Do you really need to do cardio while bulking?
Bulking up is not just about packing as much mass on as possible. If you ditch exercise and up calories you’d gain lots of body fat – but that’s not a successful bulk. Instead, the key to a successful bulk is to build lean muscle mass and keep body fat levels down.
Obviously, the way to bulk is to increase your caloric intake. Unfortunately, this often means excess energy being stored as fat. One way to help prevent this is to perform cardio while bulking.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation around cardio for people trying to put on weight. From ‘cardio kills gains’ and other silly comments you might have read on the internet, people are left with the idea that performing cardio might work against them.
This is untrue. Proper cardio while bulking provides lots of benefits. Here are a few:
Cardio reduces body fat
By eating at a calorie surplus, you’ll be building mass. However, not all of it will be the ideal form of mass (muscle). Cardiovascular workouts are good at burning carbohydrates and fat stores. The increase in calorie burn and the appetite stimulating effect of low intensity cardio means you can often eat more on a cardio day.
Too much cardio can inhibit growth, as it will burn the excess calories you’re eating. But most people won’t ever be in danger of doing too much. Instead, a mixture of low and high intensity cardio through the week alongside your bulk will help minimise body fat.
Cardio increases your recovery time
The additional cardiovascular exercise can help decrease recovery times in between workouts, as low intensity cardio stimulates blood flow and increases the nutrient uptake of your muscles. Essentially, this means that you can recover from a heavy leg day (which is great for bulking up) quicker if you do a low intensity exercise afterwards.
This means less downtime and more lifting, which in turn means more potential muscle growth. Rest is still vital though – so don’t skip it.
Cardiovascular health should never be ignored
Cardio while bulking is important for the same reason cardio is important at all times. If you focus on mass and neglect cardio, you’ll end up tired out when walking upstairs or performing a light jog. Does that sound like the mark of someone who is fit to you? Thought not.
Cardiovascular conditioning will benefit your body whether you’re bulking or not. When you complete your bulk and go back to more regular styles of training, or cutting, you’ll find cardio extremely testing if you’ve not kept at it during the bulk. Health is just as important as gains, so get your cardio done.
How to do cardio while bulking
Despite all of this, it is true that excess cardio will inhibit growth. This is because the excess of exercise will burn the calorie surplus you’re eating, undoing the hard work.
However, to get the benefits of cardio, you’ll need to keep your activity levels up with low and moderate intensity exercise. High intensity cardio burns far too many calories to incorporate into your bulk.
This means that you need to stick to low intensity exercise that promotes cardiovascular health without burning too many calories. Walking, jogging, cycling and elliptical machines are all good options for this. Here’s a suggested routine for cardio while you’re bulking.
- 10 minutes light rowing machine.
- 3 sets of 10 bodyweight press ups (minimal rest period).
Lower body day
- 5 minutes elliptical machine
- 5 minutes treadmill on low intensity.
- 10 minute treadmill cooldown.
- 5 minutes rowing machine.
- 3 sets of 10 pull ups (minimal rest period).
You could also perform light cardio activity on your non-lifting days, such as a 30 minute brisk walk/light jog. The benefits of cardio are too good to ignore, so keep up your cardio while bulking and build a bigger, cleaner and healthier physique.