Cardio and Bulking

Wow; I just realized how long it's been since I posted on this blog. It's been over a year, and reality right now is just bizarre.

The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl... it's snowing in Texas... Disney ruined Luke Skywalker... nothing makes sense anymore.

TLJ Luke.jpg

To those of you who've been waiting on a new post: I'm truly sorry. Consider this post the first of many weekly (yes! weekly, I promise) blog posts to come.

A number of you reading this are in the midst of your winter bulk right now. Hopefully you've been packing on some solid muscle.

For many of you though, you might have noticed that the pounds have been increasing too quickly. Your waist is growing, but you don't notice significant strength gains in the gym.

There could be a number of factors for this, but one detriment to your bulk might be the lack of cardio while bulking.

Cardi-No

Where did the hatred for cardio really start anyway? Did the first prophet of broscience hand down commandments banning gym bros from getting on a treadmill? Or is it that people actually take Dom Mazzetti's advice seriously now?

Maybe we should start using the term's full name, "cardiovascular," instead; I mean guys want to get thick and vascular veins, right?

Honestly, part of is the problem that when people hear "cardio," they immediately think of a prolonged workout that leaves you sore, drenched in sweat, and completely out of breath once it's over.

Anything taken to extremes can suck. I wouldn't want to do a 2 hour cardio workout for the same reason I wouldn't want to do a 2 hour lifting workout: it's boring and just kills you.

Especially in the winter, you have to be a bit creative for finding cardio options that enable you to avoid the weather (I mentioned some in an earlier post).

Consistent Metabolism

Let's say you're aiming for a daily 500 calorie surplus (this is common, but is probably a bit too high) and you're currently lifting 4 days a week with the other 3 days being rest days. Well, if you're lifting the right way, you're burning tons of calories on the days that you lift. I'd estimate you burn anywhere from 300 to 400 calories if you're focusing on effective, compound exercises like Squats and Deadlifts.

If that's the case, you're eating 800 to 900 more than you're burning on the days you DON'T lift weights. This is a recipe for disaster in your bulk; you'll probably put an inch on your waist for every rep you gain on your Bench Press.

What's a better approach? Well, you start implementing cardio on the other days of the week to keep the calorie burning consistent.

Doing cardio while bulking has more benefits than just the calorie burning, however.

Recovery

Natural lifters tend to overestimate how well their bodies recover. Especially if you're lifting heavy weights, you shouldn't be weightlifting more than 4 times a week. In fact, some of you (myself included) might see the best results with just 3 lifting sessions each week. Workout routines that involve 5+ days of lifting lead to overtraining quite easily. If you hit your triceps with 20+ sets during an arms workout, how do you expect to be recovered in time for shoulders or chest 1 - 2 days later? You just can't be.

How does cardio play into all this?

Well, even the most intense cardio out there (sprinting, for example) doesn't wreck your body quite the way that weightlifting does. I usually sprint twice a week, and even though I'm out of breath by the end of it, my body doesn't feel depleted the way that it does after a Pull or Legs workout

The physical nature of cardio also helps with recovery; using a treadmill or elliptical machine gets the blood flowing all over your body. Cardio both reduces soreness and enhances your muscles' recuperation.

Furthermore, HIIT cardio (sprinting, boxing rounds, etc.) can give significant hormonal boosts. High levels of HGH and Testosterone are necessary if you're expecting to gain muscle; just sprinting once a week can kick up your hormones like crazy. The caveat is that long durations of cardio surpress these hormones, so keep the cardio workouts to no more than 30 minutes even if it's low intensity (walking, jogging, swimming).

Tying it Together

So what are some options for implementing cardio into your workout? Well, here's a sample routine you could try:

  • Sunday - Pull
  • Monday - Sprints
  • Tuesday - Sprints
  • Wednesday - Legs
  • Thursday - Kickboxing
  • Friday - Rest
  • Saturday - Push

Honestly, this is the routine I'm using now and it seems to work quite well. You'll notice there's 1 rest day thrown in there, but this doesn't result in extra calories going to fat. I actually cut weight each Friday (calorie cycling to help keep the bulk lean).

Let the record show that cardio is more than just a tool for cutting: it's a great way to gain more muscle than you ever have before.