Cardiovascular Workout – Is it Really Necessary?


Meticulously put together workout for the entire week, split training, supplements and meals all planned out and checked. Cardio routine? Say what?!! That’s the common reaction I see when I ask novice bodybuilders if they’ve incorporated some cardiovascular exercises in their routine. Most of them are unsure if they should indulge in cardio at all, since there are some prevalent misconceptions about it. In this article, I would attempt to debunk some of these misconceptions and myths and try to emphasize on the benefits that can be gained by incorporating cardio in one’s routine.

Cardio is Only for Those Who Want to Reduce Weight

This is perhaps the most common retort I get when I try to push someone to undertake cardio. Common notion is that doing cardio will burn muscles if a lean person undertakes it, and it’s only beneficial for people with high amount of body fat percentage. There’s some truth to that anecdote, but it takes exhaustive physical exertion before body reverts back to burning muscle tissues for energy. The key to successfully doing cardio is maintaining medium to elevated heart rate for extended periods of time. For lean people, this will strengthen their heart (yes your heart is a muscle too and it needs training just like any other muscle to become strong). When you do cardio, the fuel for it comes primarily from burning carbs (stored and from food) and after that is depleted, the secondary sources are stored body fats and the fats derived from foods. For lean people, the cardio session should only last till these two stages; if it’s prolonged, the body will revert to burning proteins and amino acids from muscles. As a rule of thumb for lean people, a typical heart strengthening cardio session should last about 30 minutes, strenuous high intensity cardio for over an hour triggers the body to fall back on muscle burning for energy. For skinny people, two cardio sessions per week should suffice.

I Can Eat all I Want if I am Doing Cardio

I was very surprised to hear one of the fellows at the gym saying, “it doesn’t matter what you put in the body as long as you make it hot enough to burn it all down”. In layman’s term, he was referring to the fact that doing cardio gives you the liberty to eat anything you fancy. Nothing could be further from the truth and more detrimental to attaining a ripped physique. First off, there’s no way that a person would be able to burn off the calories gained through eating a double cheese pizza, unless they engage in continuous two hours of high intensity cardio. Honestly, how many of us actually do that? Even if someone can engage in such strenuous cardio session, they would be wasting too much time trying to balance out the calories consumption and leave themselves prone to overtraining and injury.

I am Looking to Bulk up so I am not Doing any Cardio

This myth is again tied in closely with the first one. People, who are looking to put on muscle mass, have a tendency to completely cut off cardio from their routine as they deem it contrary to their objective. What they don’t realize is that when they engage in a cardio session, the heart pumps more blood, which carries nutrients and oxygen to muscles that are vital for its growth. So essentially, doing cardio sensibly can help you grow your muscle and enhance recovery from weight training.

Don’t Eat before doing Cardio

This basically depends on the goals of a person doing cardio. If you are on a bulking cycle but want to undertake strenuous cardio for prolonged duration to remain cut, then it’s highly recommended to undertake what’s known as “Carb Loading”. Carb Loading entails consuming medium to large servings of complex carbs, ideally 1-2 hours prior to cardio session. If you load the first choice energy source, it would last longer and fuel the cardio session for a long while.

Pick one Form of Cardio and Stick to it to See Better Results

It’s really baffling when seasoned seniors promulgate such misconception. How can they not see the shortcomings of doing the same cardio routine? It’s akin to engaging in the same weighted workout routine every week. Your body becomes used to the same movements if you do them over and over again. The efficiency of the routine is then reduced drastically in terms of fewer calories burned and a time comes when you reach a plateau, plus there’s the whole monotony of getting stuck in a rut! You will also become bored with doing one cardio over and over again. It’s better to find alternative cardio routines like jumping ropes one day, going biking or hiking the next and even dancing or wall climbing! I would also recommend trying out prolonged medium intensity cardio and short burst high intensity cardio to mix things up and basically surprise your body by breaking monotony.

Lastly, the age old question (yeah the last one isn’t a myth)

When to do Cardio? After or Before Weights

Whenever someone asks me that question, my answer is always after weights. Here’s why:

  1. When you do cardio before weighted workout, chances are that you’ll tire yourself out. You won’t be able to put as much effort in the weighted workout.
  2. When you do cardio after weighted workout, it creates an after burn effect. Your body would become “charged” during weighted workouts sort of speak and you will top off the effect with cardio.
  3. Doing weights won’t deplete your glycogen stores, but high intensity and controlled cardio will!

Developing a cardio session that works is vital for anyone wanting to attain a healthy and ripped physique. Do not let the common misconceptions keep you away from having a well-conditioned heart, and did I mention cardio can also increase one’s stamina? I guess, the audience might have figured that out by themselves!

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