How Much Cardio for Bodybuilding: Striking the Perfect Balance

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: December 15, 2023
How Much Cardio for Bodybuilding

Exercise that makes your heart work, like running or biking, is important for a strong and good-looking body.

It can be hard for people building muscles to figure out how much of this exercise to do and how much time to spend lifting weights.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how much heart-pumping exercise to do when trying to build muscles. We’ll also discuss why it’s good for you, and how to make it part of your workout routine.

The Importance of Cardio for Bodybuilders

Fat Loss and Muscle Definition

Cardiovascular exercise is essential for burning excess body fat and revealing muscle definition. Incorporate regular cardio into your workout routine. This will help you achieve a leaner, more chiseled appearance.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Consistent cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart. It also improves lung capacity and reduces the risk of heart disease. A healthy cardiovascular system supports overall health and well-being. This can lead to better performance in the gym.

Enhanced Recovery and Endurance

Regular cardio sessions can improve blood circulation. This leads to faster recovery times and reduced muscle soreness. Additionally, cardiovascular exercise boosts endurance levels. This allows for longer and more intense strength-training sessions.

Finding the Right Balance: How Much Cardio is Ideal?

Balancing Cardio and Strength Training

The best amount of cardio for bodybuilding depends on individual goals, current fitness levels, and personal preferences. As a general guideline, aim for at least 2-3 cardio sessions per week, lasting between 20 and 45 minutes each. This frequency allows for effective fat loss and improved cardiovascular health. It does not compromise muscle gains.

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High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) vs. Steady-State Cardio

Both HIIT and steady-state cardio have their advantages for bodybuilding. Steady-state cardio consists of longer, moderate-intensity workouts. HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense exercise and brief rest periods.

HIIT is time-efficient and can have a greater impact on fat loss, but it can also be more taxing on the body.

Steady-state cardio is easier to recover from. However, it may require longer sessions for similar results. Experiment with both types of cardio to find which method works best for you.

Adjusting Cardio Frequency Based on Goals

If your main goal is fat loss, you may need to do more cardio and make each session last longer.

Conversely, if your focus is on muscle gain, you may want to limit cardio to avoid hindering progress. Monitor your results and make adjustments as needed to align with your goals.

Tips for Incorporating Cardio into Your Bodybuilding Routine

Schedule Cardio Wisely

Schedule your cardio sessions on non-lifting days or after strength training workouts. This will maximize muscle gains and recovery. This allows for sufficient recovery time and prevents potential interference with muscle growth.

Choose Activities You Enjoy

Select cardiovascular exercises you enjoy, such as running, swimming, cycling, or rowing. Doing activities you enjoy increases the chances of being consistent and successful long-term.

Monitor Progress and Adjust Accordingly

Regularly assess your progress by tracking your body composition, strength, and endurance levels. Make adjustments to your cardio routine as needed to achieve your desired results.

Programming Cardio in Your Weekly Routine

To effectively incorporate cardio into your bodybuilding routine, consider the following guidelines:

  • Frequency: Aim for 2-3 cardio sessions per week to balance fat loss, endurance, and muscle growth.
  • Duration: LISS sessions should last between 30-60 minutes, while HIIT workouts typically range from 20-30 minutes.
  • Intensity: For LISS, maintain a low-to-moderate intensity that allows you to hold a conversation. For HIIT, alternate between high-intensity intervals and low-intensity recovery periods. High-intensity intervals should be at 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
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Ensure that your cardio sessions don’t interfere with your weightlifting goals. Schedule them on non-lifting days or after strength training workouts.

Progression and Achieving Fitness Milestones

To continue seeing results and reaching new fitness milestones, gradually increase the volume and intensity of your cardio workouts. You can achieve this by:

  • Adding time to your LISS sessions (e.g., increasing from 30 to 45 minutes)
  • Try adding more challenging intervals to your HIIT workouts. For example, you could lengthen high-intensity periods or shorten rest periods.
  • Increasing the resistance or incline on cardio machines

The Bottom Line

Doing exercises that raise your heart rate is really important if you’re trying to build muscles. The trick is to find just the right mix of this kind of exercise and lifting weights. You can lose fat, make your muscles bigger, and keep your body healthy.

This blog post contains advice and tips. Use them to add heart-pumping exercises to your muscle-building routine. Get the strong, awesome-looking body you want.

Dave Moffat

Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.