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Should You Do Cardio While Bulking? The Best Exercises to Do While Bulking


To cardio or not to cardio? That’s the question, isn’t it? Cardio is one of the more iffy aspects of starting a new diet and workout regimine, as you just don’t know if it’ll book your gains or only show them down.

Man bulking and doing battle rope cardio workout

Bulking is one such area where you’ll see a ton of misinformation. Cardio does not “kill your gains”, as some might say. Yes, it may cut into your calorie surplus, but it’s still essential to your workouts if you don’t want to develop some useless muscles.

Can you overdo cardio? Absolutely, but for those who think that cardio should be cut out from workouts, I implore you to take a seat while I tell you why doing so may be a bad idea. However, I’m not completely waving the cardio flag, as I’ll also tell you about the dangers of too much cardio.


Increases Recovery Speed

Cardio exercise increases the heart's health. Infographic

For those looking for fast gains, recovery time is everything. The faster your muscles recover, the faster you can get back to lifting, and the faster you can start gaining muscle mass. So how does cardio help?

It centers around the cardiovascular system, which is something lifting workouts can benefit from greatly if in good condition. When you do cardio, particularly low-intensity cardio, it stimulates blood flow. This increases how fast your body and muscles absorb and use nutrients. Your muscles get what they need to repair themselves much faster, so your recovery period lessens and your potential for muscle growth increases.

However, this doesn’t mean you should pack on the cardio to ignore rest. Rest is very important, so make sure you get it after every workout.


Reduces Body Fat

Cardio Reduces Body Fat when bulking

When it comes to bulking, there is a chance of going too far with your calorie surplus and you pack on some mass of something other than muscle. This is especially pertinent for those who practice dirty bulking, where you eat anything and everything under the sun, so long as you eventually hit that calorie surplus. Packing on fat isn’t uncommon, especially if you can’t close that gap. That’s why cardio can be so important.

Workouts with cardio are useful when you want to burn carbohydrates and chip away at those fat stores.

Not to mention, cardio can actually stimulate your appetite, meaning you can eat more on a day where you would focus on cardio.


Improves Your Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular system, artwork

Here we get into why cardio is important, period. Your cardiovascular health is critical in leading a healthy life, but also in improving other factors of your body’s ability to keep up with other activities in everyday life. After all, what good are the gains if you still get winded after taking a jog up some stairs?

It’s also important for when you decide to get back to a regular workout routine instead of bulking. You’ll find weights to be easy as per usual, but you just can’t keep up when it comes to a treadmill.

I also must mention, because I know there are some of you out there that may be reading this, that if you happen to be juicing with legal or regular steroids, or simply using supplements like MCT oil for faster results, cardio lessens the risk of your heart just giving out on you. Sorry, but I had to say it.


Cardio and Losing Muscle Mass

man running along a farm track doing cardio

So this is the main reason why many ask if cardio is actually necessary for bulking. There is such a thing as too much cardio, as you might be aware of. Too much of anything can be dangerous, but cardio itself had one big flaw if overdone: it can burn through your muscle. The muscles you’ve worked so hard to get. Daunting, isn’t it? So you may see why people dismiss it so readily

If you happen to overdo cardio and you run out of energy, your body may just decide to convert some of its lean muscle mass so it can keep on going. This actually isn’t likely to happen unless your diet is poor, but it’s still something you need to consider.

You should also be cautious if you happen to be doing a low-carb diet while bulking, which is fairly uncommon. This is where you may see some muscle loss from cardio workouts. However, it’s mainly because these workouts are targeting the wrong muscles instead of what most people believe, which is its burning too many calories.


Amount of Calories Burnt with Cardio

checking time interval, distance, heart rate and burnt calories amount in fitness monitor

So now that we have all the facts down, you may be interested in picking up cardio once again. However, you still need to worry about that calorie surplus. That’s why you need to know just how many calories are burnt while you do cardio so you don’t overdo it and cut into your surplus.

You can use an exercise and calorie tracker, though I’m sure many of you already use one. If you want some precise figures, Harvard Medical School actually came up with a pretty report, detailing rough estimates of how many calories are burned for different workouts.

These figures are how many calories are burned from one 30 minute exercise from someone who weighs 155 pounds:

  • Walking at 4mph: 167 cal
  • Hiking cross-country: 223 cal
  • Running 5 mph: 298 cal
  • Running 10 mph: 614 cal
  • Jumping Rope: 372 cal
  • Cycling 16-19 mph: 446 cal

Again, these are scaled, so you’re going to have to do the math to find out how much someone of your weight can burn through. It also needs to factor in things like current build, but there’s only so much you can ask for, I suppose.


What Should Cardio During Bulking Look Like?

Muscular man doing Cardio During Bulking

If you are interested in cardio, but want some actual tips, I’ve got you covered.

With bulking, you’re going to have three options.

You can do minimal cardio, if any at all. If you just want to restore that blood flow, some time at the rowing machine or a jog on the treadmill will do you some good. If you’re just not interested, you’ll live if you just drop cardio altogether. Although it’s highly recommended, you don’t need it for muscle growth.

Low intensity workout bouts are another option you can do. These are around 15-45 minutes long, and you don’t have to do it often; one or two days will be fine. It will improve blood flow and your heart health, so just doing a small jog here and there will do you some good.

Lastly, high intensity workout bouts are for those who want to get it over and done with. It’s great for burning calories, but these need to be kept to a minimum lest you cut into your bulking too much. 10-15 minutes should be enough to get your cardio in, and you really only need to do it one or two days a week in order to receive the benefits.

On rest days where you aren’t doing any lifting, you can still get a bit of cardio in. A 30 minute walk or light jog will do your body some good.


Workout Plan

Cardio workout plan while bulking

If you’re not too familiar with cardio and want to get into some of the more specific workouts, I can help you out with that one. Here are some workouts that you can follow that have been recommended by experts.

For your lower body, pre-lift, you’re going to want to go 5 minutes each on both the elliptical machine and the treadmill, both with low intensity. Post-lift, you should go for 10 minutes on the treadmill, once again on low intensity. It’s more of a cooldown than anything else.

For your chest, pre-lift, I recommend 10 minutes on the rowing machine, low intensity. Post-lift, you’re going to want to do 3 sets of 10 bodyweight press ups. Try to keep your rest period to a minimum.

For your back, pre-lift, it’s recommended you do 5 minutes on the rowing machine, low intensity. Post-lift, you should do 3 sets of 10 pull ups, all with minimum intensity.


Final Thoughts

So, should you do cardio while bulking? Yes. Can cardio slow down muscle mass gains? If done too much, then yes. Is it still greatly beneficial to your health? Absolutely. However, the benefits of cardio are just too much to ignore. If you balance things just right, you can actually benefit from cardio in your gains as well. Those who dismiss cardio and prefer to only lift may sound like they know what they’re doing, but they aren’t winning any races anytime soon.

So how do you know you actually need cardio? Well, go ahead and try out some cardio, even if it’s just a light jog. Try to guess how long you can go before you get winded and need to stop. If you find yourself disappointed, you may need to take a visit to the rowing machine every so often, or even just walk around a bit more. Get those steps in and make sure your body is kept healthy and in top shape.