Cardio vs. Weight Training for Building Muscle

Cardio vs. Weight Training for Building Muscle

Recently, we had a TPA member ask us:

“Cardio vs. weight training. When trying to build muscle, how much cardio should you do?”

To answer this question, I am going to lay out the steps to building muscle, how cardio fits in, and what to do if building muscle is your goal.

When someone wants to build muscle, they want to either (1) get stronger, or (2) get a muscular/toned physique (look better naked). Building muscle for either goals requires the same two things – proper nutrition and proper training.


To build muscle, you need to be at your caloric maintenance or in a slight surplus. Yes, to build muscle you need to provide your muscles with fuel to grow! Eating an appropriate macro break-down with adequate protein, is essential for building muscle while feeling good and not gaining too much fat in the process. Protein repairs, reshapes, and regrows muscles that have been broken down through resistance training. (It’s not absolutely impossible to build muscle while in a calorie deficit but usually only people who are brand new to weight training will be able to).


Training to build muscle must include strength training and it must be progressively overloaded. Progressive overload is following a training plan that continually increases the volume, frequency, and/or intensity of your trainings overtime to illicit the muscle-building response. This means that you must add weight or reps to your exercises regularly to continue to challenge your muscles. Programmed recovery is also important to give your muscles time to adapt to the growth stimulus of training.


Where does cardio fit in? To be honest, it doesn’t. Not too much during a muscle-building phase. You will want to continue to hit your step-count goals to maintain your cardiovascular health, but formal cardio such as HIIT (high intensity interval training) or LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio isn’t going to help build your muscles.

The most successful physique changes come from a “periodized” approach, meaning you have periods of time where you are focused on gaining muscle, other times when you are dieting to lose body fat, and other times when you are maintaining your current physique and recovering. And if you want the results to last, it can’t be rushed (think 6-18 months). If you have a goal of changing your body, I will shamelessly suggest hiring a Coach to guide you through the process. A Coach will develop a custom plan that works for your lifestyle and preferences, provide systems so you can stick with your plan even when you lack motivation, and keep you accountable.

- Coach Jessica Todd

Have any questions you want to pick Coach Jessica's brain about? You can check out her schedule below to set up a meeting or a personal training session!

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