How Cardio Helps You Build More Muscle

The relation between muscle growth and cardio

One of the most prominent debates held in the bodybuilding and weight training community is whether cardio or any kind of aerobic activity should or should not be performed when the ultimate goal is maximum muscle mass gains. On one side you have people who argue that lifters should perform at least an hour of low-intensity cardio every day during their bulking or mass gaining period.

The main idea behind this reasoning is that it is a method of maintaining normal fat levels during a period of massive calorie consumption needed to maximize muscle growth. On the other side, you’ve got the idea that any type of activity that is not lifting weights will do nothing other than harm muscle mass and strength gains.

The fact is that truth as always lies somewhere in the middle, and in this article, we will explore some of the various pros and cons of doing some type cardio in your overall training program when the ultimate goal is maximal muscle mass growth.

The kind of cardio exercise that is usually recommended when trying to gain maximal muscle mass is of the moderate intensity, steady state variety. In fact, you will not find a great number of people who would argue that high-intensity interval training is an effective training method for building muscle mass.

It’s true that sprinting can definitely help with building more muscle mass, because of the increase in anabolic hormones in the body that happens afterward, but the reality is that this short-burst, high-intensity intervals don’t really work combined with a muscle building program. In this article, we will focus on the many advantages of performing cardio when trying to build muscle mass.


When cardio is performed at low or moderate intensity it can be considered a type of “active recovery”

When your body is forced to pump blood through the worked muscles, recovery is drastically accelerated. Active recovery can help more than simple passive recovery, which usually consists of doing no exercise at all. For this to have a full body effect, since most cardio machines target the lower portion of the body, something like an elliptical trainer or a rowing machine should be used ideally.

You should also consider drinking a high protein and carbs drink while doing this full-body, moderate-intensity cardio, to improve the delivery of nutrients to the targeted muscles, which will ultimately speed up the recovery process. The effect of exercise on appetite greatly differs from person to person. Some people notice that exercising can blunt appetite, while others find exercising making them increasingly hungry.

Moderate intensity cardio seems to stimulate the appetite in most people since it is low enough in intensity so as to not cause increased adrenaline release. This means that those who have difficulties ingesting a sufficient number of calories often find that adding moderate amounts of cardio into their training program can be beneficial when it comes to improving appetite.

Whether your primary goal is to train purely for mass or get rid of the excess fat, you can lose a great amount of your metabolic conditioning when you enter the lean mass gain phase, where the only thing you are doing is lifting weights.

Low-reps and long rest interval types of training usually have the biggest impact and causes the loss of a great amount of work capacity and conditioning during this phase.

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  1. James Montecinos
    • F&P Admin

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