How Cardio CAN be Good for Gains

posted by stevewatson77 August 8, 2016 0 comments

There are several myths circulating about how cardio is bad for gains, and they are right to an extent. Quite simply, cardiovascular exercise burns calories – calories are needed to put on weight and gain muscle mass, so why do cardiovascular exercise and burn them all when you’re trying to get ‘gains’?

Cardiovascular fitness is incredibly important in virtually all sports. You need endurance from your heart and lungs so that you can perform effectively for the duration of the event – strong cardiovascular fitness can be the difference between winning and losing, not just from being fit, but also by maintaining concentration levels. As well as this, doing cardio will strip away fat from your body making you leaner, this is because your body will start using energy stored in fats – thus burning them.

cardio good for gains?

So why is cardio dreaded by so many? Cardio training CAN be good for gains – if you do it right. A perfect example of this is circuit training. Set up 6 stations around a sports field (1 in each corner and 1 either side of the half way line) and combine your weight training with cardiovascular exercise by walking, jogging, or sprinting between stations. The world is your oyster, there are so many cardio based exercises to choose from; Squat Thrusts, Burpees, Sled Pulls, Tyre Flipping, Hill Sprints, and many more!

One of my favourite workouts I’m currently doing for my rugby pre-season is;

Battle Ropes (Alternating) x5 with 30 seconds rest between each superset;

  • 25 then a burpee
  • Another 25 then a burpee
  • 50 then a burpee

Mini Circuit on the clock (Repeat every 20 seconds for 5 minutes);

  • 1 wide grip pull up
  • 2 press ups
  • 3 squats

Mini Circuit on the clock (Repeat every 30 seconds for 5 minutes)

  • Fast high knees for 10 seconds
  • 3 Medicine ball slams (5-10kgs)


Taking this another step further, Crossfit athletes are considered “the fittest on Earth”. These athletes take circuit training to new levels with workouts normally competing against the clock to see how fast you can finish it, and then aim to beat that time in your next workout. It combines intense cardio with intense weight lifting – and trust me, they seem to have substantial ‘gains’. Take a look for yourself in the video of the 2015 Crossfit Games below;

So it’s true – cardio can be bad for gains. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Why would you neglect what’s inside you making you work, just to look better on the outside? That’s like owning a Ferrari with an engine from a Toyota. Do your cardio, mix it up with weight training in a circuit if you have to, and eat the amount of calories you’ve burnt on top of your daily calorie goals!


CrossFit® (2015) 2015 games highlights. Available at: (Accessed: 3 August 2016).

Guest post by Will Wood – Leeds Becket Student

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