How often should you do cardio if you’re gaining muscle?

Muscle is tough to build, but extremely rewarding.

The answer is dependent on a few factors.

When you perform cardio for long periods of time, and very frequently then it can impede in your ability to gain muscle mass.

When implementing a hypertrophy program, the body needs good nutrition, to provide protein for muscle growth, carbs and fats for fuel as well as enhancing recovery from the intensity of the workout. Rest and recovery is also needed between workouts to allow for the body to rebuild, and increase muscle mass. Muscle growth takes place in between, not during your session.

As you move along your journey towards hypertrophy, you are constantly going back and forth from training to recovery. When you throw cardio in the mix, it could cause a stall between the muscle building and recovery process. Just think, you are adding another source of activity that also needs rest and recovery, plus nutrient value. The body does not care that it’s a different source of activity. It just wants to allocate the necessary fuel for this to take place. There is and will always be a risk in losing muscle mass when you add cardio. In saying that, there are some effective ways to bypass this and enhance your bodies ability to build muscle and speed.

3 of the best forms of cardio to implement into your strength training schedule.

  1. HIIT. High intensity interval training is perfect for burning body fat. It’s a short, intense bout of all out method, followed by a short rest period. An all out effort could be for 20–30 seconds, then rest for 60 seconds. Repeat for a maximum time of 20 minutes. 30 minutes if you do have some extra stubborn fat reserves. This should be featured in your workout a couple of times a week. Do monitor your progress with this. If you experience any muscle wastage, then minimise it to 15 minutes, 2 times a week at most. Some people are fortunate and don’t even need this strategy. But if you do need it, use it wisely and don’t overdo it too much.
  2. Extremely low impact exercise. This one is my favourite. Walking is by far, the lowest impact, most fulfilling kind of exercise anyone of any age can do on a daily basis. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk your dog more often, walk to and from work. Find ways in which you can walk a lot more often during the day. Do this after meals for stabilising your blood sugar levels. It also aids in the recovery demands of strength training, by enhancing blood flow. Don’t assume this kind of exercise wont do anything for your physique. It actually does more than you think!
  3. Circuit training with weights (or known as German Body Comp). This is much like doing a set of different exercise without rest in between. The rest is saved when the range of exercises ends, and you begin the circuit after about 60 to 120 seconds again. You can choose to really hammer a particular body part, or try out a full body workout. Make sure you have complete access to the equipment you need, and wont be interrupted by anyone using it when you are not. Here is a sample below (I like to smash legs!)
    A1. Walking lunges
    A2. Back squat
    A3. Leg press
    A4. Leg extension
    A5. Romanian deadlift
    A6. Hack squat
    rest 60 -120 seconds and repeat.
    These kinds of circuits are a real killer, but they do burn body fat and increase muscle mass at the same time. It’s also great for endurance and strength. Just make sure you pick enough weight to be able to run through all the exercise, with no rest in between. Try and get through at least 4 sets of these, and only perform the session once a fortnight. Too often will impede the results and leave you needing more time for recovery.

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