For someone who is skinny, has an athletic build, and is trying to put on weight through strength training, how much cardio should they include in their workout?

Currently, my workout routine is something along the lines of:

  • Monday: chest and back
  • Tuesday: kendo
  • Wednesday: shoulders, biceps, triceps
  • Thursday: pylometrics
  • Friday: legs and back
  • Saturday / Sunday: either yoga, pylometrics or rest (usually rest)

My concern is, with the intense hour long kendo and pylometrics workouts, I am burning away too much of my weight, and my strength training isn't growing as much as it could because of this.

Is this a realistic concern? Should I reduce the amount of cardio I do each week, or is cardio important in strength training even for skinny people?


Here are some facts:

  • The main benefits of cardio (aerobic exercise) are to strengthen your cardiovascular system, to increase fat burn, and to burn calories. Aerobic exercise does not help you build muscles, at least not at a level comparable to strength training.

  • A strong cardiovascular system is important for general well-being and the ability to master everyday situations, whether in strength training or working at a computer...fit people with a strong heart are happier, more motivated, more energetic, more productive. For that reason I recommend cardio, but it does not have anything to do with muscle growth (besides heart muscle).

  • A positive energy (calorie) balance is important for muscle growth, and any type of cardio will induce an energy (calorie) deficit. Obviously you need to balance out that deficit by eating more, especially carbohydrates. For a workout of moderate intensity, a small meal or carb-rich drink directly after the workout is often sufficient to get back the calories you've burned.

So my answer is you should not reduce your cardio, but you should significantly increase your food intake to make sure your body has enough energy available for muscle growth. Also, cardio is not important for strength training, but it is important for general health and well-being.

  • 1
    Off course, reducing your fat percentage will make you look more muscular, simply by exposing your muscles more :-) – Ivo Flipse Dec 17 '11 at 13:28
  • Increasing your food intake should also be geared towards muscle building ie, more protein, less starchy carbs. – baldy Dec 19 '11 at 8:23

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