Cardio 101 For Muscle Building: How Much, How Often, How Intense

CardioIf you’re currently look to add some lean muscle to your frame, one thing that you may be wondering about is the connection between cardio and weight training.

You often hear very many mixed messages when it comes to cardio and muscle building. Some people believe that it’s a great addition to a good workout program yet others state that all it’ll do is hold you back from reaching your end goal.

So what’s the real answer to this debate? Should you or should you not perform cardio when you’re looking to pack on more lean muscle mass?

Let’s look at a few of the main issues that you should consider so you can set the record straight once and for all about cardio and muscle building.

The Intensity Of The Cardio Training

The number one thing that you have to look at when considering this issue is how intense of cardio you plan to perform. The thing to keep in mind here is that your body can only recover from so much exercise from week to week.

So if you’re already doing a number of intense weight lifting workouts each week and then plan to add 3-4 intense cardio sessions to that as well, how are you going to recover from all of this?

Chances are you won’t and if that’s the case, you won’t be building muscle either.

A further problem comes in if you happen to be doing a number of very hard leg workouts per week. Trying to do an intense lower body weight lifting session and then performing running interval sprints the next day for example would not go over so well.

You’d be tired and chances are, you just wouldn’t put the effort into those intervals to really make them effective.

Not to mention that both of these types of workouts are going to be very taxing on the central nervous system, so you very likely will end up overtrained if you attempt such a schedule.

If you’re just doing more moderate forms of cardio training though such as a light 20 minute walk, then these can easily be added to your more intense weight lifting workouts without a problem.

Your Body Type

The second thing that you should consider when deciding whether cardio and weight training go together is the particular type of body you have.

Are you naturally very thin and have troubles gaining muscle? If so, chances are that cardio isn’t going to do you any favors. Your body is primed to be thin and do to more cardio, which actually just causes the body to want to drop more weight (since it has to transport itself across a far distance) is going to work against your goal to add more muscle mass.

If, on the other hand you have no problem adding muscle mass, then adding some cardio into the picture likely won’t cause quite the same number of problems.

Your body type is really going to influence your choice of workout routines so you need to assess yourself as an individual, rather than just going off what works for someone you know.

What provides excellent results for your best friend could be a disaster for you if you have a very different body type.

The Mode Of Cardio Training

Another factor to consider about cardio and weight training is the mode of cardio training you plan to do. Are you running? Uphill walking? Biking? Each type of cardio training will place a different degree of stress on the body so that’s something to consider as well.

For example, let’s compare running to swimming for instance. With swimming, you really won’t be stressing the legs to an incredibly extent and they aren’t going to be suffering the constant pounding as you would with running.

This means there will be a lower level of leg recovery after those cardio sessions of swimming than there would be after running.

If you have a hard leg workout the next day, what type of cardio do you think would be best?

For favourable muscle building results, you should be aiming to choose cardio varieties that are lower impact and of moderate intensity.

The Calorie Intake Of Your Diet

Moving on, you also need to assess the diet you’re using. Many people often wonder does cardio burn muscle. The answer to this question is that it depends on your nutrition.

If you’re not getting in sufficient calories or you aren’t consuming enough protein, then the energy that you burn off during that cardio session could very well come from your muscles.

If you’ve taken the time to formulate a proper muscle building diet, then the worry about whether cardio burns muscle shouldn’t be too high.

But what you do have to worry about is the simple fact that cardio definitely does burn calories. And, to build muscle you need a calorie surplus so if you’re burning off 400 calories each cardio session, that means you have to add 400 more calories to your diet in order to still make muscle building progress.

If you’re struggling to get in enough food as it is, is this really going to help you?

The ‘Lean’ Factor

The biggest reason why many people think that they should do cardio training when trying to build muscle is to stay lean. Their theory is that by doing cardio a few times a week, they can prevent fat gain.

What you need to remember here however is that it’s your diet that causes fat gain, not a lack of cardio.

If you’re on a muscle building program and gaining too much body fat, this just means you’re eating too many calories. You would be far better to cut back slightly on your carb or fat intake and forgo a great deal of excess cardio training to get the fat gain under control.

So there you have all the vital things to note about cardio and weight training. Doing a few sessions per week that are kept to around 15-20 minutes and are done at a lower intensity is likely a good idea for heart health benefits and so that you don’t get completely out of breath when performing some of your intense weight lifting movements such as lunges for example, but you would be well advised not to do much more than this.

Unless you have a specific reason for doing so such as if you are a sprint athlete, you’re best leaving the heavy duty cardio to weight losses phases instead.

For help coming up with a complete muscle building workout program, please check out Vince DelMonte’s, No-Nonsense Muscle Building program. You’ll get a diet and workout plan that will help you transform your body.


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