Do You Still Need Cardio If You Lift Weights?

Do You Still Need Cardio If You Lift Weights?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is that it can depend based on what type of lifting you are doing and what your current lifestyle is like. And while everyone is different and everyone’s priorities are different, cardio is not something that should be ignored.

The importance of cardio

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise is the type of exercise that works the heart muscle and is related to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic disease outcomes. The same way we do bicep curls to challenge the bicep and help it grow and get strong, raising your heart rate in a controlled way helps your heart become more efficient and effective at doing its job.

The fact is that the average lifting routine in the gym doesn’t provide enough challenge to the heart muscle, and it often gets ignored by gym go-ers with all levels of experience. 

Will it compromise your ability to build muscle?

There is a fear that doing cardio will compromise your ability to build muscle and strength, assuming that is your primary goal. However, being overall more “fit,” which includes cardio fitness, is likely to help enhance your overall athletic performance even with weight bearing exercise as well.

Being more physically active in even just a moderate way, like taking more steps or doing a couple bouts of cardio a week can help you with your recovery and resilience in the weight room because of the increased blood flow.

So long as you are providing enough nutrients to your body through adequate nutrition and enough stimulus through adequate resistance exercise, there should not be a worry about some cardio severely affecting your gains.

Ways to add cardio to your routine

If strength performance and muscle building are your top priority, there are some ways to strategically implement cardio, so it doesn’t leave you too tired to give your full effort in the weight room. 

Some tips include:

  • Opt for longer bouts of lower intensity cardio (I.e., 30-60 minutes at a comfortable, speaking pace)
  • Do cardio on off days from lifting
  • Do cardio after, not before, any weight training
  • If you wish to combine cardio and weights, do so on a day right before a rest day
  • Start slow and do not over-do it right off the top as this will put you at risk for injury
  • Raise your heart rate in a way that is enjoyable to you (run, dance, cycle, skip)
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