Best Cardio Exercise for Bodybuilders
The best cardio exercise for bodybuilders is one that helps break a sweat without breaking knees. These are my picks for best cardio exercise, machine, and workout.
If I could have a nickel for every person who's asked me what the best cardio workout for bodybuilders is, I'd be rich. I get this question a lot because it's a great question. Being lean is just as important to a bodybuilder as having a ton of muscle. When it's time to drop the fat those last few months before a competition (or for recreational bodybuilders, it's preparing to look good for summer), cardio is king. Nutrition, of course, plays a huge role in leaning down as well but for the sake of this article, we'll focus on the topic of cardio.
Most people would think that the exercise that burns the most fat (within a given time frame) wins the draw. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. You have to take into consideration a bodybuilder's size, degree of improvement s/he still needs to make, available equipment in their gym, past injuries/surgeries, current flexibility, type of weather in their area of the world, among many other factors. Instead of lecturing you on how different cardio exercises suit different people, I'll just give you a few good examples of how to burn fat while preserving muscle and finally let you know about my pick for the best cardio exercise.
You can hit the punching bag a little and that will work up a sweat... much like Olympia winner Franco Columbu did in the movie Pumping Iron. Boxing's a great cardio workout because it's fun AND a stress-reliever. Also, it's very effective for burning fat, with a side benefit of having the abs worked simultaneously. So why isn't hitting the punching bag a couple of times a week the best cardio exercise? There are a few reasons. First of all, sore hands and wrists may soon become a problem thus negatively affecting your future weight training workouts. Not everyone knows how to put on wraps or hit the bag properly like Franco Columbu, who was a champion boxer BEFORE he even became a bodybuilder. The second issue with boxing is that you need to purchase the right equipment. You'll need gloves which could be quite pricey plus some wraps. Paying an extra hundred dollars for hundreds of great cardio workouts might seem well worth it for you now, but when you injure your wrist you'll be thinking... "Why didn't I buy one hundred dollars worth of egg whites instead".
Swimming is awesome, but not all gyms are equipped with a pool. Likewise, not everyone lives nearby to a beach. Indoor swimming facilities are scarce in some neighborhoods so making your way to one could take too much time out of your schedule. Bodybuilding being a 24-hour sport certainly appreciates efficient time-management. You need to prepare meals, eat those meals, rest adequate amounts, train almost every day, and work enough at a job or business to sustain that way of life. The best cardio exercise is going to be one that's close to home or located directly at your gym (in the form of a machine).
Running is possibly the best fat-burner out there. Many of you may have heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is arguably the best bodybuilder of all-time) would run three times per week religiously. He definitely had an amazing mid-section but there is one problem I have with running. Arnold was pretty much lean from when he was a child. And he clearly practiced 'staying ready to avoid getting ready'. But for someone who naturally carries excess weight and is trying to lose significant amounts of fat, running will be hard on the knees. If your knees are shot, then how will you perform squats, leg presses, and leg extensions?
At the gym, you hopefully have a vast choice of equipment. Some people like to use circuit training to burn fat. Circuit training, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, is a method practiced by some to get ripped by performing back-to-back weight training exercises; It, more often than not, entails the usage of light weights, a high number of repetitions, and little to no rest in between sets. I've never been a big fan of circuit training, although I know for a fact that it does bring results. Still, I prefer following a strictly cardio-based regimen for burning fat, and working solely with weights for muscle-building. Keeping these two elements of fitness separate is what I believe to be optimal for achieving a sculpted physique... especially for natural bodybuilders.
And finally, my choice for best cardio exercise is a tie between two types of machines: stepper and elliptical. Both allow your feet to never leave the surface, which means there is no impact on the knees and other joints (i.e. lower back, neck, etc). For the elliptical, I would recommend keeping the resistance at a low level... so that you can focus on maintaining a faster pace. If you're training on a high resistance, you'll be over-working the legs and not burning enough fat. Also, this may lead to knee pains, muscle pulls, or other inconveniences. On the stepper, you'll actually have to increase the level for enabling a quicker pace. Either machine allows for an incredible workout and seems tailor-made for bodybuilders.