A common misconception amongst gym-goers is that cardio will make you lose your muscle mass. This is simply not true. A well-planned-out cardio routine only compliments the hard work you’ve put in with strength and resistance training. We see cardio and strength as equally important parts of your fitness routine, along with keeping a healthy diet, time for rest, and focusing on your mental health. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about cardio for building muscle.
Cardio does torch calories at a higher rate than strength training, but strength training keeps those calories burning long after you work out. For people looking to build muscle, this can be a reason that they stay away from adding cardio to their routine. However, depending on your goals that may not be the right move. Even a bodybuilder can reap from the benefits of cardio exercise. From participating in low-impact cardiovascular exercises like long walks, swimming, or walking on an incline in the gym to keep their cardiovascular health in check.
An essential component of strength training is building endurance and strong cardiovascular health. By strengthening your cardiovascular system, you are improving the blood flow throughout your body. This addition to your strength training workout can help your DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) to go away faster, cutting your recovery time down so that you can level up your strength training routine quicker!
Sprinting is an anaerobic exercise. It takes strength and power to be able to complete it. Since you are running at your max pace, you are expending your oxygen reasonably quickly rather than if you are jogging and rationing out your oxygen throughout your workout. This is why sprinting can only happen for short bursts. According to a study by the School of Medical Sciences at the University of South Wales, fat loss is significantly higher in people who sprint, and muscle mass is gained throughout the core of the body.
This idea comes to life when you look at a photo of a long distance runner versus a sprinter. You will notice sprinters generally have much more defined muscle mass. Their muscle definition is also due to sprinters mixing up their training to include strength, while professional distance runners may avoid it because they do not want to carry the extra weight. So—for our buck—the best cardio for building muscle is a well-thought-out sprinting routine.
If you aren’t quite sure how to get started with sprinting, we recommend that you join us in Team Training. Our Team Training sessions are guided by a Coach who will assist as you work through a strength and cardio workout. Most days, the treadmill section of the exercise will include sprints at your max pace (and sometimes even a high incline). These cardio workouts will help you to get familiar with the format and give you the tools you need to create a sprinting workout outside of the gym.
If sprinting with a run is not your thing, there are several other ways that you can complete anaerobic workouts. Try swimming at your fastest pace in the pool, using the stairclimber, working out on the elliptical, or even joining us in an indoor cycling class where we complete sprints on a bike. For some of us with bad joints or who just need something low-impact, running sprints may be entirely out of the question. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up the results! Just find the routine that is right for your body and that you love to do and you will be well on your way to reaching your goals.
Overall, cardio does not necessarily help to build muscle in the way that strength training does. However, a well-rounded routine will help you get to your goals faster. So, if you are strength training, don’t cut out cardio completely. Write out your goals, sit down, and research what is right for you. Remember to include ample rest days so that your muscle has time to build—after all—muscle is built on rest days. We have equipment for cardio and strength at all of our locations! Stop in and say hi to the team! We can’t wait to see you soon.