Can You Do Cardio While Bulking?
By: Zack Mathews
It’s an age old question, should you do cardio while bulking or sit on your ass and binge watch Marvel movies every second you aren’t lifting weights?
The latter does sound appealing, but the truth is, cardio while bulking IS something you should be doing. I’ll break down how much cardio to do while bulking, the best forms of cardio to minimize muscle loss, and how to incorporate it into your main strength workouts.
- The Benefits Of Cardio When Bulking
- The 4 Best Cardio Options While Bulking
- Avoid This Form Of Cardio During Bulking
- Should I Do Cardio While Bulking Recap
If I wrote this article 5 years ago, I would have been telling you not to do cardio, but my views have changed because of the multitude of benefits you reap from doing it including:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved endurance during strength training
- Aiding in recovery
Having a healthy heart that is functioning properly is something literally every person on this earth wants and needs. What’s the point of being bulky and strong if you’re not healthy?
According to Pubmed , “regular walking may help improve cholesterol profile, help control hypertension, and slow the process of osteoporosis. Recent physiological studies have demonstrated that brisk walking provides strenuous enough exercise for cardiovascular training in most adults.”
See how this study was about walking? That’s a little preview of what’s to come.
This might come as a surprise to you, but improvements in cardio during a bulk can actually improve your performance in the gym.
With improved work capacity from your cardiovascular health, you will be able to recover quicker and that can result in more volume you are able to handle in a shorter period of time.
During a bulk, your priority should be on your gym workouts and nutrition. Speaking of those two, if you need a bulking meal plan or want a 3 day per week training program, check out these articles:
In order to maximize your performance in the gym, you need to be recovered and don’t want to be going into workouts overly sore. Adding cardio when bulking can help your body recover quicker and get you back in the gym feeling refreshed.
With the benefits stated above about what walking can do for you, this is going to be one of the best forms of cardio you can do while bulking.
The benefits of walking when bulking include:
- Easy on the joints
- Doesn’t require skill to learn
- Can be done at anytime and anywhere
- Won’t deter muscle growth from occurring
Walking can be done daily for 30 - 60 minutes. If you can do it outside so you get vitamin D from the sun while you walk, that’s an added win.
Zone 2 cardio while bulking can be a great option because it allows you to get your heart rate up higher than you would walking but it doesn’t interfere with your recovery. You’ll still be able to prioritize your strength training while you bulk and not have any setbacks.
This zone refers to your heart rate and for most people, that’s in the range of 115 - 135 beats per minute, but may fluctuate based on age, performance, and medication.
Alex Viada from Complete Human Performance says you know you are in zone 2 by doing the “talk test”. You should be able to speak 12 - 15 words before you need to take a breath. If you were on the phone with someone, they should know you are exercising, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing the whole time.
Pick your favorite cardio machine (treadmill, elliptical, bike) and do up to 2 days of 30 - 60 minutes of zone 2 training while bulking.
HIIT cardio when you’re bulking should be for the shortest amount of time compared to walking and zone 2 training. HIIT takes more of a toll on your body and you don’t want your workouts to suffer because of this type of training.
Most people don’t understand what HIIT training is really like and say they did a whole 60 minute HIIT workout. They are sadly mistaken.
Effective HIIT cardio while bulking will be 1 - 2 times a week for 10 - 15 minutes. It’s short enough where it won’t interfere with your main lifts but you will still get the cardio health benefits.
An example of HIIT cardio when bulking would be to do 10 minutes on the assault bike where you do 20 seconds all out and 40 seconds of casual strolling. You’ll be smoked after 10 minutes!
It’s a big win if you can incorporate your favorite hobbies as your cardio when bulking. Remember this, your bulk doesn’t need to be your whole life where you give up everything else you do.
If you enjoy hobbies such as shooting hoops, playing golf or tennis, hiking, swimming, recreation sports leagues, surfing, and/or dancing, do it!
Depending on how intense the exercise is, stick to 1 - 2 days a week.
Any cardio that is long distance and burns a lot of calories should be avoided.
If you love long distance running you might want to take a break from it. Take a look at the greatest marathon runners. They are all super thin for a reason. They burn so many calories while they run! Doing long distance cardio is not in your best interest while bulking.
Excessive time doing hobbies that burn a lot of calories might want to be avoided as well.
For example, if you love basketball and want to bulk, you’ll want to limit your court time to 1 - 2 times per week. If you are playing 6 times a week it’s going to be hard to eat enough calories to gain weight AND your strength workouts will probably suffer because of the demand from the sport.
Besides long distance endurance cardio, it’s important and beneficial to add cardio into your program while bulking to improve cardiovascular health, improve endurance for strength workouts, and to aid in recovery.
The 4 best forms of cardio while bulking include:
- Walking: Can be done daily for up to 60 minutes
- Zone 2 Cardio: 1 - 2 times a week for 30 - 60 minutes
- HIIT Cardio: 1 - 2 times a week for 10 - 15 minutes
- Favorite Hobby: 1 - 2 times per week. Time based on intensity of activity