There aren't many truisms in the fitness and bodybuilding community. However, one thing can certainly be set in stone:

Or is it....

No, wait, I think it's....

Or perhaps....

Oh hell, I forget which "absolute and irrefutable fact" is correct. It seems there are both experts and idiots on both sides of this cardio conundrum. I've always thought the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The only way to figure it out is to try both extremes and see what happens. Over the years I've overdone the cardio and I've avoided it completely. Through trial and error, I found out what works for me.

Luckily, you don't have to go through this whole process. Why? Because gathered here to talk about the pros and cons of cardio are four of the smartest guys on the planet when it comes to fitness: Charles Staley, Christian Thibaudeau, Dr. Lonnie Lowery and Don Alessi. Here's what they had to say when we sat down to discuss everyone's least favorite form of exercise.

Chris Shugart: We probably need to start things off with a definition. Most of us use the word "cardio" very loosely. What are we talking about exactly when we say that? Lonnie, why don't you define it for us so we're all on the same page.

Shugart: Thanks, Lonnie. Guys, here's something I've noticed over the last few years. When I first got into this whole fitness/bodybuilding thing, cardio was king. You had to do cardio. Cardio was thought to be superior to weight training for the general population. You weren't really even "fit" unless you ran five miles every morning. The pendulum, in other words, was all the way over to the right.

Then, the pendulum began to swing to the other side. For many in the bodybuilding community, cardio became the catabolic devil. It was thought to not only be unnecessary, but downright harmful if your goal was to gain muscle. The pendulum had swung far, far to the left. What's your take on this and where is that pendulum now?

Shugart: What do you think, Don?

Shugart: Nothing I hate seeing worse than some otherwise skinny guy with a pot belly running his flabby ass off every morning. If only we could score points by running them down with our suped-up hotrods, just like in Death Race 2000! I'll put tommy guns on my Toyota and we'll all adopt cool nicknames like Shotgun Shugart and Lawnmower Lowery and... Oh, sorry, I totally geeked out there for a second. What's your take on the cardio pendulum, Lonman?

Shugart: Okay, here's something that's always bugged me. I hear many speak out against cardio, then recommend GPP work, energy systems training, no-rest weight training circuits, etc. But isn't that all basically "cardio"?

Shugart: Very nice answer, Christian. People would never guess we're conducting this roundtable in a strip joint or that you were receiving a lap dance from "Big Bambi" while you gave that answer. Anyway, what's your take on this question, Charles?

Shugart: What about the no-rest weight training circuits, Lonnie?

Shugart: Good point. I'm going to throw out some very general questions now and let you guys duke it out. Here we go. What's better for the average guy wanting to be lean and muscular? HIIT (high intensity interval training) or long bouts of jogging at one pace (low-intensity)?

Shugart: What do you think, Coach Snippy?

Shugart: HIIT or jogging, Thib?

Shugart: Good point. Lonnie?

Dr. Lowery:

Shugart: I think I went anti-cardio for a while there because I got sick of people using it as a crutch to support their crappy diets. My thoughts were, hey, maybe if you didn't eat junk all the time you wouldn't have to do an hour of cardio per day! Do you guys see people abusing cardio in this manner?


Dr. Lowery:

Shugart: Very good point. And nice use of the word "bevy." We should all try to use that word in a sentence today. Charles, what do you think?

Shugart: And Paul Chek doesn't care where his money comes from, trust me! Here's another gripe of mine: I hear from athletes who practice basketball three hours a day and then say, "Oh, now I have to go get my cardio." Isn't the basketball game "cardio"? It's like some people don't think they're doing cardio unless they're on a machine in front of a TV at the local gym! Also, if I'm keeping my rest periods short and therefore my heart rate up during weight training, is extra cardio even needed for fat loss? Comments on all of this?

Shugart: What say you, O tanned one?

Shugart: I use that same line when talking about my penis. What's your opinion on that issue, doc?

What's Dr. Lowery's opinion of Chris' penis? Will our panel come to a consensus on the subject of cardiovascular training for fat loss? Stay tuned for part 2 in next week's issue of T-mag!