It can be difficult to digest all the available information about cardiovascular and aerobic exercise and its effects on skeletal muscle growth. This article is for anyone who wants to know how much cardio fits into a strength training program and can still build muscle. We’ve also included some high-intensity interval training recommendations to adapt cardio to an exercise routine without the use of a treadmill.
So if you’re training to gain strength, maybe limit your cardio training or just do low-intensity exercises, like walking. Many people who are trying to build muscle completely ignore cardio in favor of training sessions that focus solely on weight lifting. Many people mistakenly believe that cardio kills muscle growth and should be avoided, sometimes to the point that any kind of cardio is avoided altogether. However, the latest research has shown that incorporating some degree of moderate-intensity cardio into a strength training plan will not only not destroy muscle growth, but will even help build and maintain it.
A few recent studies (2&3) have shown that the combination of resistance training and cardiovascular training may be able to improve muscle performance and the development of hypertrophy. This would suggest that moderate amounts of cardiovascular exercise may be good for your muscle development. However, the second study also concluded that resistance training disrupted explosive strength development compared to resistance training alone.
The idea that cardio before weights is bad comes from performing high-intensity cardio, which can strain your nervous system and also tire your muscles by using large amounts of muscle glycogen. If your primary goal is muscle building and/or strength training, then it’s a good idea to avoid high-intensity cardiovascular exercise right before your strength training sessions. In one study, quadriceps growth was higher during a combined strength and resistance training protocol. But they compared two days of strength training per week with 4 total sessions per week of combined cardio and strength training. Therefore, it is possible that increasing the total amount of exercise was the real factor in improving muscle growth. On the other hand, some other studies with tighter training volumes between the two groups have shown no difference in muscle or strength gain.
The unfortunate part of the cardio kill gains myth is that incorporating the right amount of low- to moderate-intensity cardio into your exercise program can help build muscle. As long as it’s done on days other than your strength training, a little cardio can help promote muscle growth. This is contrary to what most strength training enthusiasts believe, but it is backed up by the latest research. When it comes to resistance training, it’s about the intensity, frequency, and type of cardio. Other cardiovascular exercises can deplete muscles, making weight lifting impossible or less effective. There’s a trade-off between resistance training and resistance training, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely remove cardio from your schedule when you want to gain muscle.
Cardiovascular, running, and HIIT workouts won’t necessarily hinder muscle growth if you train smartly. The key is to make sure your cardio isn’t interfering with your ability to perform strength training. So, while your focus is muscle growth, try to limit your cardio sessions to 2-3 times a week, making sure they don’t cause you burns. If you feel lethargic during your strength sessions, reassess the situation and adjust it if necessary. There is a fairly recent conclusion that cardio before weights will inhibit your ability to train to the fullest in your weight sessions.
First of all, the amount of impact of running is proportional to your weight, so if you gain mass, running will be more difficult and lead to a greater impact on your joints. Second, because much of the muscle work while running is eccentric, it can cause quite a bit of muscle stress and damage. This is fine if you want to be a runner, as your body will adapt accordingly, but if you’re training for muscle strength or size, cardio kill gains then it’s not ideal. Crossfit-like workouts that combine weight lifting or functional exercises to produce a cardiovascular effect will be more specific to those who want to maintain their weight gain. Even without strength training, people should perform these types of high-intensity exercises only several times a week. Rest days are critical to allow the body to rebuild muscle, as this is how strength gain is made.