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Best Cardio For Bodybuilding
Best cardio for bodybuilding
Daniel Gwartney, M.D.

This month’s Fat Attack relates to meeting the (preferentially, fat) calorie-burning needs of the competitive bodybuilder in regard to aerobic activities commonly referred to as cardio. To be absolutely clear, this is not the “best” cardio for the performance athlete, recreational weightlifter, general health seeker or any other category of person. This is for competitive bodybuilders, people who are specialists in physique development who require extreme muscle hypertrophy achieved in the state of sub-physiologically low body fat. To excel against the competition, one must develop a physique that demonstrates the results of rigorous physical training and a near-obsessive dedication to diet and lifestyle.

Acquiring muscle mass is a time- and labor-intensive venture, and losing muscle mass can occur rapidly in the event of an injury/illness, overtraining, excessive calorie restriction or fatigue interfering with subsequent training. Failing to acknowledge this in planning one’s cardio can spell disaster for the competitive bodybuilder. Further, with the advent of numerous styles of cardio, proper selection of activity is necessary. It may not be wise to choose the most popular, or even the most effective form of cardio for fat loss. Remember, the goal of the bodybuilder is to maximize muscle while depleting fat stores during the pre-contest period. Off-season training allows for greater flexibility that will not be discussed.

FLEXIBILITY AND RISK OF INJURY

Though a number of bodybuilders have a high school or college sports background (e.g., seven-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath, retired IFBB pro-Victor Prisk), most do not, based upon the responses to a survey among anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) users.1 Certainly, very few have recent sports training. This is relevant in that competitive bodybuilders have not acquired or maintained the coordinated skills necessary to perform sports movements. Shuttle runs, sprints, ball throwing, wrestling/ martial arts and even golf require balanced, compound movements performed in an explosive manner. Additionally, a degree of flexibility is required that is often beyond that of the elite bodybuilder. Also, the amount of force that a bodybuilder can generate may induce or extend tendon injury to the point of sprains or even rupture.2 The risk for upper-body tendon rupture appears to be increased among AAS users. While explosive, power-based movements are excellent types of exercise to increase energy expenditure (calorie burning), there is a risk of injury that is predictable and avoidable, and therefore it has no place in pre-contest cardio. Even recreational basketball, or a round of golf, holds risk for injury that can impede training for a contest and result in failure to achieve one’s best condition.

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November 2019

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