Cardio for bodybuilders

Mr. India Jai Singh, trained by IBBF Vice President Dr. Randhir Hastir

Every individual, bodybuilder or not, should perform some kind of cardiovascular training, at least three times a week for optimum heart health.
When it comes to physique champions, the situation may sometimes get tricky.
Cardio first?
There is a school of thought which says that a person can do cardio first and then hit the weights.
IFBB pro Evan Centopani once said that he does cardio for about 30 minutes in the morning before training legs.
However, another IFBB pro Victor Martinez has said that a trainer, who tells a bodybuilder to perform cardio before weights, knows nothing!
Martinez went on to add that when a bodybuilder, who intends building size, hits the gym for a workout, he should ideally have some carbs in his system to fuel weight training. If he performs cardio first, his muscle glycogen stores would get depleted and the body would start tapping fat cells for energy. If he immediately moves to weight training, the muscles would not be able to train with heavier weights as the body would have only fat for energy – a poor fuel for muscular contractions. Ultimately, his training poundage and intensity may suffer.
Weights first, cardio next
Several trainers recommend cardio after a weight workout. This is considered a good idea by many champions and trainers. This is because the body would have completely used all glycogen reserves for the bout with weights and when cardio enters the picture, it would immediately start burning fat.
Cardio after leg workout
I remember competitors telling me that three-time Mr. India Jayaprakash used to do cardio even after the toughest of leg workouts.
However, I recently heard that Jayaprakash no longer does that kind of cardio. Anybody who is after building more and more size in the legs may find this approach to be a kind of roadblock, some champions contend.
Team Masters generally recommends cardio in the morning on an empty stomach (you can take amino acid supplements and green tea or black coffee). Weight training can be performed four to six hours later.
If it suits you, perform cardio after weight training three to four times a week. It is better to avoid cardio after leg workout, as it may or may not suit all individuals.
Experiment carefully and find out the best approach for your body.

_ C. Lakshmi Kumar


16 Responses to “Cardio for bodybuilders”

  1. […] link: Cardio for bodybuilders « TrainingMasters This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged a-week-for, get-tricky-, least-three, […]

  2. Nice post Lakshmi.
    Although you did not mention about cardio intensity.
    Would low-moderate intensity steady state be recommended over HIIT if one wants to gain size?
    HIIT may cause overtraining if one trains 4-5 days/week.
    What say?

  3. Good post Lakshmi!

    @Chetan: You can compare physique of 50-100 meters runners to that of long distance runners to get your answer.

    There is a good article by Vince Gironda aka “The Iron Guru” on running, size gain and overtraining. Read it here:- explains-his-opposition-to-running

    And this:-

  4. takeupsculpting Says:

    Dear chetan, that was a good question.
    Sorry I didn’t mention intensity.
    We believe a person can train using HIIT, maybe three non-consecutive days a week. If you are going to do cardio after weights, you need not go for very high intensity as moderate intensity for 30 minutes may as well do the job. That’s what a lot of guys say they are doing with good results, I may add (not my hypothesis). Care should be taken as individuals differ.
    If you are doing cardio on empty stomach in the morning, start with low intensity on the treadmill or cycle for 5 minutes and keep increasing intensity gradually and finally cut down to low intensity for 5 minutes before ending the session. Number of sessions, intensity and duration are not written in stone.
    PS: I like to thank my good friend Aditya for responding immediately even before I could see your comment. Thanks to both of my friends.

  5. Sorry the first link is broken and will not take you to correct page. This is the correct link:-

  6. @ Lakshmi, good reply. Very sound. I like the gist of your post that basically it depends on the situation and lots of factors. Cheers mate.

    @ Aditya, thanks for replying to my doubt.
    Well, your response raised two further doubts in my mind. lol.
    1. Sprinters vs. Marathoners cant be taken as an example to consider the difference between high speed work and low intensity work (Muscularity vs. Non muscularity). Sprinters do lift weights. Marathoners dont as they need to keep their muscle weight down to complete the race. Vs. sprinters try to build muscle so that they can optimize their performance at the same time keeping bodyfat down to carry less fat weight. So we cant assume that their muscularity is completely due to their high speed work. And furthermore, as far as running is concerned, sprinters most of the time train at low intensity and perform only few bouts of sprints few times a week.

    2. Gironda guy couldnt answer the question about low/high cardio intensity properly. Atleast for me as I didnt get what he is trying to say. And Overtonis? Jesus man…never heard of that term. Tried to search on google. Didnt find any. And do you really think his definition of overtraining is applicable in true sense? I mean being and looking flat, loosing or not getting muscle pump cant be the indicator of true overtraining. This can happen at any bad day if muscle glycogen is depleted. Just consider keto diet. I feel flat and dont get no pump at all during my keto diet with no carbs in my body. And I train twice a week. An hour a day. My workout log shows increase in poundages every week or every other week. Still I look like shit in the mirror. Am I overtrained? I dont think so.

    Not trying to counter argue brother. This is just my observation and 2 cents. No disrespect to you. You seem to be knowledgeable and keen on exploring things related to iron game. Your links tell that you do look for new things out there. Do you participate in bodybuilding mate? Keep the posts coming.

  7. Holy shit. That turned out to be a long post.

  8. Hi Chetan,

    Good analysis and some really good points.

    About me, I am not into competitive bodybuilding and have not been to gym for last 4 months due to a spine injury during workout.
    I am not really knowledgeable but I like to explore.

    When I first read “Squat” is the big daddy of all exercises for mass gain, it got me confused. Legs would be the last thing I wanted to train (after all they are last to be noticed). But, legs have got biggest muscles in the body and the metabolic and hormonal response (GH) you get by exercising them is unbeatable. Most of the guys in gym spend half their time on biceps and triceps which is very small muscle group comparatively.

    Now, I am not trying to compare sprinting to squat, no way. But sprinting is intensive in nature and works your fast twitch muscle fibers which helps in gaining mass. And, Gironda did say about intensity, I am pasting his words as is here:-

    Increasing Muscle Size:

    Many people are under the misconception that any exercise makes muscles grow larger and stronger. That’s not true. Back in 1925 German scientists discovered that to acquire large muscles you must increase the intensity of work done within a given time. That means that it doesn’t matter how much work you do. What counts is how fast you do it. This discovery has come to be known as the overload principle. Perhaps the most famous experiment which demonstrates it involves rats trained to run at different speeds for varying lengths of time. Rats that ran at 6 meters per minute for 195 miles had smaller muscles that rats that ran at 26 meters per minute, but for only 58 miles. In another study all rats ran the same speed. One group ran for an hour per day for three months for a total of 35 miles. Another ran at the same speed for 3 hours a day for six months, a total of 207 miles. When the experiment ended, the size of the muscles in both the groups remained the same.

    The principle of overload also explains why sprinters have bigger and larger muscles than distance runners. Although it’s more work to run a mile than it is to run 100 yards, the sprinter is doing more work per second. Consequently, his muscles will become larger.

    And I am not at all offended by your post buddy, (after all those were Gironda’s words 🙂 ). I am a learner and greedily pocketed your 2 cents :). Different point of views bring something new to the table and may benefit someone as Lakshmi said, every person’s body is different and he needs to carefully experiment to see what works for him.

    So, do you compete?

  9. Dear Adi,
    Nice post. Seems like we are encroaching Lakshmi’s blog space by posting endless comments. LOL. These are supposed to be comments. But look at both of us.
    Anyways, I have not competed yet. But I do have plans.
    I’ll start by this Dec. Currently I am not at all in contest shape (what a sophisticated way to say I AM OUTRIGHT FAT). So preparations are going on.
    Will update my competitive status once its active 😉

    Take care mate. We’ll be meeting again on Lakshmi’s comments section soon hopefully.

  10. Rightly said, comments are meant to be comments. Lets give Lakshmi his space back 🙂

  11. Yes, Cardio is basically to lose extra calories and not to lose important training energy. Cardio before heavy training is a blunder for weight gainers and weight losers. Great to do 20-30 mts of cardio after the heavy workouts and keep getting bigger and leaner at the same time. If you are to lose weight do 3-4 a week times 30-40mts of cardio and if you are to gain then 2 times 20-25mts a week. Never do cardio less than 2 days and not more then 4 days a week … it will be injurious.

  12. sir i played state level in75 kg this year i will try to play in 80 kg i gain 3.5 kg . i am doing cardio than i cant gain my wt so what i wil do

  13. takeupsculpting Says:

    Dear Aadesh,
    You can do cardio 2 or 3 times a week for 25 to 30 mins after workout. Train using basic exercises and focus on increasing your strength and reps on bench presses, squats, barbell row, deadlifts and shoulder presses. Avoid over training and watch for the response given by your body.
    Dont train too frequently, ensure that your muscles fully recover.
    Consume quality protein and carbohydrate so that you build quality muscle while losing fat. There is no assurance that you would gain 3.5 kg in a year, but following this approach will definitely help you to add on more quality lean muscle. Don’t expect dramatic results too fast.
    It is wrong to think that even a small amount of cardio will prevent you from building muscle. Minimum amount of cardio is a must for heart health and also improving workout output.However, you should not overdo cardio
    Good luck
    Lakshmi Kumar

  14. Saptarshi Choudhury Says:

    No New Posts for long time… 😦

  15. takeupsculpting Says:

    The phase has ended brother. There won’t be this long a break for sometime, I promise

  16. Cardios after exercise is the only way to lose bofyfat and make the muscle bigger and lose the bodyfat. Muscles need 48-72 hrs recovery and the muscles keep getting bigger during rest after an optimum workout and the cardios use the extra calories stored during the cardio session after an intensive training..

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