiovascular base but it will get the job done and allow for sport specific training and resistance training.

Day 2, 4, 6, and 7 are left blank for resistance training and sport specific training. Switch this up to fit your schedule but try not to put two days of cardiovascular training together.

This is not the time to be in a calorie deficit. This is not a fat loss program. I don’t believe in using exercise to create a calorie deficit for fat loss. You need to be at maintenance + estimated expenditure for this program. If you are losing weight, increase calories.

This program is specific to improving cardiovascular function. HIIT and sport specific training is layered on top of the base you build from this program.




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18 responses to “Let’s Build a Cardio Base with LSD

  1. Thanks for putting this out for public consumption, Larry.


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  4. Josh

    I see on the sample schedule that you start at 30 minutes and work up to 90. Is there a reason for this or just to build up if you aren’t able to start in the 60 to 90 minute range?


    • Hey Josh, I like to increase weekly exercise volume pretty slowly. So, in week one you are doing a total of 80 minutes of LSD. In week 8 you are doing 160 minutes of just LSD and adding in 25 minutes of MAX VO2 training, for a total of 185 minutes of cardio in week 8. That’s an almost 45% increase in weekly volume over 8 weeks. I like to start slow and easy and build each week to see progress and ease into the training block.


  5. Scott

    Huh missed the calorie deficit part in the past. Been slacking on conditioning since moving and this is going to motivate me to get back in the gym. Time to find movies and podcasts to fill the time….


  6. Tim

    Larry, thanks for this series of posts and the point driven fat loss post. My question is I’m 6’4″ and 290ish, want to drop about 85 lbs to get my doctor off my back, but also want to get into good physical shape. Any suggestions as to which I should focus on first: cutting the weight or getting into shape, a mix of the two?
    Thanks in advance


    • Hey Tim, that’s a pretty common question. I like people to go on a fat loss phase first and get that squared away before working anything else. The reason why is everything else works better when you are at a lower body fat level. Cardio is easier, range of motion is better, health markers are better. So bottom line, really focus of fat loss. In a nutshell this is going to look like: Daily calories 10 X Goal Bodyweight (you can try IF and eat 2-3 meals a day with no snacks), track calories with My Fitness Pal. Weight train 3 times a week basic lifts, basic progression. Main lifts: Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Press, 5 X 5 or less. Cardio = 30 minute to 1 hour long walks, Daily. It’s really simple, just not easy. Weight training is to maintain muscle mass, walking is for recovery and to build a base. Exercise is not for calorie burn. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week, so you are in it for the long haul. You will lose more weight in the beginning because calories will be lower and therefore carbs will be lower. Glycogen will drop and glycogen is stored with water so you will lose a lot of water weight in the first 2-3 week. Don’t get too encouraged, it’s not going to continue. 1-2 pounds a week is great, understand you are in it for the long haul, just grind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Reno Sepulveda

        Thank you Tim for asking my question for me and thanks Larry for the answer.

        Miss your blog posting.


  7. Nick

    May be a dumb question but could you clarify the difference between HIIT training and VO2 max training during the maintenance phase? You mention doing both along with LSD.


    • Nick, one of the problems with the “training industry” is there is really no common language. My bad for not defining what I mean. I think I got the VO2 Max training terminology from Joel Jameson of 8 Weeks Out. I consider VO2 Max sessions as training just under anaerobic threshold for the length of time of an event you are training for. So, if you are training for the IBJJF event as an adult blue belt your round would be 6 minutes. You would train for 6 minutes as hard as you could sustain. Ideally, this would be just under your anaerobic threshold. HIIT is shorter duration bouts of exercise, usually at over 100% of your VO2 max. Many people cannot do actual HIIT because you have to have a pretty decent conditioning base and a high pain tolerance to endure an actual session of HIIT.

      This is kind of a general answer, because all sorts of things are called HIIT these days. I generally think of HIIT training as short bouts of extremely intense exercise followed by longer bouts of low intensity movement. VO2 Max intervals are repeat bouts of maximal sustainable aerobic exercise. So work for 6 minutes as hard as you can, rest for 3 minutes, repeat 3 – 5 times.


      • Nick

        Thanks, as you say the terminology is confusing but that’s about what I expected. So a good modality for HIIT would probably be sprints or KB swings or similar for short rounds. VO2 training (for me) would probably be best rowing or cycling.


  8. Cy Pritchard

    Thanks for this Larry. I’ve read it at TPI, but just now starting the 8 week program. My goal is to improve my endurance when rolling in BJJ. Question – what’s the benefit of the 3:1 x rnds, 30:30 and 60:60 in the LSD program? They would not help increase the chamber size, correct? Thanks.


    • Hey Cy, we want to kind of hit both ends of the spectrum. If you want, especially since you are getting plenty of anaerobic work in BJJ, you could drop any interval sessions and concentrate a solid 8-12 week block on slow training. You will notice improvements in rolling within the first three weeks.


      • Cy Pritchard

        Thanks Larry. So, for example, the third workout in week 8 would be 90 mins of LSD instead of 5:1 x 4, correct? Also, are you available to remote consultations?


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  10. Patrick Kennedy

    Thank you Mr. Lindenman, I appreciate your work. I have come back to this article several times to reinforce why this is important. Recently I came across a blog post that you may find interesting, although certainly not surprising. The post linked below emphasizes the benefits of high volume, low intensity work coupled with a few short, intense HIT sessions. Hope you are doing well, and the training also!



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