There are all kinds of cardio exercises that are great for burning calories…but if you make the right choices, you can build muscle with them, too.
Cardio - The Evil Twin
For most bodybuilders, cardiovascular exercise is like the evil twin of weight training. It can decrease lean mass. It increases the time you have to spend in the gym, and it’s really, really boring. Although cardio exercise is generally done for fat burning purposes, there are some types of cardio exercises that will help you build muscle faster.
There are three forms of cardiovascular exercises that will help your muscle-building efforts. These exercises are sprints, jumping, hill-climbing, high-intensity steady state cardio and high-intensity interval training.
Sprints for Maximum Energy Burn
Sprints are a form of cardio, or conditioning, that involve running at an all-out burst of speed followed by a period of rest. Sprints can be done by just running on a track or on the street or by running up a hill.
Another form of sprinting that is highly intense is sled sprints or prowler sprints. With sled sprints, you are pulling a sled or some heavy object as you run. With prowler sprints, you are pushing some heavy object as you run. Sprints provide you with both an aerobic and anaerobic workout so you will be building muscle as you exercise your cardiovascular system.
Jumping for Intense Training
Jumping rope or doing box jumps will give you a very intense workout that will help you build muscle. Jumping rope is a workout that is used often by boxers and with great effect. Not only does it burn a lot of calories (10 or more calories per minute depending on intensity level), it requires more muscle activation and recruits more muscle fibers.
Box jumps are another form of cardio exercise that can help you increase your lean mass faster. Box jumps require the use of a plyometric box that can be found in various heights. After doing 10 or more box jumps, you will feel the burn in your legs and your cardiovascular system will be pumped up as well.
Hill Climbing to Push Yourself Harder
Another muscle building cardio exercise is hill climbing. This exercise can be performed outdoors or in the gym with the treadmill set at a high incline. You can walk, jog or run up the hill. Whatever way you choose to do it, it will provide you with a challenging exercise that strengthens your heart and your muscles.
High-Intensity Steady State Cardio
Steady state cardio is usually associated with loss of lean mass, but this type is a bit different. Several studies were conducted on the effect of steady state cardio and lean mass. The results showed that steady state cardio done at 80% of max heart rate for 45 minutes increased muscle size in the legs among participants.
The participants studied were of various ages and the younger participants experienced a 5% increase in leg size while the older participants experienced an increase of 6%.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval exercise will help you burn muscle faster, but unlike the other types of exercises mentioned above, this type will help you a bit more indirectly. High-intensity interval exercise helps you improve conditioning, saves you time and helps preserve lean mass.
HIIT workouts strengthen the cardiovascular system which in turn translates to more energy for your weight training workouts. It will save you time and that helps you get out of the gym faster.
Getting out of the gym sooner allows you to get the nutrients and rest you need to help your body recover from your workout. Lastly, as opposed to steady state cardio done at lower intensities, HIIT will help you better preserve any lean mass you’ve gained.
Cardio Helps Build Muscle
Cardio exercise is not just a fat-burning tool, it can help you build muscle and achieve a body transformation as well. Sprints, jumping rope, box jumps and HIIT are just a few examples of exercises that will help you put on or preserve muscle while you work your cardiovascular system.
Not only will these exercises help you put on muscle, but they are a lot more fun than doing traditional steady state cardio exercise.