10 Real Deal Cardio Tips for Bodybuilders

I see a lot of lazy fucks doing cardio the wrong way.

I see them just strolling along while playing with their phones. I see girls wearing makeup that isn't even running down their face because they aren't sweating.

When it comes to doing cardio, people just don't want to put in the work anymore.

I see people generally just pretending to work out. Modern cardio machines make it very easy to be lazy.

A lot of cardio machines nowadays even have TV's and fans on them. Talk about a generation of pussies!

It's one thing to jump on a cardio machine and move your legs and pretend to do cardio, but it's another thing to actually bust a sweat and elevate your heart rate high enough to reap the benefits of cardio.

They even have “cardio cinemas” now where it's like a movie theater with cardio equipment! Yes, it's kind of a cool idea to get your mind off what you're doing, but I actually like to think during my cardio sessions.

Cardio is almost like meditation to me and I think of things in life I want to accomplish and/or how I'm going to do it.

The major problem I see with different types of cardio is people picking cardio machines that lets them “pretend” they're doing cardio.

As long as they're on a machine they think they're doing cardio. But how hard are they really working? They sure aren't working hard like me!

In 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Doing Cardio I talk about WHY you should do cardio. Now I'll show you HOW to do cardio the right way, the JDB WAY.

10 Real Deal Cardio Tips for Bodybuilders

You know I don't bullshit on anything by now and I'm not going to bullshit you on cardio either!

You need to bust ass on cardio the way you bust ass on weights too!

You need to hit your cardio the JDB way. Here's how I do it…

#1) Always go for the stair-master first (or walk/run stairs outdoors, I actually do both)

The stair-master is just tough, plain and simple.

The only other form of cardio that is going to elevate your heart rate like the stair-master will is intense weighted cardio such as pulling a sled or pushing a prowler.

You may find that 30 minutes on the stair-master is just too much to handle until you get used to it and/or in better cardio shape. If this is the case then I'll recommend the same thing I tell my training clients to do; if you can only do 5 minutes on the stair-climber then do that first and then transfer over to a treadmill for the remaining time.

Every time you do cardio you should try to improve your time on the stair-master until you can complete 30 minutes without having to get off of it and transfer to another form of cardio.

I occasionally run stairs at a giant building downtown as well. I have found that this type of cardio not only keeps me lean, but it really brings my quads out more as well (better definition).

#2) If stairs are out then incline walk on a treadmill.

Now, listen up to your man JD here… DO NOT HOLD THE HANDLES!

When I do the incline treadmill I set the speed at 2.8 mph and I let my arms swing naturally. Not only will this burn more calories, but it will strengthen your abs/obliques as well.

You see, the abdomen/obliques are the first muscle group to flex in ANY motion we do with our bodies. The reason for this is because the vertebrae in itself is very weak and it needs the abs to support it.

This is the reason why people with giant guts also have bad backs.

I promise you that all you need to do is set the pace at 2.8 mph and let your arms swing on a steep incline treadmill and you'll be drenched in sweat! 2.8 mph friends… that's all!

#3) The elliptical is for FAT FUCKS!

Go into any gym and look at the fattest people in the place and you'll find them on the elliptical (or “glider” as some of the more feminine males like to call it).

Go back to that same gym and you'll see the same fat fuckers 6 months later still hard at that elliptical machine! Do you want to know why? It's because this machine incorporates momentum into the cardio training and it doesn't elevate your heart rate as much as other forms of cardio.

That's right, you're only doing probably 1/4 of the stride and if you set the resistance higher it just becomes a leg workout and not a cardio session. I would just stay away from this machine altogether unless you're extremely overweight and need some sort of a starting point without dying.

#4) Wait a good 20-30 minutes to eat after cardio is done.

Although this topic is still subject to debate, it's been stated in many studies that even after cardio is done the body still burns through fat stores for the next 20-30 minutes after cardio.

#5) Don't buy into the hype of separating weights from cardio time.

There is nothing wrong with pounding a weight workout and then going directly into your cardio right after. The muscle Goblin isn't going to come and steal your gains, relax!

If you MUST separate the time frames then it's understandable, but all of this bullshit hype about NEVER doing weights and cardio in the same time frame is just that… bullshit hype!

#6) Cardiovascular training can actually add strength to your muscles!

When your body can better utilize oxygen it can have a direct effect of your levels of strength and stamina during sets.

I know that cardio is aerobic (with oxygen) and weights is supposedly “anaerobic” (without oxygen) but you're telling me that you don't breathe when you lift weights?

Don't look at cardio as a performance inhibitor in the weight room, look at it as a performance enhancer!

#7) Occasionally throw in weighted cardio.

I have found huge benefits from incorporating 1 session a week of a higher form of resistance such as pulling a sled or pushing a prowler sled. You could also do kettlebell swings or something along those lines.

However, when performing this type of cardio I keep it pretty brief, maybe 20 minutes or so. It's all you need!

#8) High intensity cardio prevails over long, drawn out sessions.

Now, maybe this is just my personal experience/opinion here, but why would I waste my time doing an hour of low intensity cardio when I could burn those same calories in half the time and expose my body to something that was actually semi-challenging?

My motto is simple; if you're not sweating you ain't working hard enough!

#9) Cardio either first thing in the morning or directly after weights.

Cardio is just more beneficial during times when glycogen stores are depleted and your body needs to tap into fat storage for the energy to perform the work!

#10) As you age you'll find that more cardio is often needed.

Your metabolism is naturally going to slow down as you get older. What once was good at age 25 may not yield the same results at age 40. You may have been ripped up and at 7% body fat 15 years ago, but now it may take a little more.

The flip side to this is that if you've been in the gym a long time then you'll find that it's easier to hold muscle with less volume and more cardio.

There are so many times I see guys stretching out their workouts into these long, drawn out 2 hour sessions when honestly they would have benefited more from stopping at the 1 hour mark and then hitting 30 minutes of cardio. Hell, you could even go as far as saying a 30 minute workout and 30 minutes of cardio!

The body holds size based mostly on nutrition but also muscle stimulus. As long as you expose yourself to a certain weight and/or level of intensity, you won't lose your size just because you did a briefer workout and then hit cardio.

For example, I could walk into the gym on any given day and perform a brief session for chest using 125 lb dumbbells. Hell, I could just do a 10 minute workout and as long as my body has been exposed to a certain stimulus it's not going to shrink!

I'm not saying that I only workout for 10 minutes here, but let's just say 10 minutes of weights each day was all that I was allowed to do…..I would not look any smaller 6 months later!

Actually, quite the opposite would probably happen. I'd sustain more muscle/possibly grow from recovery reserves and be more defined from adding in cardio.


There is one exception to the rule of doing cardio regularly. Your weight training can replace cardio if you do it right.

Most bodybuilders back in the day didn't do cardio. They relied on workout volume, short rest periods between sets, and dieting to get to a low level of body fat.

And that's what you would need to do to skip cardio: keep rest periods short enough during your weight training that you keep an elevated heart rate throughout the entire workout.

Just because it looks good cosmetically doesn't always mean it's the best way! Remember, health is #1!

A good number of the bodybuilders from that era who are still alive to this day will tell you to perform cardio! Just because they didn't do it back then doesn't mean you shouldn't do it either!

Actually, a lot of the guys were probably performing cardio during their workouts just based on intensity levels and how many hours they spent in the gym, but now we know better.

Why waste countless hours in the gym each day when you can build the same physique with a brief weight workout and adding in cardio? I have found that it's just better to perform cardio on a regular basis.

The only time I would suggest limited cardio is for a hard-gainer who is very young and already has a lightning fast metabolism.

But even in that case I would usually suggest cardio at least twice a week, simply for heart health!





31 thoughts on “10 Real Deal Cardio Tips for Bodybuilders”

  1. Excellent advice, John. My main forms of cardio right now are jumping rope and playing in a flag football league with some church friends. Doesn’t get much more functional than that. Love running stairs. It doesn’t take long for you to be wiped out doing those.

    • Thanks, flag football is great too!! Hell, I wish there was some sort of tackle football pickup games around here. That would bring back some youth in me!! Jumping rope is definitely a tough one too, I used to box and those jump-rope sessions would kill me!!

    • with me it doesn’t, I’ve always been concerned with overtaxing my back between back workouts which is really why I don’t use it. But if it works for you then by all means man

  2. Excellent article! I’ve been bodybuilding since age 15 and could get away with little or no cardio in my younger days. I turned 42 a few months ago and my metabolism definitely isn’t the same. Cardio is so essential whether I’m cutting for a contest/summer or in a mass-building phase. I feel so much better when I can breathe during a heavy leg or deadlift workout. I’ve found that if do cardio 3-5 days per week when “bulking” I have a bigger appetite, can eat more good food, and can stay leaner. It’s quality.
    By the way, intervals on the step mill is a real ass-kicker!

  3. You goin soft on us, JD?

    Ha. I love the cardio stigma in the weight room. On an off day I’ll tell my gym bro, “Just cardio today. No homo.”

    Good post. Hardgaining, once a week basketball player here.


  4. Hi JD great article and I love your sense of humor! I like to get my cardio on a treadmill. I set the incline at its highest setting, speed at 3.8 and do a walk for 5 minute warm-up. I then push speed to 6 and basically Sprint 40-45 seconds. I’ll do 5 sets of this keep rest to about 2 minutes between sets. I’ll work up a great sweat and be huffing and puffing when finished. I feel great afterward. I hit the iron with full body workouts training as hard and heavy as I can with 2-3 days rest between them. I’m 57 and have been at this since about age 18. I will never stop! I really enjoy the info you share.

    • absolutely man, swimming is great and it’s low resistance on the muscles, pretty much works every muscle in the body!! It just gets harder as you get more muscular, I used to be on a swim team way back, now I’m like a rock in the water but I still swim on occasion

  5. Great post John, I’m 47 and do 40+40 weights / cardio, best shape of my life

    Might sound silly but also recommend BodyPump,I’ve seen gym rats cry in those but fantastic for strength endurance and fat melting

    I know I’m surrounded by little girls and women but if you like as it right it’s excellent

    My 2c

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks man, whatever works right? I do yoga classes and people laugh and I’m surrounded by females as well. Its all about results, screw how it looks

  6. What I do on the stairs gets sweat pouring. Go for 45 minutes. Start at lvl 4 increase every 5 minutes til I get to lvl 9, then bring it back down incrementally lvl 4. That gets me soaked in sweat. Plus I’m a firefighter; stairs are our bread and butter.

  7. Hey John, love the post!

    What is your opinion on running using a running machine compared to road running?

    I find using a running machine a lot easier as increasing the speed/incline to a high tempo makes you run at that speed and intensity, whereas during road running it is easy to slack off as there isn’t anything to maintain the pace like a running machine if that makes sense.

    All the best,

    Harry Simonis

    • what you’re saying makes sense, I see where you’re coming from. However here is a factor you need to think of; it takes more effort to get the legs moving when the surface isn’t moving and it’s on solid ground. I really would not place too much emphasis on one over the other as long as you’re getting your heart rate up and sweating

  8. Hi John I am doing a lot of cardio working the c p system and I’m finding it beneficial it’s a good way of keeping the intensity up and heart rate up during explosive sprints with out loosing muscle mass that a standard CV session tends to lead to. Great site and great to read when I need motivation! Chris leeds. U k..

  9. Interesting to incline walk…I actually tried it and it elevates my heart rate more than I ever thought it would. Question: At 2.8, what incline do you use and for how long? The BH treadmill I use will go up to level 15 so I am doing it for 10-15 minutes accompanying that with a mile run.

  10. Hi John, how many times a week do you do cardio, and what cardio do you do after you have trained legs? I like lifting weights but I also like cardio such as running because of the mental health benefits, I’m just struggling to incorporate the two.

    • I train cardio in the same ways as non-leg days, I’m not one of these guys who won’t do cardio on leg day. So stairs or incline brisk walk, lately I’ve been swimming laps a lot, maybe 3-4x/wk I’ll swim 40-50 laps in an olympic pool. I understand where you’re coming from on mental benefits of cardio, my avdice is to keep it consistent but don’t overdo it, so like 30-40 min per session but done regularly

  11. You know this already but the elliptical is for Fat fuckers. I have lost and gained hundreds of pounds. The machine to burn off that fat is the step mill. I am for 40min a day. I can go strait through at level 14 about 100 steps per min without holding onto the rails. Oh, and I still can’t quite lose that last 20lbs. Stubborn!


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