The Benefits of Cardiovascular Training for Bodybuilders


Why Cardio and Weight Training Go Hand In Hand?

Although once shunned by most bodybuilders, it’s now accepted that bodybuilders should do some sort of aerobic exercise – especially during the pre-contest phase of their training. Not only does it help get rid of body fat but it improves cardiovascular health – something that everyone – bodybuilder or not – can use. In this post you will find many reasons why cardio and weight training go hand by hand. In other words, there are so many benefits of cardiovascular training for bodybuilders you still need to discover.

Benefits of cardiovascular training for bodybuilders

Although you may be primarily concerned with the development of your skeletal muscles, don’t forget that the heart is a muscle as well. And while it won’t win you extra points on stage, it is your most important muscle when it comes to overall long-term health. Here are 4 most important benefits of cardiovascular training for bodybuilders.

Cardiovascular training for bodybuilders

(1) Stronger heart

First off,  having a strong heart is efficient for obvious health reasons. Frequent cardio exercises can have a great impact on your heart’s stroke volume. This is basically the heart’s ability to pump out blood from the left ventricle. If the heart can pump more blood with less work, it can directly affect the intensity and duration of your cardio sessions and can be advantageous for gaining muscular strength over time.

(2) Increase in circulating blood volume

When oxygen enters your lungs it’s latched on to by red blood cells and transported back to the heart and then pumped throughout the body to the various tissues and cells. At the cells the oxygen is released and various waste products including carbon dioxide are carried back to the lungs and exhaled. One of the benefits of aerobic exercise is that after a period of time blood volume will increase. An average male can increase his circulating blood volume by up to a liter with regular aerobic exercise. More blood means more red blood cells. More red blood cells mean more oxygen and waste-carrying capacity.  We think you can see how both would be beneficial to hard-training bodybuilders. Not only will your muscles be receiving more oxygen but waste products will be removed that much faster.

(3) Increase in the number of blood vessels

Cardiovascular exercises have a positive effect on your blood vessels. A highly effective heart needs a healthy network of capillaries to perform steady weightlifting and other workout routines. That’s how we come to another great benefit of cardiovascular training for bodybuilders. A second benefit is that the body compensates for the increased blood volume by increasing the number of blood vessels. Besides the biological effect, the extra blood vessels give bodybuilders a much more vascular look.

(4) Stronger mental and physical relaxation

A final benefit to regular cardio exercises is that it’s relaxing. Regular cardiovascular exercise also produce mental and physical relaxation. When the heart rate is elevated for extended periods of time, endorphins (or natural pain killers) are released, creating a sense of relaxation after the exercise is completed. Allowing the body to relax increases the body’s digestive abilities, mental alertness, and plays an important role in combating stress.

As you can see by now, benefits of cardiovascular training for bodybuilders are not negligible.

Will cardio burn hard-earned muscles and prevent gain in muscle size?

Everyone, no matter how thin, needs to do some aerobics in order to strengthen the cardiovascular system
and build endurance. Bodybuilders who have a tendency to get too heavy may always need to do more aerobics than thinner people. Everyone is different. Success in bodybuilding depends on customizing both your weight training and your aerobics program for your physique.

Excessive cardio work can also make it difficult to retain muscle mass. If you are thin by nature, you may
already have trouble gaining quality weight. If you add in too much cardio, you can sweat off your muscle as well as your fat. Be smart, and pay attention to your progress.

The key is to incorporate cardiovascular exercise training in your resistance training program and pay careful attention to your diet.

Cardiovascular exercise not only burns calories while you are working out but also increases your body’s ability to burn fat the rest of the time (only in case you perform HIIT cardio). Contrary to popular belief, cardiovascular exercise is not counterproductive to a resistance training program. It will not burn hard-earned muscle nor prevent gains in muscle size. In fact, cardiovascular training is essential for any fitness or sports training program, not just for fat burning but also for its performance- and immunity-boosting effects.

Cardio while bulking? Try “clean bulking”!

Muscle tone and being lean and ripped is solely a function of body fat. You can exercise until the cows come home, but if your body fat percentage stays the same, you’ll never have any definition. Bodybuilders in the past (and some still do this) went through phases: bulking and cutting. During the bulking phase they pretty much ate anything that came close enough to put in their mouths. During the cutting (fat-loss) phase they decreased their calories and increased their cardio. The problem with this: it isn’t sustainable or doable by the average person—you!

That’s why many non-competitive bodybuilders choose not to adopt the conventional strategy, as it often results in significant unwanted fat gain during the “bulking” phase. The attempt to increase muscle mass in one’s body without any gain in fat is called clean bulking. While competitive bodybuilders focus their efforts to achieve a peak appearance during a brief “competition season”, most people prefer to maintain an attractive physique year-round.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a proper weight training and cardio program combined with a modestly hyper caloric diet with proper macronutrient balance can produce steady gains in size and strength, while avoiding significant increases in body fat.

Which cardio machines are the best?

Years ago the only choices bodybuilders had for indoor cardio were cycling and swimming. Today the choices are almost endless. You have treadmills for walking, jogging and running on, cycles tor biking, and rowers for rowing.  You will also find a whole assortment of ellipticals, steppers, and cross-trainers. The beauty is that one form of cardio is no better than the next. They all burn about the same number of calories per unit time (assuming equal exercise intensities). There might be a huge difference in comfort (i.e. how it feels on the joints) but most forms of cardio will give you the same results.

Summing up: Benefits of cardiovascular training for bodybuilders

Nobody is going to argue with the fact that cardio doesn’t make you a better lifter. If you use cardio alone, it can help you achieve a lean, muscular and athletic looking body. But when it is combined with weight lifting in the right frequency, it can help you achieve all your muscle building objectives. There are several reasons for that.

Cardio helps increase the blood flow and volume to the muscles, which is impossible to achieve by weightlifting alone. Cardio also increases the tissue capacity to perform at a higher level and helps it to absorb oxygen and nutrients quickly. As stated previously, it facilitates muscle recovery and clears away metabolites and other waste products from the body.

That’s why including moderate amounts of cardio exercise into your bulking routine can help control and limit the amount of body fat gained during a bulking phase. The best approach is therefore to eat sufficient calories to gain muscle but don’t get crazy with your eating and still doing some cardio to maintain cardiovascular health.

About Author

Hey! My name is Kruno, and I'm the owner and author of Bodybuilding Wizard. I started this website back in late 2014, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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