Cardio for Muscle: The Right Balance of Cardio for Building and Preserving Muscle
There’s just no way around it. If you want to burn fat, you have to implement some type of cardio into your training. Not to mention, cardio is good for overall health, especially your heart. If you’re into bodybuilding, cardio is one of those necessary evils. In order to see striations and bring out muscle definition, you have to get rid of the fat. However, there needs to be a proper balance of cardio in order to shed fat while still gaining or at least holding on to your hard earned muscle.
The key is to burn calories from fat while still being able to build muscle (or at least preserve muscle if you’re in a cutting phase). The last thing you want is to overdo cardio and eat into your hard earned muscle. Yet at the same time, you don’t want all your muscle to be covered up by layers of fat. The best way to accomplish this is to either do long durations of low-intensity cardio (example: 30-45 minutes of walking on an incline) or do shorter durations of interval cardio (example: 20 minutes consisting of high-intensity for 30 seconds to one minute, then backing off to low-intensity for the same, then repeat).
Most hardcore weight lifters and mass monsters despise cardio for two reasons: 1) They’re afraid of losing size, and 2) Well, they just don’t like doing it. When you’re squatting and deadlifting hundreds of pounds, doing a 30 minute cardio session just doesn’t sound all that intriguing. What we must remember though is that during mass phases, we more than likely aren’t carrying as much muscle as we feel like we are; much of it is covered by fat or water weight. Even during mass training phases, you should do cardio workouts at least three times a week. But that really that depends on where you are and what you want to accomplish. If you lift strictly for power and strength and are not concerned about carrying a little body fat, fine. But you still need the heart health benefits of cardio.
Best Types of Cardio for Burning Fat Calories
There are numerous cardio workouts and an over abundance of philosophies on what types of cardio burns more fat. I’m old school and don’t buy into the hyped up fat burning trends. The goal is simple: burn fat while preserving muscle. There are two types of cardio workouts I want to share that have worked for many.
1) H.I.I.T. (high intensity interval training): This has become a popular method of losing fat and many swear by it. The basis of this type of cardio workout is to train with high intensity anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute followed by a period of low intensity for about the same amount of time. You’ll go back and forth until you hit 20-30 minutes. This can be done on any cardio machine such as the elliptical, treadmill, bike, or even doing doing sprints (sprint for 30-40 yards then walk back and repeat).
2) Steady Moderate Intensity Cardio: This is a basic old school method of cardio and many still use it. In fact, I get good results from this style of cardio. A good example is walking on the treadmill with a high incline and moderate speed (fast-walk). You can also do this on any cardio machine, or walking outside.
Two good indicators that you’re getting the full benefits of your cardio training are the mirror and your strength. If you’re seeing more striations and you’re also getting stronger, you’re on the right track. Don’t let the scale fool you. You could be dropping body weight yet still gaining or at least preserving muscle. At any rate, you should perform some form of cardio three to five times a week. If you’re not seeing what you want to see in the mirror, adjust your cardio (and diet) accordingly.
Train with Passion,