I’ve heard this sentence so many times...from fellow gym-bros as well as professional trainers. But how accurate is it?
Bodybuilders will generally stay away from cardio during the mass phase and add cardio only during the cutting phase to maintain caloric deficit while meeting the needed macronutrient intake.
I've followed the same principle for years.
Once I've started studying the human body and understanding how things work I realize that my poor cardiovascular functionality and endurance was actually limiting my strength and consequently muscle building capabilities.
These are few of the reasons why you should incorporate cardio regardless of whether you are trying to build mass or lose weight:
Well, for a start, I guess you won't mind extending your life expectancy...the heart is the most important muscle in our body and it makes absolutely no sense to neglect it.
It facilitates recovery. A strong, efficient heart will transport a higher volume of oxygen and nutrients to the various muscles making your recovery between sets faster and more efficient.
Cardio is fantastic for your metabolic hormones. In particular, study show a significant increase in hormone FGF21 (A hormone that regulates important metabolic pathways. Read more here) post cardiovascular training
Increases endurance and conditioning. Ultimately this will allow you to train harder for longer and as discussed in my previous article "The Top 5 Reasons Why You Are Not Making Gains", the more intense your training is the more impressive the gains are going to be.
Helps with water retention. While you are in a “bulk” phase water retention is inevitable (high carbs, salt, creatine etc.). A moderate-intensity cardio workout will get you a good sweat and help get rid of some of that extra water.
HIIT vs LIT
We could spend a couple of hours discussing how one is better than the other, but, really, who cares?
Both will have a beneficial impact on your cardiovascular system and, as a hardgainer, you are really not bothered by the thermogenic effect of one or the other. You are however interested in knowing how many calories you are burning during your session (remember the importance of being in a caloric surplus to gain mass).
I would recommend getting a fitness tracker so you can easily know how much food to integrate into your diet on cardio days.
You have to keep in mind that our goal is to gain weight and cardiovascular training is meant to increase your capability to build muscles while improving your heart health. So we don’t want it to be strenuous to a point where it affects the intensity of your workout (that might be the case with some HIIT workouts).
If you are lifting weights 6 times a week it would be best to perform 10-15 minutes of cardio at the end of every session; on the other hand, if you lift 3 times a week you could add 2 or 3 20-30 minutes session dedicated only to cardio.
Walking or cycling are perfect forms of cardiovascular training that easily fit into a weight gain program.
If done right, including cardio into your program will help you maximize your gains and performance. There is a point at which the added cardio will impair your strength gains and muscle growth and that depends on your genetic and conditioning, so don’t overdo it.
Remember that the primary objective of cardio is heart health and not a fat loss so make sure to add the calories burnt to your daily caloric intake.
Thank you for reading this far, if you have enjoyed this post and found it useful please leave a like and share it with a friend. Also, let me know in the comment section what your approach to cardio is, do you agree with this article or are you against performing cardio when lifting weights?
Talk to you soon!