How Much Cardio for Bodybuilding: Striking the Perfect Balance

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: June 12, 2023
How Much Cardio for Bodybuilding

Cardiovascular exercise plays a crucial role in achieving a well-rounded and aesthetically pleasing physique.

However, finding the right balance between cardio and strength training can be challenging for bodybuilders.

In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the ideal amount of cardio for bodybuilding, its benefits, and how to effectively incorporate it into your fitness 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. By incorporating regular cardio sessions into your workout routine, you can achieve a leaner and more chiseled appearance.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

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

Enhanced Recovery and Endurance

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

Finding the Right Balance: How Much Cardio is Ideal?

Balancing Cardio and Strength Training

The optimal 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, without compromising muscle gains.

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

Both HIIT and steady-state cardio have their advantages for bodybuilding. While 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 but 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 primary goal is fat loss, you may need to increase the frequency and duration of your cardio sessions.

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

To maximize muscle gains and recovery, schedule your cardio sessions on non-lifting days or after strength training workouts. 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. Engaging in activities you find enjoyable increases the likelihood of consistency and long-term success.

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.
  • Intensity: For LISS, maintain a low-to-moderate intensity that allows you to hold a conversation. For HIIT, alternate between high-intensity intervals (80-90% of your maximum heart rate) and low-intensity recovery periods.

Ensure that your cardio sessions do not interfere with your weightlifting goals by scheduling 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)
  • Incorporating more challenging intervals in your HIIT workouts (e.g., lengthening high-intensity periods or shortening rest periods)
  • Increasing the resistance or incline on cardio machines

The Bottom Line

Cardiovascular exercise is a vital component of a well-rounded bodybuilding program. The key is to strike the perfect balance between cardio and strength training to optimize fat loss, muscle growth, and overall health.

By following the guidelines and tips provided in this blog post, you can effectively incorporate cardio into your bodybuilding routine and achieve the impressive physique you desire.

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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.