Cardio Increases Muscle Growth?

“Cardio bashing” has become rampant in the fitness industry in the last few years. Have you noticed?I sure have.Both practitioners and experts alike have been blogging away, posting on forums and writing books based on the notion that:

  • cardio is a waste of time (“just lift weights and eat right”)
  • cardio will chew up your muscle
  • cardio will sap your strength

Even degreed and certified strength and conditioning coaches have been known to tell their clients to avoid cardio and just focus on weight training.

What if I told you they may be mistaken?

What if I told all those cardio haters that there’s a way to do cardio that will actually…


My guess is that a lot of them wouldn’t believe me (or they’d just get P****d off because this conflicts with their beliefs).

Most people have been programmed to believe that that when you’re working on gaining muscle, you should stop doing all cardio.

Research says otherwise and my experience backs it up.

A study published in the journal Medicine and Science and Sports and Exercise (McCarthy) recruited 30 sedentary (untrained) healthy men who were divided into three groups.

The strength group performed eight weight training exercises for one warm up set and three maximal effort sets for 5 to 7 reps per set, to the point of muscular failure.

Rest between sets was approximately 75 seconds.

The endurance group performed 50 minutes of continuous cycling at 70% of heart rate reserve. The concurrent group completed the strength and the endurance protocol in the same session, with a 10-20 minute break between each workout (lifting or cycling).

The order of weight lifting or cycling was rotated with each session.

Results: When strength and endurance training were performed on the same day and for only 3 days per week on alternate days, strength development was NOT compromised as compared to the strength training only.

But here’s the kicker: The subjects in the concurrent training group actually experienced greater muscle growth in the thighs than the strength training only group!

Another study was performed at the University of Kansas Department of Exercise Science (Dolezal). The results were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

This time the subjects were experienced trainees.

Thirty men who had already been training 3 days per week for at least a year were assigned to one of three groups – endurance training, resistance training or concurrent training.

The resistance training group used a combination of free weights and Universal machines. The program was a 2 day split divided into upper and lower body workouts.

They performed 3 sets of 10-15 reps the first week and the resistance was progressively increased toward the end of the 10 week study so that failure occurred at 10-12 reps on the first set, 8-10 on the second set and 4-8 on the third set.

The endurance training group participated in a jogging or running program, progressively increasing in duration and intensity to meet a new training goal every 2 weeks.

They started at 65% of age-derived maximum heart rate for 25 minutes and built up to 75-85% of max heart rate for 40 minutes by the end of the study.

This study was different than similar studies because basal metabolic rate (BMR) was also measured.

The BMR for the resistance training and concurrent groups increased, while BMR for the endurance-only group decreased.

In the concurrent group, there was a decrease in body fat and an increase in fat free mass as well as an increase in strength.


An increase in fat-free (lean) mass *AND* a decrease in body fat.

Ok, so if this is possible, then why all the cardio bashing?

Exercise scientists have studied the effect of concurrent cardio (endurance) and strength training at length. I read nearly 20 studies on the subject prior to writing the Holy Grail cardio program.

When you read the research, you see how excessive aerobics or endurance training can indeed reduce power, strength and even lean body mass.

But if you read a little deeper, you see that moderate amounts of cardio – even up to 2 to 2.5 hours per week can actually INCREASE LEAN BODY MASS WHILE DECREASING BODY FAT!

My two cents: A lot of people bash cardio just because they hate doing it.

Hey, fair enough, I’m not particularly fond of it myself, But…

Most people could actually get better results if they included cardio during their muscle gain programs…

It can prevent the “bulked-up” look where you do gain muscle, but put on fat at the same time.

And when it comes to “body recomposition” – which means gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time – I believe that including cardio is almost a necessity for most body types.

Why does excessive cardio hold back strength, power and muscle gains, while moderate cardio can actually improve muscle growth?

Those mechanisms are beyond the scope of this short newsletter, but there are many reasons, which I explain in the Holy Grail body transformation manual.

In the meantime, Here’s my quick n dirty recommendations for cardio during muscle gaining programs:

  • 2-3 days per week
  • 20-50 minutes per session
  • intensity will be higher for shorter sessions
  • intensity will be medium / lower on longer sessions
  • Busy people use HIIT to save time
  • If you exceed 3d/wk, additional cardio should be low-intensity
  • Hate cardio machines? Use your imagination and do something you enjoy. Cardio doesn’t just mean ‘Treadmill’
  • ectomorphs: You might get away with little or no cardio
  • endomorphs: cardio is absolutely crucial to avoid gaining fat with the muscle

As en “endomorph” body type myself, I have the tendency to gain fat while gaining muscle. Keeping a moderate amount of cardio in my routine all year round – even during the muscle building phases has worked WONDERS for keeping my gains lean.

So there you have it…

Do cardio to gain LEAN muscle!…

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author ofBurn the Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has writtenover 140 articles and has been featured in Iron Man Magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development,Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for and the nutrition editor for and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.