It’s the question on everyone’s mind, “Should I Skip Cardio When Bulking?”
Your main aim is to put on weight and hopefully add lean muscle mass to your frame.
Okay, you accept that you’ll also add some body fat simply due to the extra calories.
However, the last thing you want to do is to start burning these additional calories when you’re not hitting the weights.
This is probably why there’s so much confusion about the role of cardio when bulking.
Should you or shouldn’t you?
Allow me to reveal the best options.
Should I Skip Cardio When Bulking?
You should never skip cardio when bulking. Firstly, your cardiovascular health is always more important than a muscular physique. Additionally, the aim of bulking is to add lean muscle mass with minimal body fat. So, cardio can help to keep your body fat levels in check. Furthermore, cardio will increase blood flow, which can aid recovery after a particularly demanding workout. That being said, you don’t want to do so much cardio that it burns all the extra calories you are consuming.
1. Cardiovascular Health is Important When Bulking
I will categorically state that your cardiovascular health is far more important than looking great and having a ripped physique.
I know that you probably want to pack on as much lean muscle mass as possible, but this shouldn’t be done at the cost of your health.
Plus, it doesn’t look particularly impressive to see someone with a buff body who can’t climb a flight of stairs without panting and almost passing out.
Basically, cardio provides a huge number of health benefits that you won’t get from simply lifting weights.
I should add that when I say “lifting weights” I mean in the traditional strength or hypertrophy way.
You can of course perform cardio and conditioning with resistance training.
Anyway, back to the point, don’t skip the cardio.
In truth, as long as you’re bulking sensibly, you won’t need a great deal of cardio.
In fact, two to three sessions of 20-30 minutes a week will suffice, preferably on non weight training days.
The intensity of cardio will depend on your current body fat levels and how logically you approach your bulk.
For most of you cardio will consist of steady-state exercise, whereby you can still hold a conversation.
There are even those of you who can probably just go for a walk a few times a week.
However, the most important factor is that you’ll work on your heart health, keep you blood pressure in check, reduce stress, and a wealth of other great benefits.
Basically, never skip the cardio.
2. You’re Aiming to Add Muscle Not Fat
I think it’s important to remember that bulking is about adding lean muscle with minimal body fat.
So, realistically you should only ever be eating slightly over maintenance.
In fact, for most of you 200-300 extra calories a day will suffice, and there will be very few people who require 500+ additional calories a day.
Unfortunately, most people approach bulking with the “dirty bulk” in mind.
Basically, if they see it, they eat it.
In truth this is not what bulking is about.
Your aim is to gradually put on weight, typically no more than around 0.5-1lbs a week.
And you simply continue until you are happy with your level of muscular development.
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Okay, I’ll admit that when you are consuming excess calories on a daily basis you’re more than likely to add mass in the way of body fat.
However, you’re not looking to become a fat, blubbering mess.
So, this is where performing regular cardio can come in handy.
Once again, this isn’t about going all-out and literally running yourself into the ground.
However, a few sessions of steady-state cardio every week can help to keep your levels of body fat down.
3. Cardio is Great For Recovery
You’ll often hear the old mantra, “Cardio Kills Gains”.
However, I’m here to tell you that cardio can actually help your gains.
In fact, you’re likely to pack on far more muscle with regular bouts of cardio.
There are a number of great benefits to cardio besides heart health and fat loss.
Firstly, cardio will stimulate blood flow, especially to the muscles and connective tissues.
This increased flow of blood throughout the body will help to send essential nutrients to the muscles.
This overall process can actually speed up how quickly the metabolic byproducts of intense strength training are cleared out of your system.
In essence, cardio will decrease your recovery time.
Think about the amount of times you’ve done a massive leg session and you feel as though you can’t hit legs again for a few days.
In fact, you can barely walk.
However, if you followed your session up with 20 minutes of steady-state stationary biking the next day, you’ll probably be ready to hit your lower body again far sooner.
This essentially means that you can lift more often because you require less recovery time.
The more often you lift, the more muscle mass you can expect to pack on.
With that being said, rest days still form an integral part of your recovery.
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4. Don’t Overdo the Cardio
Okay, after all this great talk of cardio, you obviously don’t want to overdo it.
I guess this is what most of you are worried about.
If I do cardio will I actually stop bulking altogether?
Just in the same way you should be sensible with your bulk, the same applies to performing cardio.
I mean, if you’re going to run a marathon on your non-resistance training days then you’re going to burn all those excess calories that you’ve been consuming.
So, in effect, you won’t be eating a caloric surplus.
No surplus obviously means no additional lean muscle mass.
Therefore, the aim here is to work out what is the right amount of cardio for YOU.
Every person differs, so what may work for one person won’t for another.
With that being said, you typically can’t go wrong with a few sessions of steady-state cardio a week.
I know there will be some of you wondering whether you should perform sprints.
Sprints are fantastic for burning fat, plus the metabolic boost they provide is also superb for building muscle.
However, this once again depends on your starting point.
I will also add that sprinting is extremely taxing of the Central Nervous System, and this can of course impede your strength training.
For me, keep the cardio simple while ensuring that you’re still eating at a caloric surplus.
5. Are You a Hardgainer?
The only time I’d be inclined to say that you can skip cardio when bulking is if you’re a hardgainer.
But, even then I’d tell you to be wary of your cardiovascular health.
Basically, you’re someone who has a hard time putting on mass, especially muscle mass, regardless of how you train and how aggressively you eat.
Many hardgainers are typically ectomorphs.
In other words your metabolism runs at a higher rate than the other body types.
So, you may find that even if you’re eating big your metabolism tends to naturally burn off excess calories.
In fact, as a hardgainer you’re likely to see the least noticeable changes on a bulk.
It’s going to be a slow, long haul.
I would still advise you to do some walking on a weekly basis.
This is to ensure that your cardiovascular system is getting some type of a “workout”.
However, this could simply mean walking for around 30 minutes, three times a week.
Additionally, you could also do some very light cardio as a warm-up prior to your strength training.
I’m talking no more than 5-10 minutes of gentle rowing or using the stationary bike.
One of the main advantages of being a hardgainer is that you can usually get away with a higher split of carbohydrates in your diet.
Plus, you can afford the more than occasional cheat meal.
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With that being said, once more I urge you to be cautious about your cardiovascular health.
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So, I hope you understand that you shouldn’t skip cardio when bulking.
In fact, the benefits of performing cardio far outweigh the need to add mass to your frame.
Cardio is great for your heart and it will aid recovery.
Therefore, you can actually train harder.
However, be wary of overdoing the cardio, as the last thing you want is to completely burn off the additional calories you are consuming.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.