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Benefits of Cardio when Lean Bulking

You don’t need to do cardio when lean bulking, but that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from it.

The way I see it, cardio helps you in 4 ways:

1. It helps prevent fat gain

Of course, cardio doesn’t burn fat in and of itself when you’re in a surplus. That’s not how it prevents fat gain.

The way it does that is by burning some more calories.

Most people (myself included) get too relaxed with their nutrition when bulking for long periods of time. It’s very easy to go 100-200 calories over what you planned for the day and not even realize it.

By doing some cardio, you can increase your energy expenditure and negate those extra calories you ate.

2. May improve recovery

In the world of sports, there are two types of recovery: active and passive.

Cardio can be a sort of active recovery.

This applies mostly to your legs. If you are sore from a very hard leg workout, doing some light cardio may help decrease DOMS which is usually an indicator of improved recovery. The way cardio helps in this regard is by improving blood flow which means the delivery of nutrients is also improved.

I don’t know exactly how much of a difference this actually makes. You certainly don’t need to do cardio to get recovered from your workouts. But it may help.

3. Supports future fat loss

I learned this information from Lyle McDonald: Cardio and Mass Gain

Here is a part of that article:

During the overfeeding that is needed to generate maximum gains in muscle mass, the body often loses some of its ability to use fat as a fuel and this can take a couple of weeks to get fully ramped back up when calories are restricted (I suspect this explains some of the odd delay that seems to occur in true fat loss when people start dieting again).

And this seems to be even more pronounced if folks have been doing zero cardio while they are gaining muscle mass.  By keeping in some amount of cardio during the mass gaining phase, at least some ability to use fat effectively for fuel is maintained.  When the dieting phase eventually starts, the body will be a in better place to use fat for fuel.

4. It makes you feel more energized

This is something I noticed only recently.

Up until this last summer, I didn’t do any cardio. I thought it was a waste of time. I didn’t have any problem getting lean or gaining strength without it.

But since I started going out of my way to be active every day (at least 7000 steps a day) I feel so much more energized. I noticed a big improvement in my sleep quality and mental alertness.

What types of cardio to do

If you don’t like walking, then you can do cardio at he gym or at home using a cardio machine. Here’s what you can do:

Moderate Intensity Cardio

You’ll hear people say that you shouldn’t do moderate intensity cardio and weightlifting at the same time because it impairs strength gains.

That’s true. But only if you try to progressively overload both types of training at the same time. Unless you try to run longer, faster, and more frequently you will not be signalling improvements in endurance are demanded.

If you only do casual running, swimming, cycling, etc. you will just maintain your level of cardiovascular fitness and burn some calories.

When doing moderate intensity cardio, keep in mind these points:

  • any type of activity works
  • do it for the purpose of burning calories, not performance
  • keep sessions short and don’t do more than 2-3 hours of cardio per week

High Intensity Interval Training

I think that the best type of cardio to do at the gym is High Intensity Interval Training.

It’s great for conditioning, burns more calories per minute compared to low intensity cardio and may also support strength gains because it’s similar to weightlifting in terms of high effort and rest periods.

The idea for HIIT is not to push hard against heavy resistance, but it’s to be fast so you bring your heart rate up.

You can use any type of machine at the gym, just know that it’s probably best to do low impact cardio, meaning when your legs don’t repeatedly hit the floor. Decelerating your legs when you hit the floor creates significant muscle damage and that may negatively affect recovery, not improve it.

One session of HIIT done a bike would look like this:

  • 2-5 minutes warm-up
  • 30 seconds of pedaling as hard as you can
  • 60-90 seconds of pedaling on the lowest intensity
  • 30 seconds of pedaling as hard as you can
  • 60-90 seconds of pedaling on the lowest intensity
  • repeat this for 20-25 minutes
  • 2-3 minutes cooldown (optional)

You could do this routine 2 or 3 times a week.

Alternatively you can play sports 1 or 2 times a week on rest days for 20-30 minutes. Sports usually involve short periods of high effort with longer periods of walking or rest – so it’s very similar to HIIT. A great advantage of playing sports is that they are much more enjoyable than normal cardio because you have fun and you play with your friends or team.

That’s my take on cardio for lean bulking. What’s your opinion? Any feedback or questions? Let me know in the comment section below! 

The Program that built my physique

I follow the GGP even when it comes to cardio. I just walk on rest days and sometimes do abs as well.

Greg designed it in a way that you are not dependent on cardio to stay lean. It’s just too easy to negate the effect of cardio by eating a bit of food. They key to lean bulking is actually preventing overeating. And the strategies  in this program (Intermittent Fasting, Calorie Cycling, Reduced number of meals) all help keep your food intake in check.

Check out my one year transformation with it. I was able to make pretty lean gains even though I gained a lot of weight.

Click here to see a few more success stories with it


  1. Anonim on November 3, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Ma poti ajuta cu un sfat..?La inclinat cu ganterele imi tremura bratele si astfel am redus greutatea..ultima data am facut doar cu ganterele de 15kg prima serie(eu avand 68)..e a treia oara cand fac cu ganterele la inclinat..iar “supraveghetorul” de la sala mi-a spus sa reduc greutatea..dar ar merge si cu 20kg..ce mi-ai sugera sa fac?reduc greutatea si mai mult sau continui sa cresc greutatea?miscarea e corecta..doar ca imi tremura putin bratele..

    • Radu Antoniu on November 8, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Daca te simti in controlul greutatilor e ok. Daca iti tremura asa de tare mainile ca aproape scapi ganterele, atunci ar insemna ca folosesti greutati prea mari.

  2. Razvan Bugoi on November 14, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Salut Radu . Am nevoie de ajutorul tau daca esti amabil . In prezent urmez programul lui Greg , BMP de 6 saptamani insa as vrea ca pe langa asta sa fac un sport de contact gen box ( asta ar insemna 3 antrenamente pe saptamana ) doar ca asta necesita rezistenta si implica mult cardio presupun , asa ca stiind de la tine ca nu poti progresa la amandoua simultan , as vrea sa aflu totusi daca asta mi-ar afecta in vreun fel progresul in fitness . Daca da, cum ? Si ce mi-ai sugera sa fac daca ai fi in locul meu?
    Astept cu nerabdare raspunsul tau , multumesc si o zi buna !

    • Radu Antoniu on November 17, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Salut Razvan!

      Atata timp cat nu vei incerca sa progresezi la cardio (sa faci mai mult, mai intens, mai des, etc.) o sa fie ok. Corpul tau se va adapta la un nou nivel de rezistenta si apoi va ramane acolo.

      Nu cred ca o sa iti afecteze prea tare antrenamentele din BMP (poate chiar deloc)

      • Bugoi Razvan on November 17, 2015 at 1:55 pm

        Atat voiam sa aud Radu . Ma simt usurat dupa ce am citit raspunsul de la tine , multumesc mult !

  3. Luka on January 7, 2017 at 2:02 pm


    Great article

    I have a q

    I’m actually going to be cutting and i will put myself on 20-25% deficit of my TDEE. My strategy initially included calorie deficit and walking ( in order to create that deficit)

    I had a problem with targeting my stubborn fat on the first cut – just by walking and being on -25% of kcal – so I want to change my strategy and implement HIIT.

    The question is If I am already on -25% of my TDEE and i will burn additional kcal doing HIIT shall I eat this burned kcal (HIIT burned) bakc? so the deficit will be moderate on around 500kacl (2-25%of TDEE) ? I am just afraid that by doing HIIT i will crate too large deficit and burn muscles…as well.

    Thanks in advance

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