A positive correlation between cardiovascular exercise and muscle growth
Cardiovascular exercise can help you grow muscle faster, and I am not only talking about HIIT (high intensity interval training).
The old exercise spectrum: Cardio vs weight training
All exercise is healthy and helps to keep your body in shape. Healthy people exercise. These people can almost always be stereo-typically divided into two groups.
There are the healthy individuals on one side of the spectrum who focus almost exclusively aerobic or cardio exercises like running, swimming and cycling. Top performers in these fields can be found at endurance events.
The healthy exercisers on the other side of the spectrum focus on anaerobic or strength training. The top performers in these fields include strongman and bodybuilding champions.
We all know that exercise has many benefits, but different forms of exercise have different benefits. Yoga is better at calming the mind and body and teaching oneself to deal with stress, which leads to a healthier and prolonged life. Cardio is better at improving heart and lung health, circulation and energy productivity, which also leads to a healthier, prolonged life. Strength training is great for strengthening the body’s structure for stronger bone, joint and muscle integrity, which also leads to a healthier, prolonged life. By doing different forms of exercise, you can get different benefits. If your goal is to build muscle, you can use cardio to obtain the benefits that will help you build even more muscle.
Bodybuilders focus on anaerobic exercises like weight lifting in order to maximize muscle size and avoid cardio because it depletes energy that could be used to do more muscle-building exercises, takes up nutrients that could be used to build muscle, and increases the amount of time used to exercise.
Cardio-vascular exercise, though, can benefit the body in such a way that it is more efficient at building muscle. Here is how:
The benefits that adding cardio to a strength training program include:
• Better aerobic performance. This comes in handy because you will get less tired throughout your strength training routine. Your body becomes better at burning energy for a prolonged period of time without resorting to muscle tissue. It will also be better at using oxygen for energy. Oxygen usage is directly related to lactic acid production.
• By being physically fitter, you are able to put a larger stimulus on your muscles during your usual workout because you will be able to train for longer without stopping due to energy constrains. That also means that you will need to rest less in between sets as you catch your breath. This will place a further and greater stimulus on muscle fibers.
• The improved oxygen and nutrient delivery systems that come through better blood circulation, heart function and lung capacity will improve the rate at which your muscles receive what they need in order to grow. Protein synthesis will start sooner and waste products will be eliminated faster.
• Your body gets better at breaking down fat and using it for energy, which means that less muscle is broken down as a quick-fix for the body's energy needs. This can also lead to shorter cutting phases and longer bulking phases.
How to use cardio to increase muscle growth
Here are great ways to use cardio to benefit muscle growth (by increasing overall endurance and physical efficiency), without hindering maximum muscle growth (by stealing nutrients, energy and recovery time).
Do cardio as a warm-up and cool down, before and after a weight training session.
This serves a double benefit. Cardio is simply added to a weight training program without too much effort but with the benefits mentioned above. It gets the blood flowing and wakes up the body so that it is optimized for the serious exercise that follows. People that warm up are able to lift heavier weights for more reps and experience less injury. Doing light cardio after weight training will redistribute blood. This prevents blood pooling so that old blood that contains lactic acid and other waste products is removed from the muscle and new blood that contains nutrients can get to the muscles sooner. Cool down exercises are a great way to speed up recovery from exercise.
Remember that cardio is used to complement and not take away from muscle growth, so keep warm-up and cool-down cardio sessions under 10 minutes each. Make sure you do this cardio until you start to develop a light pant, but not to the point where you are too tired or don’t have enough energy to give 100% during weight training. A light-to-medium intensity is best. Stop when you have developed a light sweat.
Do cardio at a different time of the day.
You can also do cardio at a different time of the day to compliment muscle growth. Some people cycle or run in the mornings and then go to the gym after work at night time, for example. Remember that if your goal is to gain as much muscle mass as possible, keep cardio sessions at a low enough duration and intensity that your body does not have too much of a hard time coping with the extra pressure placed on it to adapt to cardio sessions as well. By keeping these sessions at a light intensity, blood circulation is increased and muscles can receive even more nutrients in the middle of their rest periods, and the body will slowly become better at burning fat for energy.
Do cardio on rest days.
Cardio can also be done on rest days. This serves the same benefit as the ones above - the advantage of increasing blood blow to resting muscles to speed up recovery. Some people do this form of complimentary cardio by taking light jogs in the neighborhood or taking a swim in the pool at times that they would be training at the gym.
Doing cardio on rest days is called active rest. Some rest days should be active rest days (that include a light cardio element), and others should allow for complete rest. Complete rest ensures that the central nervous system gets enough time to recover and helps to avoid over-training. Click here for more tips about maximizing every rest day.
Keep this form of complimentary cardio easy as well because it meant to increase the efficiency of rest days, not add extra pressure on the body. A light sweat is a good indication of sufficient exertion.
Don’t overdo it
Cardio can boost muscle growth, but too much of it will start to compete with the body for energy and nutrients over muscle growth. Don’t give as much time and effort to your cardio workout in comparison to your weight training if muscle growth is your most important goal.
Start with super light cardio that doesn’t challenge you as much as your weight training sessions and build up slowly so that your body never redirects the resources to adapt to cardio that it could have used for muscle growth. Keep a good eye on your diet and make sure that you are eating enough calories for the extra energy expenditure along with the usual calories needed for muscle growth.
Balance is always best, but if you want bigger muscle more than the ability to run a mile, tipping the scale in the muscle direction won’t hurt. However, dropping cardio altogether might not really be the quickest way to get there. STAY STRONG!