Today we are going to attempt to solve a problem that most gym goers have. The problem is something that everyone seems to have an opinion on, but there is no common consensus!
1) Should I do cardio?
2) How often should I do cardio?
3) How will cardio help me?
The answer is not going to be easy to uncover, all I can do is point the pros and cons to adding cardio to your routine.
For each individual, the answer might be a little different.
Truly, the answer lies with what your actual goals in the gym are.
Are you there to bulk up? Or are you there to slim down?
You might be surprised that I’d recommend cardio to both groups of people.
However, my recommendations are surely different.
Not only are we going to uncover whether you should or shouldn’t be doing cardio, but I will also be sharing my personal favorite cardio routines.
Should I do Cardio?
Let’s begin by dissecting the over-arching question.
Should I do cardio?
The answer is not simple as it truly depends on your body, your weight, your size, your build, and more.
However, I’m going to try my best to simplify it the best I can. I am going to break this up into two different groups. Those who have the goal of losing weight, and those who have the goal of gaining weight.
Goal: Lose Weight
To be completely honest, cardio should never be the main tool you use to lose weight.
The best way to lose weight is to diet. This does not mean that you have to suffer and eat little to no calories a day. It means that you need to discover how many calories your body naturally burns in a day (your calorie maintenance) and then you need to eat 300-600 calories less than that. (Eating in a calorie deficit)
I talk about how to set this kind of diet up in previous articles. If you need more information on how to set up your calorie deficit so that you can naturally lose weight by dieting, check it out here.
Now, once you have a proper diet set up your goal should be to only lose 1-4 pounds a week.
I know that if your goal is to lose weight, you want to lose it fast, however your body will thank you if you take this process slow and the fat is more likely to stay off.
If your diet is set up correctly, then it’s time to consider how cardio can help your progress even further.
By pairing cardio with the proper diet, you can give yourself a little wiggle room when dieting because you burnt an extra amount of calories that day.
I’m not saying if you burn 200 calories you should go eat 200 calories of candy.
I’m saying, you will simply be in a better place if you accidentally go over your calories limit.
For those who have the goal of losing weight and have a proper diet set up, I recommend doing 20-30 minutes of cardio after each lifting session.
20-30 minutes of cardio should allow you to burn an extra 200-300 calories.
Do this 2-4 times a week and you definitely will notice the results if you consistently complete your cardio every week, and consistently stick to your diet plan every single week.
Doing one cardio session here, then two weeks later doing another, is not going to help you.
You need to be consistent with it in order to achieve real results.
You’ll find my favorite cardio routines towards the bottom of this page.
Goal: Bulk Up
If your goal is to put on weight and size, then I am going to give you a different recommendation.
Now, if your goal is to put weight on, you’re not going to be eating in a calorie deficit like those who are trying to lose weight.
Instead, you’re going to be eating in a calorie surplus.
You will need to find how many calories your body naturally burns in a day (your calorie maintenance) and you will need to eat 300-600 more calories than that a day. (A calorie surplus)
Again, if you read the section on losing weight above, this is a link to how to set up your diet plan.
Now that you’re eating in a calorie surplus, meaning you’re taking in more calories than you are burning in a day, you can consider doing a little cardio to keep your endurance and cut body in shape, or you can choose to not do any cardio at all.
It’s true that doing maybe ten minutes of cardio could be beneficial in keeping your endurance in check. However, it is not required because you simply want to put on weight.
You can perform this cardio before or after you lift and truly make sure it is light.
For example, you could perform 10 minutes of slow walking on a stair master, 10 minutes of slow but steady pedaling on a bike, or even 10 minutes of walking at a brisk pace.
Whatever choice of cardio you choose, don’t overdo it!
Whether you even add cardio to your routine I will leave entirely up to you.
Just make sure you’re doing very little of it. Perhaps only 10 minutes or so depending on severity of the cardio workout.
My Favorite Cardio Routines
Next I’m going to break down my personal favorite cardio routines.
This will mostly be for those who want to lose weight.
You can copy the exact routine or change it to make it your own. Do what ever makes you happy! 🙂
The past 3 months I have implemented a treadmill routine to perform at the end of my lifts.
After I am done lifting for the day, I will find a treadmill that has plenty of room behind it, place a mat there, and get ready to work!
Why do you need to place a mat behind your treadmill?
Because I add sit-ups and push-ups into my cardio routine.
How exactly do I do it?
- Find a speed on the treadmill that allows you to full out sprint.
- For 1 minute (it’s okay if you fall short of a minute it might take time to work up to it) I want you to sprint on the treadmill.
- Pause your treadmill, step off, and perform 20-25 sit-ups on the mat.
- Perform 10-15 push-ups
- Get back on the treadmill and walk until you catch your breath
- repeat 4-5 times
This cardio routine is an incredible way to effectively get your heart rate pumping and is known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT.
HIIT is so effective that it allows your body to continue burning calories long after you are finished with your routine. I’d highly recommend it.
If running is not for you, there are other options as well!
Elliptical training is one of the most enjoyable forms of cardio because it doesn’t seem like you are working all that hard, but you definitely are burning those calories.
Also, elliptical training is so convenient because it’s very easy to read or watch Netflix while performing the exercise.
How should you train on the elliptical?
Normally I watch one 20 minute Netflix show during this workout. Once the show is over, you are finished! (You can prolong this to 30 minutes if you’d like)
- Find a speed on the treadmill that challenges yourself.
- Push yourself hard for 2 minutes at the challenging speed.
- Drop the Elliptical speed until it’s comfortable, and continue that that speed for 3 minutes.
This routine is pretty straight forward and effective in helping you burn calories.
Also, as I said, it’s one of my favorites because it’s easy to watch Netflix while performing the exercise.
Feel free to change it up any way you wish!
Using a stair-stepper is one heck of a cardio workout.
It’s literally as if you are climbing an endless amount of stairs.
This is a surefire way to burn calories and get your heart pumping.
The cool thing about utilizing a stair-stepper as your cardio routine is that it also works your leg muscles and especially your glutes. You may definitely feel some soreness in these areas after you are finished.
How should you train on the stair-stepper?
- Find a speed that is challenging and hit it for 1 minute.
- Drop the speed until its comfortable and continue for 2-3 minutes (rest until you catch your breath)
- Repeat for 20-30 minutes.
This routine truly is difficult but it’s worth it and you’ll thank yourself once you’re finished!
Should You Utilize Cardio?
All in all, should you be utilizing a cardio routine?
The answer is like I said, not a simple one.
For those that want to lose weight:
In order to benefit from utilizing cardio you have to consistently perform it multiple times a week, every single week.
Paired with a proper diet, it really can make a difference for those who are looking to lose some weight. But remember, cardio shouldn’t be your first resort when trying to lose weight. Having a calorie deficit diet in place is the BEST way to see results.
Cardio is simply a bonus that can help you reach your goals.
For those that want to gain weight:
Cardio isn’t as important for those that want to gain weight because you want to eat more calories than you burn in a day.
However, it is an effective way to keep your body cut and to keep your endurance up.
If you choose to perform cardio while trying to gain weight, make sure it is very simple and only about 10 minutes long.
I leave you with this.
Doing hours of cardio isn’t going to help you reach your goals, but neither is avoiding it altogether.
Please comment and reach out if you have any questions and thanks for reading!
Founder of https://myshakercup.com