Despite popular belief the best way to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight is NOT endless cardio. Resistance training is the end all be all for that. But, that being said, does cardio harm your muscle gains? Not exactly and it depends!
Here’s a basic explanation. When you do nothing but cardio, your body learns to adapt and it tries to make itself as lean as it can to make the cardio easier for your body to accomplish. This is the opposite of what resistance training does. With training, you send a strong signal to your body to build muscle. So, the two “can” be at odds with one another. Still, cardio is the best way to train your heart muscle, and it helps build overall endurance, so it should be an essential part of your routine.
As someone who struggles to pack on muscle (and keep it on), I tend to limit my cardio. There have been times where I haven’t done it at all. A half hour walk twice per day is all I’ve done for weeks on end. Recently, though, I purchased a Peloton for my home gym and I really enjoy riding! In fact, I have to force myself not to ride every day because it does impact my lifts, tiring my muscles. How am I fitting it into my routine? Below are a few options to consider:
- Ride on rest days. If you do this, keep in mind that not every ride should be a burner. Mix in some low impact, too, so you don’t overdo it and ruin your stamina for your heavy lift days.
- Ride at the end of your resistance training workout. Depending on the type of lift you could choose a HIIT ride as a finisher, or a cooldown or beginner ride if you need something less taxing.
- Ride at the opposite end of the day from when you train. If you lift in the morning, ride in the evening. Still, this could be too much for your body so listen to those aching muscles and if you get too sore and/or you can’t lift as much, cut back.
My sweet spot appears to be two to three rides per week, all on rest days. I am still doing beginner and low impact rides for the most part and not overly taxing my body. I’ve noticed that my legs are stronger and more shapely since I started the rides. They are so fun, too, and completely different from the solo training I usually do.
Bottom line? You can do cardio and resistance training. You just have to be smart about it and not let one overpower the other. Staying in tune with your body is key. Happy riding (and lifting)!