Best Cardio For Bodybuilders Without Losing Muscle

Don’t fear the sprint.

For bodybuilders, the very utterance of the word cardio seems to send chills down their spines. Many of those who look to build muscle seem to equate cardio with muscle destruction. They automatically assume that the inclusion of any form of cardiovascular training into their routine will mean losing all of their hard earned muscle. It’s an ideology that has been refuted, yet it still seems to find its way into the culture.

Cardio for an ectomorph who has trouble with keeping on muscle may be something to worry about. For most others who can gain either fat or muscle easily, those with slower metabolisms, cardio training can be their best friend.

People looking to shred their bodies but refuse to utilize cardio are essentially handicapping themselves and ensuring that they never get the defined and aesthetic form that they constantly seek. It burns away excess fat and jump starts your metabolism and, if you have the right diet plan, won’t affect your muscle gains at all.

So now that it’s been established that cardio isn’t evil, the question becomes a bit more intriguing. If cardio is a must for getting shredded and ridding your body of excess body fat, then which exercises should be in your program? We compiled a list of muscle friendly cardio exercises that will have you looking more shredded than ever.


This is perhaps one of the more underrated cardiovascular exercises that many bodybuilders never consider. Though walking on the incline treadmill can be a great source of cardio, studies have found that cycling or bike riding can prove to be more impressive for a couple of reasons.

For one, it’s just a more intensive and explosive exercise than walking. Second is that the hip flexion are engaged in the motion which can improve your squatting ability as well as increase your chances of hypertrophy when combined with resistance training.


Another great exercise that can improve your chances of hypertrophy, sprinting is perhaps the biggest gem of cardio based exercises. Though many bodybuilders, particularly larger individuals, may find jogging to be a bit easier to bear, sprinting can actually improve muscle growth on a specialty treadmill.

Like mentioned before with cycling, the hip flexion are engaged while sprinting. The exercise is a multi-joint movement that stimulates muscle activation and can improve leg development as it that same activation simulates the tension of squatting or using the leg press.

Rowing Machine

We’ve spoken about two cardio exercises that work the lower body extensively, but what about the upper body? Well, it seems that the rowing machine can be a great tool for athletes looking to build definition in their upper bodies. When paired with resistance training, the rowing can prove to be very beneficial for upper body development.

The rowing machine works your back and core during the pulling motion and even works your legs greatly during the pushing portion of of the movement. You get the benefit of muscle development while performing cardio at the same time.


Using a StairMaster has some of the greatest benefits for bodybuilders.

What is a StairMaster

It is a stationary fitness cardio machine that rotates steps, similar to a treadmill which allows users to climb at the speed and time length he or she may desire. It is often the #1 recommended cardio workout for bodybuilders given its ability to provide calorie burning, conditioning and strength benefits.

Benefits to a StairMaster

  1. Aerobic Conditioning

Similar to other cardio exercises, the StairMaster can strengthen your lungs and heart with a consistent aerobics routine. Bodybuilders need healthy hearts to pump oxygen blood through your muscles and organs.

2. Calorie Burn

The StairMaster has become the staple for many strength athletes given its ability to burn over 170 calories for a half-hour workout. The heavier you are the more calories you will burn.

3. Strength Building Benefits

Climbing stairs on a StairMaster also help reduce many risks such as osteoporosis and helps increase bone mass. Bones are living tissue, and climbing stairs will help you as you age due to natural bone loss. Your quads will also thank you. They extend or straighten the knee, so each time you push off on the StairMaster you are strengthening important muscles. These stronger core muscles help with lower back pain, posture, and reduce the risk of injury for many athletes.

Using a StairMaster is considered a low-impact exercise when compared with high-impact running on a hard surface. If you’ve never used a StairMaster, we recommend 150 minutes weekly. Here are some of our recommended home gyms for serious gains.

Which cardio exercises do you have in your routine? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook and Twitter.

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