Even though every old-school bodybuilder might disagree with me, cardio will accomplish wonders for building muscle and getting stronger.
Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise.
The root cardio is Greek which translates to “heart.” Our heart is responsible for keeping fresh-oxygenated blood flowing throughout our entire body. Even though it’s dreaded by many, performing cardio exercises and having an overall healthy heart is key for building strength and muscle.
In order for muscles to fully grow and develop certain nutrients and protein need to be delivered into the muscle tissue. Everything is transported through the bloodstream. This is why it’s essential to include some type of cardiovascular exercise into your training program because the healthy your heart is the more oxygen-rich blood and key nutrients will be delivered to your muscles.
There are many different types of cardio exercises.
Most people think you need to wake up early, put on sweats and go run for five miles, or spend hours on a treadmill. While that method is ideal for some, it’s not necessarily the most effective for many.
Our muscles contain three different muscle fiber variations. We have what’s called slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles fibers. Fast twitch fibers comprise of both type 2a and type 2b.
Slow twitch is ideal for marathon runners and any type of activity that requires repetitive motions for extended periods of time, whereas fast twitch is more for quick-explosive motions. It’s like comparing marathon runners to Olympic sprinters.
For people who aren’t training for a marathon or any long-winded activity, its best to focus on activating and recruiting more fast twitch muscle fibers. Training these fibers generally requires more energy output in a short amount of time which is excellent for building muscle. Suicides, different variations of sprints, High-Intensity Interval Training and even Circuit Training are forms of cardio.
Cardio is performing anything that gets your heart beating
Laying down on the bench press, maxing-out and taking five-minute breaks between each set isn’t cardio. In terms of the same exercise, you can turn it into cardio if you did a set of 50 reps. You will feel the burn and notice your heart racing.
While most people are not a fan of long runs, this type of cardio can be beneficial. It simply trains your body to utilize oxygen better. If you couldn’t do 50 reps on the bench press before, overtime with aerobic exercises, increasing the number of reps you can do will become easier.
But we want to build muscle and strength, so really only try to do that once a week or month even. Instead, focus on anaerobic exercises where the intensity is much higher. Incorporate a set of 20 to 25 reps in before you go too heavy. Warm up with some sprints and weighted squats to get the blood pumping.
At this stage, your body is more prone to growth and less prone to injury. You might have some veins protruding which is a clear sign that nutrients are being delivered to the muscles.
How do I know this works, what’s the science behind it?
Well, I haven’t posted here in two years. But before that, back when I was hitting PR’s on squat and deadlift I was also doing cardio ..It’s sort of required in the Marines.
Cardio is like having good ventilation.
It allows your muscles to breath instead of suffocating. Think I’m wrong still? Here’s a test (Don’t try this at home) eat a half-dozen donuts before your workout. Take a mental note of how lethargic you feel, how hard it is to lift heavy and light for more reps. Then let your body process all that junk out of your system for a few days, maybe even do some cardio.
Next time you’re ready to hit the gym eat a light-healthy meal about 2 hours before and take a mental note of the difference. If you don’t want to test this using your body (Don’t try this at home either) try stuffing a banana in the tail-pipe of your car and see how fast it drives and how far it can go.
I’ll be back with another post that will link to more scientific research and studies, but for now, I just wanted people to know that cardio is crucial for fully developing your muscles, getting bigger, and stronger.
It all depends on the type of cardio and frequency.