If you’re a dedicated bodybuilder you’re more than likely familiar with the famous documentary Pumping Iron.
Heck, it’s probably a big part of what got you into the sport in the first place. There’s a well known scene in the doc where Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about “the pump”.
The feeling where your muscles fill with blood and seem almost instantaneously transformed right as your mind gets a huge surge of adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine from the exertion.
It’s a high reward experience that feels like…
Well, here’s what he said it feels like. Many bodybuilders chase the pump and when they get it they stand in front of the mirror, take off their shirts and see their gains.
But in order for those gains to be optimal and sustainable, bodybuilders must also embrace another discipline.
A discipline that does not offer the pump or the seemingly instantaneous results. In fact it’s a discipline many bodybuilders can do without altogether. We’re talking about… Cardio.
But I hate cardio!
I know, I know. Cardio doesn’t offer the same instantaneous feeling of reward and achievement that pushing weights offers us.
In fact it feels like, well, hard work… And that’s because it is.
Hard work on the treadmill, rowing machine or cross trainer doesn’t feel like hard work in the same way as hard work on the bench feels but it’s both necessary and extremely rewarding.
You may well hate some forms of cardio but it’s extremely unlikely that you hate all cardio.
It’s important to try lots of different forms of cardio and embrace the right one for you on any given day.
If you’ve blown out your quads on leg day, for example, you’re not going to want to hit the static bike.
But if you get down to PerfectRower you’ll be able to find a rowing machine that gives you a whole body workout while taking the pressure off your legs.
Accomplished bodybuilders aren’t accustomed to unfamiliarity at the gym, but it only takes a couple of weeks to get comfy with cardio
I’m still not convinced, why do I need cardio?
Sure, increasing your lean muscle mass will boost your metabolism, but if your training regimen is confined solely to weights, your gains will still be obscured by a veneer of fat.
Cardio is a great way to get your muscles harder, leaner and more visible.
You also don’t need a PhD to know that a body can’t be healthy without a healthy heart.
Gaining the kind of significant muscle mass that competition bodybuilders require places a great deal of strain on the heart and so it’s essential that bodybuilders take steps to improve their heart health.
Won’t cardio diminish my muscle gains?
Not necessarily. If you were to finish every weight session with 30 minutes of high intensity interval training this would obviously not be ideal, but nobody’s suggesting that.
Instead focus on 30-40 minutes of low intensity exercise within your body’s heart rate parameters for fat burning twice a week.
But can I overdo it with the cardio?
Of course, just as with any form of exercise, it’s important to afford yourself at least two recovery days a week in order to allow your body to adjust to your new regimen.
Every 6-8 weeks it’s probably a good idea to take a whole week off without hitting the gym at all. You’ll be all the stronger, faster and leaner for it when you bounce back!