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Learn why cardio is a must for bodybuilders and what these bodybuilding experts think about cardio. Find out what the EXPERTS think!

By: AnimalPak

Q: "Cardio." What's The First Thing That Comes To Mind When You Hear That Word?

    John:
    Pure hatred. Evil. A necessary evil.

    Andrew:
    F**k. That's what comes to my mind.

    Andre:
    Amen to that. Cardio sucks, but John's right. It's a necessary evil.

Q: I Take It You Guys Don't Like Cardio Much.

    Andrew:
    No, absolutely not. Guys get psyched to train, but they never get psyched for cardio. It's all work. Moving heavy weight is hard work too, but man, there's nothing in the world like it.

    John:
    You're right. Moving weight is one thing. Cardio's another. It's something you got to do, not want to do. You do it because cardio allows you to consume more calories, stay larger and fuller, but at the same time, harder, because you're metabolizing your fat.

    Andrew:
    Yeah, doing cardio lets me eat massive amounts of food while staying huge.

    Andre:
    All that's true, but what I really hate is the fact that it is time consuming. I can always shorten my training if I'm in a rush. But if I try shortening the duration of my cardio while increasing the intensity, I only run the risk of losing more muscle mass. With cardio, there are no shortcuts. To get that fibery, freaky detail like Dorian Yates, you've got to do cardio and do it right.

Q: Does Cardio Stay The Same All Year Around?

    John:
    I'm old school. I've been competing since the 1980's. Back then, cardio wasn't as important as it is today. This past year was the first time that I ever used it as a tool. Prior to beginning my competition diet, I was doing 30 minutes of cardio. Once I started preparing for my show, I increased my time to 60 minutes. I've never done more than an hour. Don't need to.

    Andre:
    60 minutes? During the final 6 weeks of my contest prep, I was doing up to 2 hours of cardio a day, an hour in the morning and another hour in the evening. In the off-season, I'll keep it at 30 minutes a day, four days a week.

    Andrew:
    Like you John, I never did a lot of cardio in the past. But Steve Weinberger at Bev Francis' Gold's Gym encouraged me to do more and it has paid off. My routine is like yours Andre. I do cardio twice a day, for a total of two hours. About 60 minutes on the treadmill in the morning and another 60 minutes or so on a stationary bike in the evening. In general, I set the treadmill on a 10% grade. When I'm 3 weeks out of the show, I'll bump up or tone back my cardio, depending on how I look in the mirror.

Q: What Kinds Of Cardio Do You Do?

    Andrew:
    Stationary bike and treadmill.

    John:
    Both of those are good. I also use the elliptical trainer because it's really low impact. Depending on how I feel and where I am in my diet, I'll use one, two or all three machines. For example, when I feel tired, I'll do 30 minutes of the elliptical and another 30 minutes on the stationary bike. I find the bike easier because your upper body doesn't move, only your thighs. Plus, depending on the angle of the pedals, you can really hit your hamstring tie-ins, glutes, and stretch striations in any area.

    Andre:
    For me, the Stairmaster really works my glutes and ham tie-ins. I personally don't like the elliptical trainer because it seems to move too fast. Depending on where I am in my preparation, I'll do anywhere from 30 minutes of cardio all the way up to 2 hours. One thing's for sure: I don't do cardio on leg day.

    John:
    Yeah, that's right. Most guys don't do cardio on leg day. I do. If I blow out my thighs though, I'll avoid it. On leg day, I only do thirty minutes.

    Andrew:
    Hey guys, when you're leg pressing well over a ton for reps, your workout is pretty much done for the day.

Q: Is Cardio Required For Today's Bodybuilder?

    John:
    I really never did it before, but I do it now. Today's judges expect much more.

    Andre:
    Yeah. Cardio wasn't as important yesterday. In the early 80's, the average Olympian competitor weighed in around 190 pounds. Today, that figure is over 220. Athletes are not only bigger and more massive, but they're also sharper and harder. Frank Zane was tight, but he competed under 180 pounds. Try coming in that tight at 225! In my mind, Rich Gaspari was one of the fathers of modern bodybuilding. Rich made it possible to think of bodybuilders as being both big and hard. Twenty years ago, it was about being big and cut. Today, you've got to be huge and shredded.

    Andrew:
    Damn straight. My motto is old school training, new school size.

    John:
    Yeah, old school training. I like that.

Q: When Should You Do Cardio?

    John: Well, theoretically, I've been told that cardio early in the morning on an empty stomach is the best thing to do, but I'm a cop and I work a 12-hour day, starting before 6 a.m. No way I'm getting up at 4 a.m. to sit on a bike. The best time for me is anytime. I usually pop an Animal Cuts and go for it. Most days I do cardio right after training. Whatever time you do it, just do it. I make sure I do the cardio on an empty stomach because I'd probably puke if I had food in it.

    Andre:
    Doing serious cardio on an empty stomach is important for that reason alone. Six weeks out of a show, and I'm doing cardio for an hour in the morning and another hour in the evening. For me, first thing in the morning works best. Definitely do cardio after weight training. By doing the weights first, you deplete your body of glycogen. Once depleted, your body can burn fat efficiently.

    Andrew:
    Yeah, it's best to do it in the morning, but John's right too. You do it when you can. Doing it is better than not doing it.

Q: How Do You Determine Cardio Intensity?

    Andre:
    I use the "talk test" instead of a THR [target heart rate]. If I can still talk while doing cardio at a high level, then I know I'm fine.

    John:
    I kind of agree with Andre. The old theory says hit exactly 70% of max heart rate, blah blah blah. It's nonsense. I go by how I feel, not by set formulas. You're burning calories. And if you do it, it'll work. Period. I don't need some Ph.D. who's 120 pounds wet telling me how to exercise.

    Andrew:
    You guys are both right. There's a good level to shoot for, but it's a little different for every bodybuilder. By listening to your body, you know what it can do and what it won't.

Q: Any Other Reason To Do Cardio?

    Andre:
    The other obvious reason is heart health. With modern chemistry and high intensity training, you need to pay attention to your health.

    Andrew:
    Andre's right. When you're a big guy like me, the health of my heart becomes a consideration. I've got to make sure I'm healthy, or I've got nothing. In the off season, my weight goes up from 265 to 325, so I ease up on the intensity of the cardio. I use the bike during the off season for only 30 minutes because it's easier on my joints. At 325 pounds, 60 minutes of cardio on a treadmill could easily tear down my body.

    John:
    Those are all good reasons to do cardio all year round.

Q: Other Than The Actual Cardio Machines, What Other Tools Are Needed?

    John:
    The mirror. It helps you determine how far along you are in your dieting.

    Andre:
    Yeah, mirror. If you're starting your competitive career, a scale can be used to tell you what class you're going to compete in. But experienced bodybuilders know exactly where they'll be come competition time. A mirror can be deceiving though. My front comes in fast. It's hard to look behind, and my weakest bodypart is my glutes. So you have to look front and back. I'll even pinch to find out how thick my skin is around my glutes. Once my glutes are done, I'm ready to compete.

    Andrew:
    The myth is that bodybuilders can gain muscle mass while burning fat. You can't live in both worlds at the same time. If your primary goal is to put on muscle mass, you should use cardio sparingly. If you're looking for more cuts, do more cardio. Have a cardio plan that's in tune with your goals. If you're eating a lot and still aren't growing, cut back on cardio. Remember, cardio doesn't just get you lean, it also gets your muscles hard. When dieting, don't get trapped in a numbers game. Use the mirror, not the scale.

Q: What Advice Would You Give To Beginners?

    John:
    Start slow for about 20 minutes on a recumbent bike. After a few weeks, step up the pace. Move up to the elliptical machine. Be patient. I had a kid come up to me the other day and ask, "If I do Slim Fast for two weeks, will I look like you?" I told this kid that I've been bustin' my ass for twenty years. He doesn't believe it. Hey, there's no easy way, bro'. If it were that simple, we'd all be training for the Master's Olympia.

    Andrew:
    Patience is important. So is knowing your limits. I don't use a target heart rate. I know when I'm doing the right level of cardio by how much I sweat and how much my muscles burn. Bodybuilding is intuitive. It's about how you feel and how well you know your body. The better you know it, the better off you'll be.

    Andre:
    Right. Know your body. This means that you won't be able to meet all of your training goals every day. Don't be rigid. Most beginners make this mistake. They work off of a set training program and aren't satisfied until they get all the exercises, sets, and reps in. You've got to go with the flow.

    John:
    Yep. A lot of beginners have a preconceived notion of what they're going to do on any given day. I'm going to do chest, 12 sets, and I'm going to do 135 pounds for 15 reps, 225 for 10 reps, and 275 for 10 reps. Well, I've got news for you. You might get there, but when you lay down on the bench, your strength might be down. Don't go beyond the limitations of that day, because you'll frustrate yourself or risk injury.

    Andrew:
    Yeah. The whole idea of training is to stimulate the muscle you're working. It doesn't matter how much weight you're using that day, as long as you're getting blood into that muscle. That's it. By exceeding your energy levels, you're only risking injury. That's stupid. Listen to you body. If you feel lousy, you're still in the gym, training. Sometimes, you feel like a bull. Those days, you go for it.

Thanks,

Why Do I Need Cardio?

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