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Do Bodybuilders Do Cardio: Importance of Cardio for Bodybuilders

Bodybuilding is a discipline that focuses on sculpting and developing the muscles to achieve a well-defined and aesthetically pleasing physique. Bodybuilders have primarily concentrated on strength training for decades, using resistance exercises to build muscle mass. However, in recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the benefits of incorporating cardiovascular exercise, commonly known as cardio, into bodybuilding routines. In this article, we explore Do Bodybuilders Do Cardio, its advantages, and how bodybuilders can strike the right balance between strength and endurance training.

Do Bodybuilders Do Cardio

What is Cardio?

Cardiovascular exercise, often referred to as cardio, is any activity that elevates your heart rate and increases blood circulation. These exercises typically involve repetitive, rhythmic movements that engage large muscle groups. Some common forms of cardio include running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

The Traditional Approach to Bodybuilding

Traditionally, bodybuilding routines have been centered around resistance training with heavy weights, focusing on intense and targeted muscle workouts. This approach aims to maximize muscle hypertrophy, where muscle fibers grow in size, leading to increased strength and definition. As a result, many bodybuilders often neglected cardio for fear that it might interfere with muscle gains or cause them to lose hard-earned muscle mass.

The Emergence of Cardio in Bodybuilding

In recent years, perceptions about cardio in bodybuilding have started to shift. Bodybuilders and fitness experts now recognize the numerous benefits of incorporating cardiovascular exercises into their training routines. While strength training remains vital for building muscle mass and strength, cardio can complement these efforts and help bodybuilders achieve a more balanced and overall healthier physique.

Do Bodybuilders Do Cardio?

Yes, bodybuilders do incorporate cardio into their training routines. While the traditional focus of bodybuilding has been on strength training with heavy weights to build muscle mass, the role of cardiovascular exercise has gained recognition in recent years. Cardio is seen as a valuable complement to strength training, providing a range of benefits such as improved heart health, increased endurance, fat loss, and better recovery. By integrating cardio into their workouts, bodybuilders aim to achieve a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing physique.

Benefits of Cardio for Bodybuilders

Improved Heart Health

Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart, improving its ability to pump blood efficiently and reducing the risk of heart-related diseases. A healthy heart is crucial for maintaining overall well-being and optimizing athletic performance.

Enhanced Endurance

Cardio improves aerobic capacity, allowing bodybuilders to sustain physical activity for more extended periods. Increased endurance can lead to improved performance during intense resistance training sessions and better recovery between sets.

Fat Loss

Cardio is an effective tool for burning calories and shedding excess body fat. While bodybuilders primarily focus on building muscle, reducing body fat is essential for achieving a more chiseled and defined physique.

Better Recovery

Engaging in moderate-intensity cardio can aid in muscle recovery by promoting blood flow to the muscles and reducing post-workout soreness. This can allow bodybuilders to train more frequently and consistently.

Increased Vascularity

Cardiovascular exercise can enhance vascularity, giving bodybuilders that sought-after look of prominent veins, which adds to the aesthetic appeal of their muscles.

Healthier Metabolism

Regular cardio can help regulate metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity, which plays a significant role in overall health and body composition.

Finding the Right Balance

While incorporating cardio into a bodybuilding routine offers numerous benefits, finding the right balance is crucial. Too much cardio, especially at high intensity, can potentially lead to overtraining and hinder muscle growth. Conversely, avoiding cardio altogether can negatively impact heart health, endurance, and overall performance.

To strike the right balance, bodybuilders should consider the following:

Prioritize Strength Training

Bodybuilders should prioritize strength training to stimulate muscle growth and ensure they meet their primary goal of building a well-muscled physique.

Limit High-Intensity Cardio

High-intensity cardio, such as long-distance running, should be moderated to prevent excessive muscle breakdown and overtraining. Shorter, high-intensity interval sessions can be more beneficial.

Incorporate Low-to-Moderate Intensity Cardio

Focus on low-to-moderate intensity cardio, such as brisk walking or cycling, for 20-30 minutes a few times a week. This will help improve cardiovascular health without interfering significantly with muscle gains.

Consider Post-Workout Cardio

Performing light cardio after resistance training can help promote blood flow to the muscles and support recovery without excessive strain.

Should You Do Cardio When Bodybuilding?

Incorporating cardio into your bodybuilding routine can be beneficial for most individuals. Whether you are a competitive bodybuilder or someone looking to build muscle and improve overall fitness, cardio offers several advantages. It enhances cardiovascular health, aids in fat loss, improves endurance, and promotes better recovery between resistance training sessions. However, the amount and intensity of cardio you should do will depend on your specific goals, fitness level, and how well your body responds to different types of exercise.

How Much Cardio Do Bodybuilders Do?

The amount of cardio that bodybuilders do can vary widely based on their training goals and individual preferences. Some bodybuilders might perform cardio sessions as part of their warm-up before resistance training, while others may dedicate specific days to focus solely on cardiovascular exercise. As a general guideline, bodybuilders may aim for around 20-30 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity cardio, 2-3 times a week. High-intensity cardio and longer-duration sessions are typically moderated to avoid potential muscle catabolism and overtraining.

What Kind of Cardio Do Bodybuilders Do?

Bodybuilders utilize various forms of cardio to achieve their fitness objectives. Common types of cardio include:

Brisk Walking

Walking at a fast pace is a low-impact option that allows bodybuilders to burn calories and improve cardiovascular health without excessive strain on the joints.


Whether on stationary bikes or outdoors, cycling provides an excellent cardiovascular workout that engages the lower body muscles.

Elliptical Training

The elliptical machine offers a low-impact, full-body workout, making it a popular choice for bodybuilders seeking to minimize stress on their joints.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT involves alternating short bursts of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity activity. This form of cardio is efficient for burning calories and can be beneficial for muscle preservation.

Stair Climbing

Climbing stairs is an effective way to challenge the cardiovascular system while engaging the leg muscles.

Best Cardio for Bodybuilders

The best type of cardio for bodybuilders largely depends on individual preferences, fitness level, and overall goals. However, low-to-moderate intensity cardio is generally favored to avoid excessive muscle breakdown. Brisk walking, cycling, and elliptical training are popular choices, as they provide effective cardiovascular benefits without compromising muscle gains. HIIT can also be beneficial for fat loss and preserving muscle mass, but it should be used in moderation to prevent overtraining.

FAQ about Do Bodybuilders Do Cardio

Will cardio make me lose muscle mass as a bodybuilder?

Excessive cardio, especially at high intensity and duration, can potentially lead to muscle catabolism. However, when done in moderation and complemented with sufficient nutrition and recovery, cardio can aid in fat loss while preserving muscle mass.

Can I do cardio on the same day as my weightlifting workout?

Yes, you can perform cardio on the same day as your weightlifting workout. However, consider doing it after your strength training session to avoid fatigue that could impact your lifting performance.

How often should I do cardio as a bodybuilder?

The frequency of cardio sessions can vary depending on your training goals and individual needs. Generally, 2-3 sessions of 20-30 minutes per week of low-to-moderate intensity cardio can be a good starting point.

Can I do cardio during a bulking phase?

Yes, cardio can be incorporated during a bulking phase to manage body fat levels and maintain cardiovascular health. Adjust the type and amount of cardio to ensure it supports your muscle-building goals.

Should I do cardio if my primary goal is muscle gain?

Yes, incorporating some cardio is beneficial even if your primary goal is muscle gain. Cardio can help improve recovery, promote blood flow to muscles, and enhance overall health, which can positively impact your muscle-building progress.


Incorporating cardio into a bodybuilding routine can have numerous benefits for athletes looking to achieve a balanced and well-rounded physique. While strength training remains the core focus for muscle development, cardiovascular exercise enhances heart health, endurance, and fat loss. Finding the right balance between strength training and cardio is critical to optimizing performance and maintaining overall health, allowing bodybuilders to reach their full potential in their fitness journey.

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