Why do we need cardiovascular training in bodybuilding I hear as my first question? I will bounce a question back when answering this question.

What are we doing when lifting weights? My answer is we are doing a sport and I would say that most sporting activities have a good general effect on the body. As an amateur I heard loads of negative myths about cardiovascular training such as:

You lose muscle if you do too much cardiovascular work (true if you starve yourself)
I have no time after my workout for cardiovascular training (lazy persons excuse)
I lose too much strength when doing cardiovascular training (lazy attitude again)
When bulking you have to stay away from any form of cardiovascular training

OK, I will agree with you I made several excuses not to do cardiovascular training when I first started as an amateur and as you may know I struggled with condition at that level. Looking back now, I can now tell you what the mistake was. Plain and simple, I never did any cardiovascular training at any stage of amateur bodybuilding and came from a body weight of roughly 20 stone (off season weight) all the way down to 14.5 stone (contest weight).

The diets were very calorie restricted and bland as hell. Dieting for me as an amateur was pure torture. Throughout these diets I was dieting for 25 weeks with carbohydrates being in the range of 50- 100 grams per day.

Many people said to me it’s not a starving/fasting competition its bodybuilding a sport. When I turned professional I began to understand what I was doing and needed to do so began by asking myself: What are the benefits of this pain in the ass cardiovascular training?

The heart; it is a muscle and by doing cardiovascular training the heart develops more (train the heart like any other body part is what I believe), it is strengthened so is able to squeeze a greater volume of blood out per contraction leading to greater pump.

Recovery after exercise increases, meaning as a bodybuilder you can spend more time under tension leading to greater muscle breakdown when training, leading to more calories needed to fuel the system. Endorphins are be released causing us to feel happier and healthier (healthy bod, healthy mind), increased calorie expenditure and higher metabolic rate.

How much cardiovascular training do we need to do? I now keep CV work in all year round the minimum time spending on CV during the off season being 20 minutes. My reason to keep the CV in all year round is to keep body fat levels in check. Also to train the heart and also not to shock the body when increasing the time and amount of CV during actual contest preparation period.

In the off season I perform cardiovascular training sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (at 60% intensity) and I still do 1 x 2 hour kick boxing session per week.

During contest preparation I will do cardiovascular training Monday through to Saturday consisting of the following pieces of equipment:
Stationary bike
X- trainer
Rowing machine
Power walk on hills on the grass (great for gluteus and hamstring)

When preparing for contest I believe in starting the CV high as in 2 sessions of minimum 45 minutes each Monday through to Saturday leaving Sunday a total day of rest from any physical activity getting ready for the next weeks training onslaught. At 16 weeks out from contest I will also stop my kick boxing classes.

You may think – why start so high? Well I believe in starting high when my body fat levels are high and my energy levels are higher than what they would be at the end of the diet.

I hear you ask, “where I get my 45 minutes and number of days per week?”
For optimum health results it has been proven one should exercise aerobically for at least 3 times per week and it takes us a minimum 20 minutes to get into our fat burning stage when doing continues aerobic activity.

Recently I discussed this with Douglas Black, MD of Extreme Nutrition, as I was doing 30 minutes and stopped loosing body fat so he suggested I increased this time to 45 minutes and hey presto the body fat continued to drop. So I say the longer we can stay in that fat burning stage the better and I usually work at approximately 65 -70 % of my maximum heart rate (220 – age x 0.65 = ideal number of heart beats per minute to maximize fat burning benefits from your cardio).

Do I ever do High Intensity Interval Training HIIT? Yes, during contest preparation I do HIIT on my last session of CV after my weights session on a Monday and Friday and my reasons are that post exercise lipid utilization is greatly enhanced with HIIT. Meaning even after exercise the body will continue to burn fat.

I also believe that intense exercise also will cause the body to release more human Growth Hormone (hGH). Anabolic hormones such as hGH and testosterone are important to losing fat, building and retaining muscle mass.

HIIT will produce sharp rise in both these hormones which is vital for our purpose in building muscle when calories are restricted. HIIT can also increase fat burning at rest by increasing metabolism. So this is why I keep HIIT into my programme when getting shredded. Please note that you only need to keep these sessions to minimum, i.e. 1-2 per week maximum 25 minutes per session or you run the risk of over training.

When to do cardiovascular activity? I perform my CV activity in the off season first thing in the morning after a 1 scoop of Extreme Nutrition Whey. I have the scoop of Whey to prevent my body from going catabolic.

In the contest preparation faze I still do my first session in the morning then my last session is normally done after training. This means I actually get 2 fat burning stages morning and night.

Conclusion; Train the heart like any other muscle, by doing CV work you will be able to eat more calories during contest preparation.
1. Cardiovascular work helps muscle soreness and helps ease DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
2. Cardiovascular work helps overall fitness.
3. Great for overall mood elevation during contest preparation

Don’t be lazy just do it, it’s the only way to get in true contest shape and also keep your heart in as good shape as the rest of you.