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Cardio: Why, When, and How?

The word itself can make many people cringe. Some even consider the walk into the gym and the walk back to their car as enough. Some people only do it and nothing else. Some people debate if they even need to do it. There are many misconceptions of this part of the gym routine.


The torturous fun of cardio.


Cardio is one of those things in the gym that people know is a must if they want to lose an exceptional amount of fat (and even weight), yet they rationalize the reasons not to do it. This is most common amongst the common bodybuilder or weightlifter. The regular bodybuilder goes to the gym between 1 and 2 hours, and will never carve out at the minimum 10 minutes of cardio. Why is this? Well, first a few misconceptions need to be cleared up.




Why would anyone do cardio? There is a lot of “lifting hard and eating clean will get anyone lean enough.” The emphasis needs to be put on “lean enough”. What is lean enough? The common gym goer does not have their eating dialed in enough to get away with not doing cardio if they are trying to achieve an above average body. But cardio serves its purpose even for someone trying to gain lean mass. Sound crazy?


When a person is “bulking” (eating more calories to put on lean mass), their body can start to store fat. It is a common process when eating a lot of calories. We then get into the macros of what is being consumed but that is another story. Let’s just say the person is consuming mostly protein and carbs, with minimal fat daily. To help counter fat storage and keep calorie levels high to build mass, a person would want to do cardio daily. This will help ensure that when they step on the scale and see the numbers go up, they are pleased because they know the numbers are mostly muscle mass. Even though gains will not be as quick, they will be of higher quality in the form of mass being put on.

If a person is wanting to get exceptionally lean and they are not dialed into eating as clean as they should, cardio is a must. We all have stubborn areas where we hold some extra fat that cardio can help to eliminate.




The next question asked is “when?” This is a big misconception in the gym. Many people believe that doing cardio before hitting the weights is better. This is in return to where people think they can “warm-up” and lose fat at the same time. A warm-up is good to get the blood flowing and even get your brain (or if you want to get really technical, your “CNS”, or central nervous system) going. This just preps the mind to work and gets the muscles nice and warm. One does not need to get their heart rate too high to achieve this. Some people have even said they envision their body fat melting off first, then they go back and get the muscles pumped up. This is a fitness fallacy.

Your muscles use ATP for energy. When doing an excessive amount of cardio before you lift you burn up a lot of that ATP which is in return turned into ADP (opposite of muscle energy). Your weight lifting sessions will then suffer and you are also working with your body in a “breakdown” stage due to lack of sugar stores (glycogen).




A good suggestion would be keep your cardio sessions moderate in regards to heart rate. Get a good sweat going on AFTER you lift or workout so your muscles have all they need to work when doing any form of resistance training/weight lifting. Your muscles need that ATP (muscle energy). Heart rate suggestions universally would be 120-140 beats per minute for anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. Walking uphill on a treadmill with no hands, stair climber, or even an elliptical machine is good to use to get in the proper heart rate zone (If you have “cardio days” then the session time can be expanded but the heart rate zone should stay the same).


Cardio is an activity that is avoided mainly due to lack of knowledge in why one should do it, when one should do it, and how one should do it. The body is an amazing instrument and gift and when you learn your own body, you will be amazed and what you can achieve in the gym when it comes to appearance and performance.



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