Cardio is essential to weight training, even though it may seem like the two conflict. Most people tend to run or do the most cardio possible to lose weight, while those who lift are looking to gain muscle mass, but it is possible to gain muscle and still include cardio in your workout routine. Honestly, it completely depends on your end goal. As I mentioned, in my post about my workout routine, I do a little bit of cardio every day, but I do so because I am trying to decrease my body fat at the same time that I am trying to build lean muscle. If you want to build bigger muscles and do not have a lot of body fat to lose, then you should not be doing cardio every day of the week as I am, but you also shouldn’t forget about cardio altogether.
So, the question becomes, how much cardio should you be doing?
For muscle gain, you should only do cardio three times a week, and you should never do it before your lifting session. If you tire out your body before lifting, then you will not be able to lift as much as you are capable of. Ideally, you should separate when you do cardio and when you lift to separate days or two completely different times of day, but not many people have time for that! So, the next best option is after you have finished weight training because you can now afford to exhaust your body. Try and do around 30-45 minutes.
For fat loss, you should do cardio maybe five times a week, but you should also never do it before lifting for the same reason. You also try and do around 30 minutes of whatever cardio activity you choose, but it depends entirely on the intensity of your workout. If you are working at a low intensity, work for around the 45-minute mark, but if you are working at high intensity, 20-25 minutes will suffice.
What kind of cardio should you be doing?
One form of cardio is not better than another. If you are getting your heart rate up, then you are working towards increasing your overall endurance, and this will only increase your fitness level. It is a good idea, though, to switch up what type of cardio you do because it is easy to get bored!
Following are a few ideas:
- Running: When you think of cardio, the first thing that probably comes to mind is running. Running is an easy way to control the intensity of your workout, as well as to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
Here is a little treadmill workout I found if you’d like to try it out:
- HIIT: HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and consists of high-intensity movements that focus on using body weight. HIIT is really great for fat loss! Check out this video for an example.
- Dancing: Dancing classes such as Zumba are becoming more and more popular, and many college gyms offer free (or really cheap) classes, so I would definitely check one out if you want to get your heart rate up without feeling like you’re going to die.
- Jump Rope
One last tip: Make sure that if you are trying to build muscle, you are taking in more calories than you’re burning. Think about this: you’re body has to make muscle out of something, and if you are burning everything you eat, then it doesn’t have the any building material. If you want a great post-workout meal, try these protein pancakes. They come in all different flavors and taste great!