What's The Deal With Cardio?

By Bryan Alger on March 18, 2016

I love to run. It's a great way to get outside, relieve stress and to me, it feels great. Of course I also love to lift, and I have experimented a lot with cardio in my program. I find that my workouts suffer if I do both on the same day. If I run first, then I feel week, tired or just disinterested during a workout. It's a little easier for me to do cardio after a workout, but even that affects my performance. My solution is to do them on alternating days so that they get individual attention. I'm also careful to keep intensity lower leading up to a heavy leg day, but those are two small compromises for what seems to be a big ticket issue to many lifers.

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Let's start by answering a few common questions:

Will cardio kill my gains?

No, it is completely possible to get strong or gain mass and incorporate cardio into your training program. In fact, some light cardio before a workout is a great way to warm up and get the blood flowing before taxing your muscles with heavy weight.

Do I need to do cardio to get cut?

We've all heard the saying, "abs are made in the kitchen." Well, they can be, nutrition is an extremely important aspect of any training program, especially while cutting, but cardio can obviously facilitate a cut or make progress faster. That said, cardio is not a magic bullet and it is completely possible to get cut without cardio.

Is there a specific type of cardio that is best for lifters?

There is no right or wrong when it comes to the type of cardio you should be doing. Pick something that aligns with your interests and goals and it will be something you look forward to rather than dread. The one thing to keep in mind is that some forms of cardio blur the lines between aerobic and anaerobic training. If you perform cardio at a very high intensity, you may need additional rest that could affect the frequency of your workouts.


Even Arnold Schwarzenegger did cardio: "my favorite form of cardio when we worked out at Gold's was to run down to the beach and run in the sand after I finished lifting."

Research backs up the anecdotal evidence. A 1998 paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology and a 2004 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise demonstrate that cardio does not significantly impact strength gains.

So my suggestion is to take a common sense approach to cardio. Do it if you like, but don't fear it. Place the emphasis on what is most important to you. If your goals are to get stronger or bigger, then your training should reflect that and your workouts in the gym will naturally be more intense than your jogs or bike rides. On the other hand if your goal is to run a marathon, you might still continue weight training, but you're probably not going to spend hours in the gym moving around iron plates.

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Bryan is the Co-Founder of Gravitus and also a Marine Corps veteran and seasoned engineer. The only thing Bryan likes more than hacking code is pumping iron.