(Negative Stigma time!) When it comes to weightlifting and bodybuilding, this thing called “cardio” is seen as a gains killer. Now sure, theoretically it makes sense. The goal is to conserve calories to help build muscle and prevent the muscles from breaking down too much where muscle is lost. Anything cardio-based seems to do nothing but eat up calories, and for many, is less enjoyable.
Realistically however, cardio is a benefit to one’s gain goals.
Cardio is classified as aerobic. Aerobic means with oxygen. Aerobic exercises are low-to-moderate in intensity and are sustainable for long periods of time. Walking, jogging, biking, and swimming are all aerobic exercises. The counter to aerobic is a something called anaerobic, which means (you guessed it) without oxygen. Anaerobic exercises are anything that does not require the use of oxygen which in return means it has to be done is short bursts of power. Weight lifting is considered anaerobic.
So how does aerobic benefit anaerobic?
When you have great stamina, or aerobic health, your body has more solid and stronger recovery sessions. Anyone who lifts weights understands that it is work. Is it like running on a treadmill? No, but if you are training hard chances are your heart is pumping. With solid aerobic health, this allows your recovery times (in between sets) to be quicker which in return allows you to train harder. And since your VO2 max (the amount of oxygen your body needs to do work) is in top shape, your muscles are in a more secure state and catabolism is kept in check.
Many bodybuilders are huge fans of super setting and giant setting to get a sense of cardio or aerobic benefits to their lifting. Super setting is when the lifter does a set of exercises for one muscle group and instead of taking a break, goes into another movement/exercise for a completely different muscle group. Then a short break is taken and then the process is repeated. Giant setting has the same concept but instead of training a different muscle group, the same muscle group is trained but with a different movement (example would be doing a set of 12 reps with military presses for shoulders, then going right into a set of 15 reps with lateral raises). HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is also another way to avoid of being “buff and no stuff”. This form of training works the whole body in a single session and also helps with building endurance.
So next time you think avoiding cardio is good for your gains, think again. Being aerobically fit will do more for your anaerobic training by allowing you to train longer and harder.