Cardio & Building Muscle
There seems to be a huge myth when it comes to cardio and building muscle. Too many magazines with articles ghost written by pro bodybuilders have sent the wrong message with regards to cardio vascular training and building muscle. I was also a victim to these myths many years ago and lucky enough I learnt the truth about building muscle and doing cardio.
Let me be very clear on something everyone has different opinions on everything. Ask 5 personal trainers the same question, you will get 5 somewhat different answers. However there should be some underlying truth to them all (Unless your trainer has no clue, and there is a lot of that around so be careful”!
Moderate Cardio Vascular Training Will NOT reduce your chances of building muscle!
First off cardio is not the enemy. Too many people avoid cardio when ‘bulking” (did I mention I hate that term), anyways do not avoid cardio. Cardio has far too many benefits with regards to overall health, well being, muscle recovery & muscle building. Yes cardio can help you build muscle.
Let me define cardio training that I recommend vs. cardio that I do not recommend. Keeping in mind if your sport or goal is cardio that is a whole different ball game. For now I am going to talk about cardio and building muscle.
Cardio I like while building muscle includes such things as most cardio machines in your gym, hiking, biking, martial arts, yoga (I consider this cardio), swimming etc. What I recommend to avoid is LONG duration running. If you are a runner that is fine, but if your goal is building muscle and you run 3-4 times a week at an hour each run you are going to have a very hard time building muscle.
If your #1 goal is building muscle how much cardio should you do? Well there are a lot of factors that play a role in putting cardio into your muscle building program. However here is my very basic recommendation.
On weight training days add in 10-20 minutes Interval cardio AFTER WEIGHT TRAINING.
On Days off from weights do 30-40 low impact cardio.
Add in 6-8 cardio BEFORE WEIGHTS to get core temp up and get the joints warmed up for training.
That’s it! Pretty Simple hey? Yes it is, but it will do the job and add up. This is only the start of adding cardio training to your muscle building program. Once you have 4-6 weeks of steady cardio in your program you can add or remove more depending on your progress towards your goal. But this is a great start!
Why do cardio training after weights?
Well there are a few reasons. Weight training is more demanding on your CNS (Central Nervous System), so it is always good to do your most demanding tasks when your body is fresh and ready. Try doing a heavy power clean, or squat AFTER 45 minutes or hard cardio. I can assure you that your lifts will suffer in terms of weight lifted and co-ordination in doing the lift.
Another reason I recommend cardio after weight training is the improvement of blood flow after weights, which in turn leads to IMPROVED RECOVERY. Improved recovery is a huge factor in building muscle. The faster you can recover, the better you can build muscle and repeat the cycle. By doing cardio training after weights you flush out a lot of waste that is created in your muscles during weights, and also you bring fresh blood to the muscle which aids in recovery.
Why do cardio on off days?
I always recommend some sort of cardio on off days for the same reason as above, Recovery. However this is more considered “Active Rest”. Meaning that you will recover better from a workout doing a low intensity cardio session than by sitting on the couch watching Oprah (and if you are sitting on the couch watching Oprah we need to talk”!
So in summary a good starting program for cardio training would look like this for a 7 day split.
Day 1 Weights & Cardio (12 Min Interval training after weights)
Day 2 Weights & Cardio (14 Min Interval training after weights)
Day 3 No Weights (30 min steady state cardio low/moderate intensity)
Day 4 Weights (16 Min interval Cardio)
Day 5 Weights (12 Min interval cardio after weights)
Day 6 No Weights 30 min steady state cardio
Day 7 No Weights (Do any cardio you want, as long as its something).
Yes I have NO Rest days in this program. Reason being is I don’t consider 14-20 min interval training or 30 min light cardio to be very demanding. If anything it will only help with your weight training and muscle building.
However, listen to your body. If you don’t recover well, or find you need a day to relax by all means take a day off. I usually recommend for every 6 weeks training you take a WEEK OFF from weight training. This is a minimum to let your body recharge.
So remember that cardio is not your enemy when building muscle. You will recover better, you will FEEL BETTER and you may even lose a few pounds of fat! Not a bad sacrifice for 20 minutes a day.