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How Much Cardio Should I Do When Bulking?

author image Heather Hitchcock
Heather Hitchcock has been writing professionally since 2010. She has contributed material through various online publications. Hitchcock has worked as a personal trainer and a health screening specialist. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science.
How Much Cardio Should I Do When Bulking?
Brisk walking on the treadmill aids in preventing fat weight gain during bulking phases. Photo Credit: YanLev/iStock/Getty Images

To increase muscle mass in the bulking phase, there must in an increase in caloric intake to promote muscle growth. Because of this, bodybuilders often restrict the amount of cardio performed to save the calories for muscle growth. However, you should not completely eliminate cardio from your routine; rather, you should tailor it to fit your individual need.

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Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Bodybuilders typically use cardio exercise during the cutting or fat-loss stage to burn extra calories. However, including moderate amounts cardio exercise into your bulking routine can help control and limit the amount of body fat gained during a bulking phase. Additionally, cardio exercise increases blood flow, delivering more oxygen to your muscles and removing waste products, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. The increase in blood flow to the muscles promotes muscle building by delivering fresh nutrients to the muscles needed for growth and aiding in recovery.

Types of Cardio

Start with low- to moderate-intensity cardio exercise such as brisk walking, cycling or elliptical machines. Since the primary goal is to build muscle tissue and not to burn fat, high-intensity exercise that burns a lot of calories is not necessary. Instead, keep the intensity low or moderate and focus on maintaining fat stores and promoting blood circulation.

Weight Training and Cardio

Begin by performing 20 to 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio following your weight training workouts. If you weight train four or more days a week, 20 minutes of brisk walking on the treadmill following weight training will help keep fat loss under control and remove waste byproducts from the muscles. Perform 25 minutes of post-weight training cardio if you weight train two or three days a week. Doing cardio prior to weight training is also acceptable, as long is it does not affect your weight training. In fact, in may help warm up your muscles before weightlifting, making your lifts more productive. Cardio can also be performed on nonweight-training days instead of pre- or post-workout for 30-minute sessions.


Individuals who have a significant amount of body fat or who easily gain fat weight during bulking phases, may need to perform additional cardio sessions. Increase the duration of post-weight training cardio to 30 or 40 minutes, or add in extra sessions on nonweight-training days. Conversely, individuals with a high metabolism who struggle with gaining muscle or weight in general may only need 10 to 15 minutes of cardio post-workout.

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