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Strength Training for Muscle Mass

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Cardio and Weight Training - is it mixing Oil and Water?

To many bodybuilders, powerlifters and strength athletes, it would seem like cardio and weight lifting simply do not mix well. There are several issues that can make it tricky to successfully combine the two.

Firstly, long drawn out cardio sessions aren’t exactly conducive to muscle growth. Long sessions can actually eat into your gains and break down muscle tissue and prolong recovery from your weights sessions.

If you’re someone who has a hard time gaining mass – i.e. you’re a hardgainer with a high metabolism – then cardio is just another way to burn much needed calories, and you’ll find yourself having to eat even more to pack on size.

However there are some real benefits to combining cardio and weight training. If done intelligently, it’s possible to get pretty damn fit aerobically without compromising your strength, muscle or power gains. In fact, it’s possible to come up with a program that combines cardio and weight training in a way that actually supports your gains in the weights room.

One excellent way to make sure your cardio isn’t overshadowing your weight lifting and suppressing your gains is to keep your sessions short and sharp. High Intensity Interval training is excellent in this respect – it usually involves a 10 minute warmup, followed by 5-12 minutes of sprints and rests, with varying degrees of intensity and length of rest period.

Although it’s actually anaerobic work, the cardiovascular benefits are often as good as, and sometimes greater, than the results you’d see with long drawn out steady-state cardio. If you’re really interested in minimising your cardio time and maximising your results, you’d do well to check out Tabata intervals. Total working time? 4 minutes, with 50% greater gains in VO2 max than standard cardio. Sounds too good to be true, but the studies speak for themselves.

Another good tip for making sure that cardio doesn’t break down too much muscle tissue is to “bracket” your cardio with carbs and protein.

This doesn’t mean consuming huge meals before and after sessions. The idea is to consume small injections of carbs and protein 30 mins before, and immediately after, your cardio work. Something like 20g of whey and 20g of carbs before and after works great. This keeps your protein synthesis in the black during your cardio, and means you’re using the energy you’ve consumed, rather than breaking down muscle

Cardio “bracketing” is especially effective if you prefer to do your cardio in the morning before breakfast, as this is the time when your body is most likely to turn to your muscles for energy.

Putting Cardio and Weight Training Together

If you structure your program intelligently, with at least 1-2 rest days and the right balance of short-sharp cardio sessions and effective free-weight workouts, its entirely possible to increase strength and size along with making good gains in cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance.


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