Is Cardio Really Bad for Your Gains?

November 22, 2019

One of the biggest myths and common training misconceptions that you’ve probably heard at one point in your life is “cardio kills your gains.” Every statement needs some context, but what if I told you that aerobic training could compliment a well-designed strength training program and even enhance some of the gains you’re making in the weight room? Here’s a few benefits of adding in some conditioning work to your weekly regimen and how to best implement it:

-Work Capacity: Better aerobic conditioning allows for a greater work capacity in the gym. If you’re able recover more efficiently between sets, then you’ll be able to last longer in the gym, work at higher training intensities, and increase the number of quality sets you are able to produce in each session. 

-High intensity interval training: (HIIT) is a popular method of implementing aerobic conditioning work. Working at short, high intensity intervals with bouts of recovery in between allows you to increase the intensity and quality of your conditioning session without having to spend hours running on a treadmill at a steady state. Obviously if you’re marathon training or running miles on miles during the week it’s going to be difficult to optimize any strength gains in the weight room, but 2-3 conditioning sessions from 30-45 min sessions per week won’t negatively affect your gains as long as you are adequately recovering between sessions. 

-Burn some more calories: Adding in a few cardio sessions in conjunction with your weight training sessions can be a useful tool if you’re trying to lose weight. Although losing weight is a little more complex, ultimately burn more calories than you consume on a consistent basis is the only way you’ll accomplish your weight loss goals. Adding in a few extra cardio sessions can increase your daily caloric expenditure.

-Weights or cardio first?: Your main training priority should be the deciding factor on whether to do cardio or strength training first. If you’re main goal is to build muscle and strength, do your weight training sessions first when you are 100% fresh. If you’re main priority is aerobic conditioning, do your conditioning sessions first before your strength training sessions. In a perfect world, weight training and aerobic sessions should be performed at least 6 hours apart to maximize each session, if not more. Understandably, most people do not have the luxury or time in their schedule to plan around two separate training sessions so doing back to back sessions on the same day is still better than nothing. Alternating between strength and aerobic days is always a great option as well!

-How many times per week? Two to three times a week is a great starting point for adding in any additional cardio sessions to your weekly training schedule. Allow your body adapt to this new training stimulus before you consider increasing sessions any further. As always, recovery is always going to be an important factor in any training schedule so listen to your body and don’t do too much too fast!

-Overall health: Aerobic training offers a number of general health benefits. Better cardiovascular health leads to a stronger and healthier heart and lungs and is a preventative measure against heart attacks, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases.

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