Many muscle worshipers treat cardio as an activity for stupid and delusional individuals. While there is some truth to this prejudice, it’s not the activity that should be blamed but rather the false understanding and improper application.
When does cardio kill muscle and strength gains?
Endurance training shuts down muscle and strength gains completely only when it comes in enormous quantities. For example, long distance running affects muscle construction significantly, but a few 40-60 minutes cardio sessions a week will not eat the plates on the barbell.
The Russian powerlifter Andrey Malanichev runs 8-10km on Sunday and stops only when a powerlifting meet approaches. He is one of the strongest men in the world, and it doesn’t look like running hurts him. Meanwhile, there are “bodybuilding brahs” afraid to get even close to a cardio machine.
Can cardio build muscle?
It may surprise some of you, but cardio can build muscle. High-intensity cardio such as sprinting stimulates the fast twitch fibers. That’s why sprinters have well-developed musculatures, even though their sport could be considered “cardio”. If you are looking for a posterior chain exercise, sprinting is one of the better choices. Sprinting, especially uphill, hits the hamstrings pretty hard.
Cardio Does Not Burn As Many Calories As You May Think
One of the arguments against cardio is that it burns precious calories needed for muscle construction. Nothing could be further from the truth.
An average person burns up to 600 calories in an hour of running. This is not a significant amount, especially when you account for the fact that those 600 calories include 200-300 calories that you would burn just by being alive for that hour.
If you do the aforementioned form of cardio 3 times a week, you will spend up to 1800 calories. This amounts to 2 packs of peanuts and 2 bananas. In other words, the amount of food required to negate the caloric deficit is relatively small. That’s why the excuse that cardio takes away “precious calories” that can go towards muscle growth is blown out of proportions.
What’s the point of doing cardio if I want to build muscle?
Technically, there is zero need to do cardio if your only goal is to build muscle and lose fat. That can be achieved through diet and general weightlifting.
However, cardiovascular training offers benefits beyond the visual, namely improved heart health, better endurance, a mental break from lifting weights, the joy of variety, stress reduction…etc.
Cardio can be added to your routine without a negative impact on your ability to build muscle and gain strength. If you feel good when you do cardio, there is no need to avoid it just to make the so-called gurus happy.