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The best cardio for bodybuilding

bodybuilding cardio workout plans

Bodybuilders are strong, incredible athletes, right? What do they have to be afraid of?

Well, for some, cardio.

Many bodybuilders worry that cardio training will undo their months of hard work and that they’ll end up losing muscle instead of fat. This leaves them confused (quite fairly) about what cardio to do and what is the best cardio for bodybuilding. However, whether you’re prepping for a competition or just starting out in the world of bodybuilding, there’s no underestimating how crucial it is to integrate cardio for bodybuilding into your training regime.

A bodybuilding cardio routine will help you to lose body fat whilst maintaining your muscle strength and development. But if you’re stuck with where to start with bodybuilders cardio, then we’re here to help.

Cardio for bodybuilding

cardio for bodybuilding

Endurance training, aka cardiovascular exercise, improves your heart’s ability to pump blood and increase the amount of oxygen carried around in your cells. A bodybuilding cardio workout is essential because it helps you burn more calories and induce fat loss (or decrease fat gain).

Just like strength training, there’s a science to cardio and increasing its results. The amount of body fat you’ll lose is directly related to the number of fat-burning elements you focus on. It’s almost impossible to be get ripped whilst adding substantial muscle mass; therefore, many bodybuilders follow an on/off-season diet and training plan.

Off-season vs on-season

Bodybuilding cardio workouts should be limited to one session a week during off-season training to ensure all calories and energy builds muscle mass.

However, during on-season, there should be up to four bodybuilding cardio workouts a week to melt away any stored body fat.

So, what’s the best cardio for bodybuilding?

bodybuilding workout plan

As we mentioned above, bodybuilders primarily use cardio to increase their caloric expenditure. You can mix and match two kinds of bodybuilding cardio workouts into your weekly schedule: low-moderate intensity and high-intensity/HIIT.

Cardio for bodybuilding: low-moderate intensity cardio

If you’re looking to burn calories whilst not damaging your recovery, then low-intensity cardio, either pre-or post-weight training, will be perfect for you. As the name suggests, it’s much less strenuous on the body than high-intensity cardio or High-Intensity-Interval-Training (HIIT) and can slot in on the days that you aren’t weight training.

Whether you do a cardio session before or after your weight training all comes down to your personal preference. If you find that cardio before a weight training session affects your performance, it would be best to do your cardio post-workout.

Cardio for bodybuilding: high-intensity cardio

We don’t recommend completing high-intensity or HIIT sessions alongside weight training workouts. Pre-weight training, cardio sessions would decrease your performance and post-training, it would cause fatigue and open you up to injury.

Also Read: How to build muscle and burn fat with a body recomposition

High-intensity cardio puts stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, and the latter is the energy system stressed during weight training. So, suppose you were to do a weight training session along with a bodybuilding cardio workout.

In that case, you’d be putting too much stress on the anaerobic system and potentially damage your recovery.

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There are two main kinds of high-intensity cardio:

Continuous high-intensity cardio

An example of continuous high-intensity cardio would be using a treadmill or elliptical machine at high speed for an extended duration of 5+ minutes.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio

Whilst interval training involves alternating periods of exercise and rest (or lower levels of work). An example of HIIT is when you run a 100-meter sprint and then walk back to the start, rest for a minute and then repeat.

Bodybuilding cardio routines

As a bodybuilder, weight training is your primary concern, and you don’t want to overdo it on the cardio and risk injury or impact your recovery. Whether you’re trying to gain muscle or lose fat, bodybuilders need to do cardio tailored to their requirements, but the exact amount will vary by your goal, fitness level and recovery time.

But we’ve put together three base examples of bodybuilding cardio routines below to get you started.

Remember that as you lose weight and your fitness level improves, you’ll probably have to increase your duration and the intensity of your cardio.

Bodybuilding cardio routine for adding lean mass 1

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday

45-60 minutes weight training

30 minutes low-intensity cardio

Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday

Rest

Bodybuilding cardio routine for adding lean mass 2

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday

45-60 minutes weight training

Wednesday

15-20 minutes of high-intensity cardio

Saturday

HIIT-Sprints: Ten 100-meter sprints

Sunday

Rest

Bodybuilding cardio routine for losing body fat and getting RIPPED

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday

45-60 minutes weight training

30 minutes low-intensity cardio

Wednesday

15-20 minutes of high-intensity cardio

Saturday

HIIT-Sprints: Ten 100-meter sprints

Sunday

Rest

Cardio for bodybuilding: what do you need to know?

There’s a lot of info out there on the internet, but not all of it is accurate, true, or helpful, and we know that the last thing you need when prepping for competition is to be unsure of your targets and ability.

Also Read: How does your body burn fat?

Below, we’ve compiled our top tips for cardio for bodybuilders to help you get on the right track.

When’s the best time to do a bodybuilding cardio workout?

The most effective time to perform cardio is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This is because your body will tap into its fat stores for energy instead of having to burn through carbs first and then move onto fat.

Although this is the best time for cardio, it can be just as effective late afternoon if you follow a proper diet, if you’re not a morning person!

What’s the best intensity for a bodybuilder cardio workout?

Intensity for cardio is measured by the percentage of your max heart rate used whilst performing an exercise. To effectively burn fat, you want to be around 65% of your maximum heart rate.

To work out your max heart rate, subtract your age from 220 and multiply it by 0.65. This will give you your ideal heart rate per minute to maximize the fat-burning benefits of your cardio.

How long should cardio for bodybuilders last?

Let’s face it, you’re not doing cardio to train for a marathon; you’re simply utilizing cardio to increase oxygen flow to your muscles and to burn fat. So, for optimum results, you should only perform cardio 3-4 times a week (on non-resistance training days) and increase the length of your cardio session by 5 minutes each week until you reach a total of 30-35 minutes per cardio session.

Do bodybuilders need to warm up/cool down?

Yes, rushing in or out of a cardio session will put unnecessary stress on your heart, muscles, tissue, and joints. Make sure you stretch before you walk, walk before you jog and jog before you run.

Increase the pace over a 3–5-minute period until you reach your ideal heart rate. By starting slowly, you’re more likely to avoid injuries. Cool down by walking over 3-5 minutes until your heart rate is back to normal at the end of your workout.

Do bodybuilders need cardio if they follow a nutrition plan?

Yes, no matter how strict or nutrition-dense your diet is, you’ll never achieve max definition without cardio. And the opposite is true, no matter how much cardio you do, you’ll never reach your max definition without a thoroughly thought-out diet.

Also Read: The best cutting workout for losing weight

Nutrition during cutting is just as crucial as nutrition through bulking up. To burn fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. To work out the number of calories you need to maintain each day, multiply your body weight by 15-17 (depending on your activity level). This number gives you how many calories your body needs each day to maintain your current muscle mass.

When cutting, drop your calories by increments of 500 every ten days to avoid forcing your body into starvation mode and forcing it to eat away at muscle tissue. When bulking up, increase your calories by 10-20% of the amount you need to maintain.

Should I take any supplements as a bodybuilder?

Optimum nutrition is vital to your success as a bodybuilder. We’re big believers in natural supplements that will help you maintain your body in peak condition whilst you work on your GAINS, while also supporting your immune system and protecting you from injury. Plus, protein powders like whey can be effective at boosting protein in your diet.

However, whether you’re a bodybuilder prepping to compete or you’re just trying to boost your strength and physical fitness, there are lots of misconceptions that you can’t make gains or smash your goals without steroids like Anavar. However, anabolics have many nasty side effects and stress your heart, liver, and even can contribute to hair loss.

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The Brutal Force Team

The Brutal Force Team

We research and write articles about health, fitness and dieting. Each of our articles includes sources from scientific studies where possible.

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The Brutal Force Team

The Brutal Force Team

We research and write articles about health, fitness and dieting. Each of our articles includes sources from scientific studies where possible.