Do you enjoy resistance training? At one point or another, you have probably asked yourself whether cardio will burn your muscle mass. The real answer? It depends. While training like a marathon runner could potentially cause a decrease in muscle mass, a number of cardio tactics can be complementary to a resistance training program.
For starters, cardio can help with muscle recovery. Intense resistance training workouts damage muscle fibers and cause soreness. Performing cardio increases blood flow to the affected muscles and speeds up the repairing process, providing substances needed for recovery and removing waste. This can be something as simple as spending 15 minutes jogging, cycling, or using a stair climber. Keeping the intensity and volume low will prevent any negative affects to your muscle mass.
Additionally, cardio can keep up your conditioning. When muscle mass is a concern, there are different types of cardio that can increase the efficiency of your heart, and still help you burn unwanted body fat.
High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is a running tactic that alternates between short spurts of high-intensity followed by a long rest or low-intensity exercise. HIIT is effective because it results in an increase in metabolic rate. This increase will help with fat loss without compromising muscle mass. A common example of HIIT could be running for 30 seconds, followed by walking for 60 seconds. HIIT can also include battle ropes, kettlebell swings, or box jumps. This is where you can get creative! Just remember a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio as a rule of thumb.
Altogether, the effect cardio has on your muscle mass will depend on intensity and duration. If you feel like your current resistance training program is becoming mundane, I would definitely give HIIT a try. Step outside of the weight room and learn to challenge your body in new ways. Using other modalities will ultimately provide great benefits to your overall health!
- Diana Rodriguez, UF RecSports Wellness Appraiser, Bootcamp Instructor, and Fitness Supervisor