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Why Cardio Can Help You Build Muscle

You Need To Know This!

By Aron Buzzell Published 

Some believe that cardio is a muscle “killer”. They believe doing too much cardio will impede your gains or make you skinny. This may be true to a point, but doing cardio may actually help you build muscle! First and foremost, the heart is the most important muscle in the body. Period. And without an adequately conditioned heart, no-one can expect to achieve the results they want in a healthy manner.


How Can The Heart Help Muscle Hypertrophy?


  • Stroke Volume: This is the amount of blood your heart can pump out to the body per contraction. Doing cardiovascular training can improve your S.V so that your heart is better at pumping out the things your muscles need to grow bigger and stronger (e.g. oxygen and other nutrients).

  • Overall Recovery: Being more aerobically fit allows your rest time in between sets to diminish. This means your heart gets better at pumping oxygen to your muscles, restoring energy like ATP and allowing you to get back to your next set faster.


This also means your body will recover better on your off days and while you’re sleeping. The heart is the main driver for GAINS, and if you don’t have it a little aerobically conditioned, you’re likely missing out on potential muscle growth.


What Kind Of Cardio Should You Be Doing?

Put simply, cardio is any low-to-moderate intensity, repetitive movement that can be done for greater than three minutes. This includes things like running, biking, rowing, walking up stairs etc. Doing cardio for moderate-to-high level intensity for 3 sets of 3-5 minutes and resting for 3-5 minutes is a simple implication. I like to bump it up to moderate-to-high intensity (rather than low-to-moderate) because you’re not going for a very long duration, so it’s better to bump up the intensity.



For the average gym goer improving their health and putting on muscle, this should be fine.

If you’re an elite level power or strength athlete (or trying to be), doing cardio frequently may impede your performance. If you start running a few miles every day or at a frequency that matches how often you lift, yes, your body may adapt by attacking muscle tissue to make you more efficient for long endurance training, and make you smaller. However, this would only be if you were not feeding your body enough calories and the proper ratios of macros to compensate for your extra activity.



If done at the correct intensities, and at the proper frequency, cardio can actively help you gain more muscle. The key to avoid losing your gains with ‘too much cardio’, is to make sure your diet is on point, and that you minimize long bouts of Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio. Focus on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), eat plenty of food, and you won’t have to worry about cardio robbing you of your hard earned gains!

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About the Author

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Aron Buzzell

Head of Training @ FIT4U Personal Training & Certified Exercise Physiologist

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