Best Cardio For Bodybuilders Without Losing Muscle

Yes, even bodybuilders do cardio

Cardio is something everyone can get some benefits out of. No, it is not just running either. Even though cardio is commonly attributed to losing weight, it actually does a lot more. We are going to dive into the best cardio for the people who don’t always want to lose weight, bodybuilders.

Yes, even bodybuilders need to do cardio, but how can they do cardio without losing too much muscle? Or even if they are trying to gain muscle? Let’s take a look.

Don’t Fear the C-Word

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.

What are some overall benefits of cardio?

Benefits of Cardio for Bodybuilders

cardio for bodybuilders

When you are trying to maintain muscle or put on more of it, cardio may not be something you think of doing. However, you should definitely still stay up on it, especially in bodybuilding. As a bodybuilder, it makes your on-season a whole lot easier if you do not put on excess fat in the off-season. Also, when you are cutting, the cardio is a big player in getting rid of that fat to get you stage ready.

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. Cardio burns away excess fat and jump starts your metabolism. If you have the right diet plan it won’t affect your muscle gains at all.

What other benefits does cardio have besides keeping the fat off? Well, the obvious answer would be cardiovascular benefits. As a bodybuilder, you want your heart to be as healthy as it can be. Make sure to take care of the ticker, whether bulking or cutting.

Other benefits of cardio include lowering blood pressure and strengthening the immune system. There is no doubt that bodybuilding puts the body through great hardship, but you have to remember to take care of everything. Getting big, strong, and shredded are all great, but do not forget about all of the other factors that keep you waking up every day.

What is the best cardio for bodybuilders looking to keep their hard earned gains, but still get shredded? Let’s dive in.


Cycling is great for bodybuilders! No, not that kind of cycle…we mean like a bike. 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.

Cycling is also a low impact form of cardio compared to others, like running. This means there is less stress on the shins and knees. Not to mention, cycling is one of those things you can do that burn a good bit of calories in a short period of time.

You can also cycle inside or outside!


Another great exercise that can improve your chances of hypertrophy is sprinting. 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.

And as with cycling, you can sprint inside or outside.

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. The rowing machine is in a way a full body piece of cardio equipment.

You get the benefit of muscle development while performing cardio at the same time. Not to mention you can boost strength and endurance greatly with these.


Using a StairMaster has some of the greatest benefits for bodybuilders. This is a very common choice for cardio amongst bodybuilders, so we are going to look a little more in-depth at it.

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 a large amount of calories in a small time frame. The heavier you are the more calories you will burn. The level/speed you have the stair master set to also will help dictate how many calories you burn while on it.

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.


Overall, do not forget to do your cardio! (And don’t forget your cardio supplements!) The benefits are too good to ignore. As a bodybuilder, you want to keep your health in check, that is rule number one. Keeping the excess fat off year round is also definitely a plus when it comes to bodybuilding.

There are many different options for cardio, but if you do not want to lose too much muscle, the ones we listed above are ideal. Get healthy, get shredded, and best of all, keep your gains coming!

For more on cardio without losing too much muscle, check out our video with Milos Sarcev!

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.


Team, H. and V. (2021, November 16). From head to toe: The benefits of a cardio workout. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, February 17). 10 great reasons to Love aerobic exercise. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from,lower%20the%20risk%20of%20osteoporosis.

Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.