Is Cardio Detrimental to Gains?
Cardio is known to most weight lifters as evil; it ruins all the gains and would cause setbacks in strength and hypertrophy. The question is, how true is this? Most people hear this from word of mouth or “bro-science”. We’re going to dive deeper into it and see the real results.
WHERE DID THIS ORIGINATE?
Since the dawn of the gym, it has always been said that if you do cardio you’re going to ruin any gains (muscle gains/hypertrophy) you may get. It’s also believed that you may also lose out on any strength benefits from your resistance training. You do resistance training to gain strength/muscle mass. You do cardio to lose weight/fat. Thinking about this logically, it almost seems counterproductive to do cardio and resistance training together. It makes sense, which is why this is believed amongst lifters.
DOES CARDIO DETEREMENT GAINS?
There are different forms of cardio. There is high-intensity training (HIT) and there is also moderate-intensity endurance training (MOD) (There are more but this is what we’ll be focusing on.) A study conducted in 2016(1), it showed that people who combined MOD and regular resistance training (weight training) saw a slight increase in mass, mainly in the lower body. However, combining HIT and resistance training didn’t show much of an increase in mass. The difference wasn’t too significant though. Overall, resistance training solely had the best outcome of hypertrophy gains. From that study, the upper body and total body growth didn’t increase to a significant amount.
DOES CARDIO DETEREMENT STRENGTH GAINS?
Strength is different from just ordinary muscle gain. Strength is defined as “Physical strength is the measure of an animal's exertion of force on physical objects”. When we workout, we usually test our strength by performing a one-rep max. Doing so, we can determine how strong we are. From the same study from 2016(1), people who incorporated HIT or MOD into their resistance training saw a lower increase in strength vs people who only did resistance training. If you’re looking to increase strength, your best bet is to limit the cardio as much as possible or at least do something not too intense.
DOING TOO MUCH
If you’re in a caloric surplus and you’re doing resistance training, you’ll most likely experience hypertrophy and strength gains. However, when you add cardio into the equation you’re increasing your workload and you’re expending more energy than normal. If you keep the same diet and keep your caloric intake the same, you’re bound to either maintain or even lose mass. It’s very important that if your goal is to gain mass/strength and you’re doing cardio, you must consider that factor and increase your caloric intake even more. If you don’t know what your caloric intake and what factors to consider, click here.
Cardio definitely has an effect on your muscular gains and strength. However, from the research I was looking into, there are some variables I would like to see that weren’t taken place, such as swapping when cardio was done and when resistance training was done during the workout (the people who were doing this experiment were doing cardio first, then resistance training.) If more information becomes available, I’ll make sure to revisit this article and give additional information. If you’re looking to make muscular gains or strength gains, you should limit the cardio. If you need to do cardio, make sure to keep it at a low level, and to increase your caloric intake.