This is a question that is met with varied answers in the fitness communities around us. Some saying high intensity workouts strip more fat and others, low intensity preserves more muscle…
Whatever you view is, I’m going to try and make us think about this perhaps a bit more than you already do.
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Ask about bodybuilding and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most famous bodybuilder of our time, may come to mind. But that is very much at the celebrity superstar end of the spectrum.
The fact is many men and women take up bodybuilding training – not to become and world champion, but more to improve and enhance their physique.
Life becomes about protein shakes, pre-workout drinks, heavy weights and the rest! But when it comes to cardio for body building- what kind? And what part does it play in bodybuilding?
Let’s take a look at what cardio is
Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is the respiratory and circulatory systems at work in the body. The inhaling of oxygen, exhaling of carbon dioxide and the pumping of oxygenated blood around the body.
This stimulates or sets triggers in the body to use oxygen for energy.
Whilst cardio can get us fit, perform faster or stronger or make us lose weight, to the bodybuilder the function of cardio is to lean out or reduce the overall body fat in the skin, whilst preserving the muscle mass.
Cardio comes in many forms so let’s look at some.
Low intensity cardio
Low intensity triggers cardio activity, a raised heart rate with a mild aerobic response.
Exercises for low intensity cardio are mostly performed on machines like the treadmill, elliptical trainer, stepper, rowing machine or bike.
Medium intensity cardio
Medium intensity cardio activity triggers an aerobic response in the body. This can significantly raise the heart rate, possibly around 50-70% of the maximum.
These exercises are usually performed on machines like the treadmill, elliptical trainer, stepper, rowing machine, bike or a gym class .
High intensity cardio activity triggers and anaerobic response in the body. The heart is almost working at almost full capacity.
High intensity cardio exercises can include sprints, crossfit, selected gym classes or boxing.
What happens when bodybuilders do cardio?
A bodybuilder is not performing cardio for the specific goal of health and fitness. Those are simply byproducts; the focus is on reducing body fat in the skin as mentioned earlier.
When the body is rich with oxygenated blood, bodybuilders will try to utilise this by eating certain food combinations and certain supplements at measured times. The reason for this is that nutrients pass through our bloodstream and are processed in the body this way.
A bodybuilder will consume certain amounts of proteins, amino acids, carbs, caffeine and so on before or after cardio.
What this does is keep certain metabolic functions engaged or disengaged. This helps to preserve the muscle mass and influence the body to look for fat and not break down muscle tissue.
My best choice
Medium intensity cardio promotes the aerobic responses in the body to create a fat burning environment.
For me and most bodybuilders medium intensity cardio is the most chosen level of cardio.
Performed on different machines, classes or other athletic platforms it’s usually performed by most for 30 mins to 1hr.
There are no hard and fast rules but my personal teaching and practiced method is to perform the activity for 30 to 40 mins at an effort that allows you to speak a little breathless but not to the point of being unable to speak. If you are scientific type and use a heart rate monitor, you can aim for 50-70%.
Anything that goes above 70% potentially moves to anaerobic and is not primarily burning fat calories. You will be burning up other sources of calories.
What if I don’t do cardio?
The truth is we are all different and some of us don’t do cardio and have good physiques. So I can safely say nothing its wrong if you don’t. However my reasoning for cardio for all is, no matter how you train or look, cardio is a complete way to train the entire body in the right energy zone to keep or get lean and keep muscle.
Without a rich supply of oxygenated blood moving nutrients around the body, muscles cannot look or function at their best.
So if you don’t do cardio you’re missing out on some huge benefits. Providing your calorie intake is sufficient then you will actually gain not loose mass.
Think burn and refuel!
Don’t think by not doing cardio you will keep more muscle. You can gain more muscle if you do cardio and refuel with the appropriate nutrition. It’s a cycle, keep it working and it will work for you!
To learn more on the benefits of cardio for bodybuilding connect with me.
Connect with Expert Lovell Richards