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Part 5 - Is cardio bad for muscle growth?

Reddit asks, weights vs cardio, gym equipment in background

We will cover:

The Question: is cardio bad for muscle growth

The Answer: don't neglect cardio, but not for because it makes you bigger

The Extra: cardio + weights do not = muscle mass


The Question:

Is cardio bad for muscle growth?


The Answer:

Do not neglect the cardio, but not for this reason.


The Extra:

Cardio plus weights do not equal muscle mass.

Cardio plus weight training (aka strength training) will not get you big or help you put on size. But that doesn't mean is cardio bad for muscle growth either. The answer is your favorite "it depends".

two dumbbells next to a cardio machine with blue background

Some facts about cardio & strength training:

A caloric deficit will cause weight loss

  • Consuming less calories than you burn, or burning more calories than you consume, will inevitably lead to a loss of mass. Whether this loss of mass is water weight, fat mass, or muscle mass is entirely dependent on how you train.

Activities that increase HR will burn calories

  • Click here to learn more about cardio zones, but in general you need to unlock each zone at different times and for different duration in order to get the benefits of cardio. For fat loss, intensity must be equal to a 10/10.

Cardio activities tend to burn glycogen / glucose than fat

  • There are specific intensities that activate specific metabolic processes in the body. If those intensities or requirements are not achieved (i.e. a high enough heart rate, or a load of high enough resistance) the body does not activate those resources.

  • Cardio is the same. When we do cardiovascular activity for the purpose of cardiovascular improvement the goal is to workout the heart muscle and involved circulatory system, which does not involve bicep growth (or whatever muscle you were hoping for).

Strength activities burn more fat than glucose

  • Likewise, the phosphocreatine system (which is activated during strength training, plyometrics, etc.) involves the krebs cycle which burns fat for fuel. This process allows us to synthesize ATP, a vital molecule for biomechanical strength.


The takeaway:

The kind of cardiovascular exercise you intend to include should be proportionate to your goals. Increasing cardio without adjusting the other elements (nutrition + strength) won’t do much.

1. Cardio + weights = workouts

2. Calories + little activity = fat mass

3. Explosive training + strength training = power & athleticism

If you want to be an athlete, do number 3.

If you want to gain weight, do number 2.

If you want to lose weight, do more number 1.

That said, sometimes it's easier to have a helping hand guide you through what you should be doing, so if you struggle with nutrition, weight loss, or maintaining a diet and exercise, try one of our free field guides (its helped a lot of people).

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