Bodybuilders doing cardio

Should Bodybuilders Do Cardio? What You Need To Know

6 min read


09 Apr 2024

Hack Beast Mode

  1. Is cardio bad for muscle growth?
  2. Top tips for doing cardio and maintaining muscle mass
  3. What are your bodybuilding goals?

If you’re serious about building muscle and going for colossal strength gains, squeezing every last drop of juice from your training plan is, well…essential.

Nutrition, supplements, and pumping iron aside—to get ahead of the game and achieve lean, mean muscle mass—keen bodybuilders weave a little cardiovascular exercise into their weekly routine.

But, not everyone in the muscle-sculpting world is sold on the idea. So, knowing what to do for the best can be confusing.

If you’re reading this and wondering whether to throw a few cardio sessions into the strength training mix, don’t sweat it. Not even for a moment.

Here, we’re going to give you the lowdown on whether bodybuilders should do cardio while serving up some epic tips on how to get the kind of gains that stop people in their tracks.

Ready? Let’s go.

Is cardio bad for muscle growth?

Bodybuilder swimming

In a word, no. Cardiovascular exercise won’t affect your muscle gains—as long as you take the right approach.

Okay, taking on endless cardio workouts without making resistance training and nutrition your main focus can negatively impact your muscle growth. But that’s not what you’re going to do.

By stepping into a ‘cardio bodybuilding mindset’, you can burn extra body fat, level up your overall fitness, and even reach muscle-sculpting goals faster. Bonus.

Read: 10 nutrition-packed foods you need in your diet to bulk up

The body-boosting benefits of bodybuilding and cardiovascular training…

If you’re on the fence about whether to perform cardio alongside your resistance training routine, here are some body-boosting benefits that may inspire you. The right amount of cardio will…

  • Help your body absorb nutrients more efficiently
  • Improve your blood flow and heart health
  • Increase your endurance
  • Help you lose body fat like a boss
  • Boost your shredding efforts
  • Speed up your recovery between training sessions

Top tips for doing cardio and maintaining muscle mass

Now you know that a little aerobic exercise can help you smash your fitness goals and grab those epic gains—we’re going to tell you how to do it right.

Find your cardio session ‘sweet spot’

First of all, when doing cardio as a bodybuilder, you don’t want to overcook it.

Basically, doing too much cardio without a solid resistance training and eating plan will burn muscle—which is not the aim of the game. So, here’s the deal.

You should aim to get between two and four low to moderate-intensity cardio sessions in per week alongside your weight or resistance training efforts.

If you want to reap the rewards of cardio, burn fat, and cultivate a little lean mass—deciding on a cardio training frequency that suits your goals is the way to go. So, start smaller and notch things up over time.

Finding your cardio ‘sweet spot’ is all about fitting your sessions into your schedule when it’s convenient. Doing so will ensure you get the best bang for your cardio training buck.

Oh, this is important: Avoid cardiovascular workouts before your weight training sessions. This can actually lead to a loss of muscle mass over time. Instead, you should perform any aerobic training on separate days (this is also good for cross-training purposes!). You know it makes sense.

Read: 5 myths about bulking that you need to stop believing

Choose your cardio training weapons

Weightlifter running

To enjoy the fitness-boosting, fat-burning benefits of cardiovascular exercise while reaping the rewards of weight training—doing the right kind of cardio is important.

Any type of aerobic activity will offer its fair share of body-boosting advantages and what you do is down to personal preference. But, some cardio activities will help the bodybuilding process more than others.

So, here are some cardio training weapons to consider if you want to get extra fit, shred fat, and keep grabbing those gains…

  • Sledge pulling and pushing
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Walking or hiking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling

These popular cardiovascular training activities are great for complementing your muscle-building efforts as they won’t put too much strain on your joints. And the dynamic nature of these activities means that you’ll be able to shred fat and get fitter without losing mass. Epic.

Eat the right foods

To keep your body fat at bay and hack Beast Mode, getting your fill of nutrients is essential. No ifs, no buts—no compromises.

Not only should you get plenty of protein (around 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight)—you also need to get your daily fix of healthy fats and complex carbs. These are what bodybuilders consider the Holy Trinity of macronutrients.

Here’s the lowdown on daily macronutrient ratios…

  • Proteins: 30%
  • Healthy fats: 20%
  • Carbs: 50%

You should also use a calorie calculator to find out how much you’ll need to eat to maintain or build muscle while weight training and busting out cardio workouts.

Top tip: Check out our guide on what to eat after a workout to keep getting those epic gains and smash your bodybuilding goals.

Train for your body type

Another vital (and often overlooked) detail when it comes to cardio and bodybuilding is training for your specific body type (or somatotype).

To dial up the energy expenditure without losing muscle mass, knowing your body type and how to use it to your mass-boosting advantage will put you in the driver’s seat.

Here are the three main somatotypes…

  • Ectomorph
  • Mesomorph
  • Endomorph

Every somatotype has its own set of characteristics, and while some guys will find it easier to pack in the muscle, others may have to work that little bit harder.

But knowledge is power—and by understanding how to train for your body type—you’ll smash your goals without breaking a sweat (well, not quite. But you get the picture).

Top tip: To help you on your cardio and weight training journey, check out our no-fuss guide on training for your body type.

Rest and recover

Last but certainly not least, we come to rest and recovery. Whatever your bodybuilding aims, allowing yourself one full rest and recovery day every seven to 10 days is the way to go.

When you’re weight training and burning fat at the same time, it’s important to give your body a chance to recover while focusing on eating the right stuff. That’s where the gains are made.

You can use your low-impact cardio activities for active rest purposes between weight training sessions. And these activities (like hiking, cycling or swimming) will actually prime your body for the gym.

But, giving yourself a full break from exercise now and then is essential for repairing muscle tissue and preventing any nasty injuries from setting you back.

Read: 5 hacks for a quicker recovery after a workout

What are your bodybuilding goals?

Bodybuilder working out

Bonus hint: If you want to soup up your training regime with a little cardio action and keep your hard-earned muscle, you should fuel up properly before every session. Fasted cardio and bodybuilding don’t mix!

If you want to add cardio to your bodybuilding routine, finding your training ‘sweet spot’ and taking a balanced approach will get you where you need to be.

Whatever your personal bodybuilding goals, we’ve got your back. Whether you’re trying to add Gladiator-levels of muscle mass, fuel every weight training session to the max or craft your dream bodybuilding physique—CrazyBulk has the supplement for you.

To find a muscle-boosting supplement that suits your goals and levels up your training sessions, try our Product Finder tool today. It’s time to hack Beast Mode.

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