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Cardio and Muscle Growth: Friends or Foes?

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Cardio and Muscle Growth: Friends or Foes?

Many people think cardio should be avoided at all costs when trying to build muscle. Are they right?

 

Many guys fear the treadmill, believing it has a mystical ability to shrivel up muscle and sap strength. And many bodybuilder types bash cardio simply because they don’t like doing it.

While it’s clearly evident that excessive cardio causes muscle loss (just look at any marathon runner), what about moderate cardio? Will it interfere with your muscle growth? Or will it help?

Well, it can go both ways, actually.

3 Ways Cardio Can Help With Muscle Growth

cardio muscle building

There are 3 primary ways that cardio can help you build (and retain) more muscle. They are as follows:

  1. It improves muscle recovery.
  2. It improves your body’s metabolic responses to food.
  3. It keeps up your conditioning, making the transition from “bulking” to “cutting” easier on your body.

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Cardio and Muscle Recovery

As you know, intense exercise causes damage to muscle fibers, which must then be repaired. This damage is the cause of the soreness that you feel the day or two following a workout, and is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The reparation of the damage is a complex process that is partly regulated by two simple factors: how much of the substances needed for repair are brought to the damaged muscle over time, and the speed at which waste products are removed.

Thus, cardio can help your body repair muscle damage quicker because it increases blood flow. This helps your body build the muscle back up quicker and remove the waste, which results in an all-around quicker recovery. This is why I always do a cardio session on legs day–it dramatically reduces leg soreness in the days to follow.

It’s worth noting, however, that these benefits are primarily seen in the legs because most forms of cardio don’t really involve the upper body. If you want to boost whole-body recovery, then you would need to do something that gets your upper body working, like a rowing machine, or even using your arms to help pump on the elliptical.

Cardio and How Your Body Metabolizes Food

cardio vs muscle

In our collective dietary fantasy, all nutrients eaten would be sucked into the muscles and either absorbed or burned off, and none would result in fat storage. And when we dieted to lose weight, all energy needs would be met by burning fat, not muscle.

The reality, however, is that our bodies do these things to varying degrees. Some people’s bodies store less fat when they overeat (they burn off more excess calories instead of storing them), and lose less muscle when they diet for weight loss (more energy is sucked from fat than muscle to make up for the caloric deficit). Other people, on the other hand, are more likely to store excess calories and lose muscle when they restrict calories for weight loss.

Hormones like testosterone and cortisol play major roles in this (higher levels of testosterone promote more muscle and less fat, whereas higher levels of cortisol promote less muscle and more fat), but unfortunately there isn’t much we can do about either beyond injecting ourselves with drugs. Our genetics have basically set our normal physiological hormonal ranges and that’s that.

All is not lost if you’re not of the genetic elite, however. Another factor in what your body does with the food you eat is insulin sensitivity (how well your cells respond to insulin’s signals). As discussed in my advice for “hardgainers,” being insulin sensitive is highly beneficial when you’re eating a surplus of calories to build muscle, whereas insulin resistance inhibits muscle growth and promotes fat storage under these dietary conditions.

Now, genetics do affect natural levels of insulin sensitivity as well, but you can do various things to manipulate this mechanism. This is where cardio comes in, because it improves insulin sensitivity, and does so in a dose-dependent manner (meaning the more you do, the more benefits you get).

So, cardio can help your muscles better absorb the nutrients you eat, leaving less available for fat storage.

Cardio and Conditioning

cardio and muscle gains

A common issue in the bodybuilding world is the dramatic reduction in cardiovascular fitness when focusing only on heavy weightlifting for months on end.

Building one’s cardio conditioning back up is not only uncomfortable, but going from doing absolutely no cardio to several sessions per week, on top of a caloric deficit (as cardio is added back in for weight loss purposes), puts a lot of stress on the body. This added stress makes weight loss physically and psychologically tougher, and can even accelerate muscle loss.

By keeping regular cardio in during your bulking phases, however, you can maintain your metabolic conditioning and prevent the “shell shock” that many people experience during the beginning of a cut.

It’s also common for people that have bulked for months without cardio to experience an initial lag in weight loss. Those that keep their cardio in seem to better retain the ability to oxidize fat.

2 Ways Cardio Can Get in the Way of Muscle Growth

cardio muscle mass

As I said earlier, cardio can both hurt and help muscle growth. The two primary ways it can negatively affect your gains are by reducing your caloric surplus too much, and by causing you to overtrain.

The surplus issue is pretty moot, however. Normal cardio sessions don’t burn that many calories (a few hundred at most), which is easy enough to correct. But if long, intense sessions are done, that could cause caloric issues.

“Hardgainers” might have something to worry about in this regard as they usually have trouble eating enough as it is. Research has shown that low-intensity cardio stimulates the appetite, however, so including some every week can actually help with eating enough.

Issues relating to cardio and overtraining revolve around intensity and frequency. Simply put, the more cardio you do, and the more intense it is, the more your strength and growth will be negatively affected due to excessive stresses put on both the central nervous system and muscles being worked (usually the legs get it the worst).

Want a workout program and flexible diet plan that will help you build muscle and get strong? Download my free no-BS “crash course” now and learn exactly how to build the body of your dreams.

So, Cardio While Focusing on Muscle Growth—Yes or No?

cardio tips

I think the positives of including cardio when you’re bulking clearly outweigh the negatives, especially considering the fact that the negatives are easily dealt with.

Generally speaking, I prefer HIIT cardio to steady-state even when bulking, despite the fact that it puts more stress on my body. Research has shown that HIIT cardio preserves muscle better than steady-state , but don’t take that as a carte blanche to do hours of HIIT every week while bulking.

The point at which the added cardio will impair your strength gains and muscle growth will depend on your genetics and conditioning, but a safe recommendation is no more than 2-3 sessions of cardio each week, for no longer than 30 minutes.

If you find even that much HIIT negatively impacts your strength, then opt for a few sessions of low-to-moderate cardio each week instead. This is enough to enjoy its benefits, while avoiding its drawbacks.

And as a little added bonus, research has shown that cycling is a better choice than running when you’re trying to maximize muscle gains, probably because it mimics actual movements you perform with weights. I experienced this when I made the switch to cycling for all of my cardio: my leg strength dramatically jumped over the following several months.

 

What are your thoughts on cardio and muscle growth? Has including or excluding cardio worked best for you? Let me know in the comments below!

 

How to get lean and build serious muscle and strength, faster than you ever thought possible…

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my books.

You see, depending on how you eat, train, rest, and supplement, building muscle and losing fat can be incredibly simple or seemingly impossible. I've learned this the hard way, making every mistake you can imagine.

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  • Michael,

    You mention in the article that you do cardio on your leg days. Do you do it post-weight training session, or at another time after your leg workout?

    Thanks,
    Your Padowan

    • PS- I’m going to assume at another time of the day, since you want to get in a PWO meal in, like you talked about it in your book. Just want a confirmation

      • Yes, I lift early, do a post-workout meal, and then do cardio at night. I have some protein and a little carbs after.

    • Haha good question padawan!

      I lift in the morning and do my cardio at night. The condo building I live in has a gym with some cardio equipment, so it’s simple enough. If I had a house I would just buy a recumbent bike and throw it in the garage (I like cycling for cardio).

      But if you’re crunched for time, you can do your cardio after your lifting. It’s not IDEAL but isn’t going to ruin your gains.

  • I’m a bit thrown off by this article. I’m doing HIIT cardio 4x per week during my cutting, because I thought BLS prescribed that for maximizing fat loss while not promoting muscle loss. This article talks about low-moderate intensity cardio, and even says to avoid “high-intensity training” at the end. What gives? Is this an April fools joke?!!?

    • I don’t understand this either. I do HIIT 4xs/wk also because that’s what the book recommended as most effective in terms of burning calories & preserving muscle. I also remember reading an article Mike shared a couple months ago about a study that found a much smaller amount of HIIT more effective than long amounts of time spent jogging. I don’t understand & am very confused! Mike, what does this mean?

      • Hey Ashley,

        Sorry for the confusion. You’re doing it right. This article is specifically talking about cardio and bulking, which means eating a surplus of food to maximize muscle growth (at the expense of gaining some fat as well).

        Keep doing what you’re doing!

        Mike

        • Steve

          Yeah Mike, i find what suits me, as what you alluded to before in an article, is do HIIT every 6th day, for 30 mins, i may cut that to every 4th day though.

          Steve

    • Sorry for the confusion Alan. The advice in this article specifically applies to BULKING, not cutting.

      HIIT is definitely the way to go when you’re cutting. It’s not necessary when you’re bulking.

      • Hector

        Hi Mike, I’m thinking about doing HIIT cardio while bulking, 3 times per week, because even when I’m seeing good gains in muscle mass also I’ve been gaining a lot of fat on my belly, I used to do 1 HIIT cardio at week but I’m still gaining too much fat. My question is, do you think doing HIIT cardio 3x per week is gonna take too much of my energy and gonna affect my everyday workouts performance?

        • Honestly I think it’s easier to just bring your calories down, but it’s up to you. You will burn more fat doing HIIT than LISS, but when you’re bulking you’re not really trying to burn fat. You want to just keep yourself in a moderate caloric surplus (200-500 calories per day) to allow for muscle growth, and a little bit of fat gain.

      • nateg5

        I just double checked BLS and it says that the only time you recommend low intensity cardio is when cutting. This article contradicts that. Could you clarify which is correct?

        • Hey Nate,

          Thanks for writing. Sorry but I’m kind of confused. I recommend HIIT for cutting? Want to shoot me an email? I’ll be happy to help!

          Mike

  • I take 3 spin classes a week Mon Wed Sat for 45 minutes. Have been able to gain strength and size

  • Joninwm

    Ok, so basically during bulking 2-3 times per week of slow to moderate cardio? During cutting, 4-5 times per week of HIIT for 20-30 minutes? About how long should cardio during the bulking be? Enjoy the site and the books.

    • Yeah, exactly. Honestly if you really like HIIT more, you can do it while bulking, but it may get in the way a little. Remember these types of things aren’t set in stone–genetics and conditioning matter a lot.

      No need to make your cardio sessions longer than 40 minutes while cutting or bulking. I like to do 30 minutes.

  • Andy

    Hi Michael.
    Can you explain this to me been losing weight intentionally since September and have lost a couple of stone but stagnant now salt and sodium intake are around 5-6g. What would peoples recommendations be.

    • Hey Andy,

      Great job on the weight loss so far! That’s awesome.

      Wow 6-5 grams of sodium per day?? That’s WAY high. Bring it down to 1.5-2 grams per day.

      There could be other issues though. Have you worked out your new macros for your current weight? The first thing you should suspect is that you’re not in a caloric deficit…

      Let me know!

      Mike

  • Kel

    I am so confused! I thought we were supposed to do HIIT training– like 20 minutes of on and on sprints!

    • kel

      off and on*

    • Hey Kel,

      Sorry for the confusion. HIIT is awesome for cutting and I definitely recommend it. This article is specifically talking about bulking. I’m going to edit it to make sure this is totally clear.

      Mike

  • I did cardio on leg day and now I have way less pain today, it’s awful Without the pain how do I know I went hard enough lol

    • I do cardio on my legs days as well and it helps a LOT with DOMS. Haha be careful what you wish for! 😛

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  • Tommy

    Hi mike I do one 1 hour fitness class every week. Is 1 hour too long? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      No, that’s totally fine.

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  • Yasmine

    Hi Mike, so basically i would like to gain some leg muscle. My legs are very skinny and I think its genetic. I’m fine with my upper body but I do not want to gain more weight on my stomach. What cardio machines should I use and how many times per week?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool! You should start squatting actually. It’s the best way to build leg muscle.

      And for cardio, I would recommend biking as it will complement your lifting.

      What do you think?

  • Brady

    Mike, i play college tennis, and have practice monday-friday for around 90 minutes, what is this going to do to or for my muscle gains?

    • Michael Matthews

      It will interfere with it somewhat, but you can still make gains.

      Personally I would have about 30 grams protein and 40-50 grams carbs before each session, about 30 grams carbs and 10 grams BCAAs at the 60-minute mark, and then 30-40 grams protein and 60-70 grams carbs after. That would definitely help minimize the muscle loss.

  • Jayden

    Hi Mike
    So I stopped doing any type of cardio at the beginning of the year because it was interfering with my bulking. So far I have gained about 35 lbs on your BLS program which has been amazing! The only problem is that I still want to gain another 25 lbs (current weight: 215, goal weight: 240lbs; starting weight: 170 lbs) but I’ve gained quite a bit of abdominal fat and it’s starting to really bother me. I want to give the twice-a-week HIIT sessions a try as you suggested but if I do this, won’t I have to increase my calorie intake on those days to make up for the calories lost in cardio? And wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of doing cardio for fat loss? Thank you

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow great job on your gains so far! That rocks.

      Yeah I think you should cut now and then get back to bulking. Let’s get you to the 12% range and then go back to bulking. What do you think?

      • Jayden

        Let’s do it! Does your book the Shredded Chef contain a comprehensive meal plan for cutting? Thanks!

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay awesome! No it doesn’t. Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger lay out how to create meal plans, and TSC gives you a variety of meals you can plug in.

  • shane

    Hello
    I am a 27 year old male I started back at the gym five months ago I was 267 pounds at six foot now I am 198 I wrk out five to six days a week I drink protein and eat very healthly with portion control I start every workout with one hr on the arch trainer for cardio and then move to weight lifting I have notices some toning and endurance gains but hardly any muscle growth is this just me being hard on my self or am I possibly doing to much cardio befor workouts?Any help will be greatly appreciated. .

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on your weight loss so far! That’s awesome.

      Check out this post, it will help you:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-hardgainers-guide-to-guaranteed-muscle-growth/

    • Jordan Petersen

      Cardio should always be after a workout. It works wonders on blood pressure. Just a fun fact.

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  • Londa1983

    Please help I am so confused on all the articles I have read.They each say many things… I am a 30 yr old female at 5’5.. and I workout 5-6 days a wk. I goal weight is 135. I want to lose weight, but at the same time gain muscle.. not that much muscle but I want to gain curves in my butt and cuts in my arms and shoulders.. I warm up for 10 mins on the eliptical then I weight lift for chest, shoulders and back for 30 mins.. after that I do the eliptical again for 20 mins then 10 mins abs.. I do that on tuesdays and thursdays.. on mon wed and fridays I do the same routine but instead of weight lifting my arms I do various exercises for my legs and butt.. my husband is telling me that I am burning off all my muscle, which actually I do see a little and only a little.. I just need to know if what I am doing is doing more harm than good.. again I want to lose weight.. lose my fatty midsection but gain cuts in my arms more importantly I would LOVE to build my thighs and Butt.. also I have been on a low carb diet for 2 wks.. I lost 7.5 the first wk and nothing this wk.. please advise me on what’s right.. Thanks..

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool on your stats, routine, and goal.

      Regarding the weight loss, your routine seems okay. It’s most likely a diet issue. Regarding building muscle, that might require a bit of a different approach depending on what you’re doing for your lifting (exercises, rep range, and workout volume).

      Check out the following articles and lemme know what you think:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /build-muscle-lose-fat/

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-quickest-way-to-lose-weight/

  • Stuart Cullinan

    Hi Mike, was wondering what your thoughts were on HIIT done sprint 8 style and the claims that it can increase HGH up to 500% due to activation of fast twitch muscle fibers?

    • Michael Matthews

      Sprinting like that is great. It’s a bit rough on the legs but a good cardio workout.

      • Stuart Cullinan

        Yeah, the same principles can be applied to cycle, eliptical etc.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yup. I do my HIIT on the recumbent bike and love it. I have an article on HIIT here BTW:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com /high-intensity-interval-training-and-weight-loss/

  • William

    hi im a 21 year old male, quite a small to average build. at the moment im doing a workout routine that is one day calisthenics and weights , next day 30 min high intesity cardio, then i rest saturday and sunday. my goal is to turn the minor amount of fat i have on my stomach to muscle, and to look cut ( six pack and descent arms/shoulders) but i dont want to bulk or look out of proportion. should i continue the way im going ?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm well remember you can’t turn fat into muscle–you can lose fat or build muscle.

      And IMO, when you need to gain size, you should go for achieving it as quickly as possible. And the best way to do that is to lift heavy weights, as discussed here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-hardgainers-guide-to-guaranteed-muscle-growth/

      And it’s also worth noting that if you’re below 15% body fat, you should keep yourself in a mild caloric surplus to maximize muscle growth. If you’re over 15%, then you want to work on losing fat. This article will explain more:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-definitive-guide-to-muscle-recovery-and-muscle-growth/

      Hope this helps!

  • Cole

    Hey I’ve been working out for about 6 months straight everyday doing mostly weights.. But my friend told me if I go on the elliptical for about 30-45 min I don’t have to do any weights at all and if I do everyday I won’t loose any muscle mass?? Is that accurate??

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice on the training.

      No that’s not true. You will lose muscle if you stop lifting. And doing a bunch of cardio will accelerate the muscle loss.

  • Dan Strohschein

    Hey Mike, Why is it that in the body building world, when folks refer to cardio – it’s always running, cycling, ellipticals, etc but NEVER to aerobics like kickboxing, boxing, tae bo, etc? I’ve been doing Tae Bo – which is quite HIIT – and with a low calorie diet, have lost 18 pounds. My goal is to cut, so this is moving in the right direction. Just seems like there is some kind of prejudice against Aerobics in the industry. What gives?

    • Michael Matthews

      Mainly just a utilitarian view of cardio as opposed to having fun or enjoying yourself, haha. Many bodybuilders dislike cardio and just want to get it over with.

      Aerobics like Tae Bo, kickboxing, etc. are totally fine.

      • Osher Barda

        Ya I dislike cardio too but now I use your cardio routines in your cardio book and I enjoy doing cardio! Lol

        • Michael Matthews

          Nice! 🙂

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  • Nick

    I hope you answer my question Michael ,So I am planning to bulk should I include Hiit 2-3 days and lower the minutes that i perform now that I am bulking,or should I just a add maybe 2 days of very hard hiit with no or very small body exercises what is the best in your opinion for not getting fat while bulking?

    • Michael Matthews

      Personally I like to do 2-3x 25-30 minute cardio sessions per week while bulking, and I do all HIIT unless my legs are too blasted, in which case I’ll do LISS.

      • Osher Barda

        What’s liss

        • Michael Matthews

          Low-intensity steady-state cardio.

      • What about jumping rope for 15 mins a day?

        • Michael Matthews

          Totally fine!

  • romina

    hey mike, I am having a dilemma with my workout routines..since I enjoy running so much, I’m planning to join a 20k marathon for May 2014 and I’ve been running at least 3 to 4 times a week during the summer time. I’d like to continue my training, however, I am very conscious with my “chicken legs, so I am also trying to gain weigh in my lower body and train for my marathon at the same. I only have 3 days a week to work out, and a lot of people are telling me to cut down on my cardio. I don’t want to bulk up in my upper body either since I have broad shoulders, i just want more of a hour glass figure. What is your advice for those apple body shape who wants to gain lower body muscles and train for a marathon, without bulking (just toning) the upper body?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting! Honestly it’s a bit hard to train for a marathon and build muscle due to all the cardio.

      I would recommend getting past the marathon and then starting a weightlifting routine.

  • Michael Skinner

    So, I want to cut. I like running. Is 30-40 minutes 3 times a week too much, not enough? Should I throw in some HIIT? I’ve let myself go and estimate that I’m probably in the 25-30% body fat range. I used to run a lot (and pretty fast too) bit I ran so much I lost muscle and not fat. Help! Michael S.

    • Michael Matthews

      I would definitely recommend HIIT. 20-25 minutes per session is enough, and 3-4x week is plenty.

      Remember diet is key too!

  • Devin

    Great article, thanks for the write-up. I’m aggressively trying to burn fat and at the same time gain or at least maintain muscle (25%BMI after not working out and eating bad for a while). With enough protein and spread out over the day I’m able to eat around 1,600 calories for the day and not feel starved (I’m a 30 year old male). Sluggish at times due to no breads but I do eat veggies and occasional oatmeal. My question is…if going to the gym 4-5 times a week and trying for cardio two times while there, if I keep my protein intake to match 1 gram per pound of weight, am I burning fat, muscle, or both? I am mostly an endomorph. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Cool on your goals but 1600 calories per day is a bit low. You’re going to feel better by eating more and you’ll continue losing weight.

      How much do you currently weigh?

      • I don’t think that was me who posted that, but with the same name and amost identical situation, I can’t help but reply to you for both of us… I weigh 200lbs with about 23% body fat, according to my WW scale. My main goal (while gaining muscle) is to lower fat percentage (15% or so) and I can tell you with certainty that diet influence has plateaued. I currently have no cardio in my routine at all and I’m almost positive that my fat loss has stopped because there’s no cardio… And maybe 16-1800 calories a day is not enough for me (us :P)

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha hey Devin. 🙂

          Cool on your stats and goal. Yes that’s a bit low on the calories.

          Are you lifting?

          • Hey Michael, thanks for replying. Yeah, I’m lifting 2-3 times a week … usually M, W and T. I just bought your first book last night and have read half of it already!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW. 🙂

            Okay that’s good. If we added some cardio you should be able to eat around 2k/day and lose weight.

            Great on the book! Let me know what you think. 🙂 We can then talk further about your situation and how to get you to your goal.

  • djedga

    Great article – there is so much conflicting advice out there but this seems common sense to me. I’m in a transition at the moment…

    I’ve lost about 33kg over the last 18 months or so, I’m down to a “healthy” BMI 74kg at 5′ 11″, I think around 16-18% body fat. I’m looking to build up some mass but not add too much / any fat (something I am petrified of is putting weight back on after losing so much)!

    currently I’m doing a mix of exercises. for cardio:
    – 3 – 4 x cardio a week – either bike or run for 30 minutes at a fairly intense pace with HIIT on the treadmill for the running). I’ll burn between 3-500 calories on these sessions.
    – Sometimes I’ll swap the run/bike for a kick boxing workout.

    I do a weights / strength 3 x per week split between:
    – Upper body/back, (lat pull downs 30kg, seated chest press 25kg, shoulder press 25kg and seated row 30kg).
    – Legs, (leg press 45kg, hamstring and quads 30kg or some bodyweight squats, thrusts etc if I don’t have time for the gym).
    – Abs once (following loosely on the P90x abs ripper x).

    Diet wise I am pretty good (not perfect but pretty healthy) average day would be about 1600 calories give or take:

    – Oats or peanut butter on toast or egg on toast for breakfast.
    – Soup (chicken, veg, tomato or mushroom) with a slice of bread, banana, apple, satsuma and a yoghurt for lunch. Occasionally a sandwich.
    – Dinner, meat or fish with rice or potato and veg.
    – Occasionally I’ll have a burger or a pizza or something at the weekend but hey we’re all human and this will maybe be once or twice a month..

    Chest and abs are just starting to show a little and my weight is pretty stable (fluctuating between 73-75kg) so I assume I am making some gains in muscle while losing the last flab (veeerrry slooowly)! I still have some stubborn belly fat getting in the way of the lower abs and I want some more definition overall. I’m not looking to be a bodybuilder.

    Should I be upping the calories/protein in my diet and hitting higher weights? I’ve not ventured into the free weights area at the gym yet but I think this might be my next move…

    • djedga

      oh and I forgot – I also play 5 a side football once a week and I normally hit my low weight for the week the day after – I’m guessing it’s like HIIT as it’s a stop/start/sprint type game :0)

      • Michael Matthews

        Ah okay, cool. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on everything you’ve done so far!

      Yeah it’s time to hit the free weights and to speed your metabolism up by slowly increasing calories so you can flip back to a cut to lose the last bits of fat without severely restricting your calories.

      I highly recommend you check out my Bigger Leaner Stronger program–you’re in a perfect place to do it.

      • Djedga

        Thanks will check it out

      • djedga

        sorry for another lengthy post but I figure it would help if I’m as specific as possible!

        Been reading the book last night and today and I’m gonna start some heavy lifting from Sunday once I’m happy I know all the exercises well enough. It’s been an incite-full read although nothing drastically new it has helped me to see through some of the BS.

        My diet macros aren’t far away in terms of carbs/fat/protein from where I want to be, so I can tweak a little and I’m going to add some whey protein shakes pre-post workout, got some powder ordered.

        I have one quick question.

        I fall into the category of only really being able to manage a couple of gym sessions a week due to family and work commitments etc. anything over that and I start to neglect some of my husbandly duties! ;0) During cutting this has been easy as I can do stuff at home (normally later in the evening after I have helped do my bit around the house / cooking / cleaning etc).

        This is going to be harder with heavy weights as I have to be in the gym to do this.

        (As a side note the wife is also getting to the gym with me but has been less dedicated than me so far, so I’m also trying to help her with her goals a little – we workout together Sunday and Tuesday or Wednesday at the moment)

        My current routine (loosely occasionally the days will change a little):

        Sunday – Gym day – treadmill HIIT, weights machines (upper body)
        ***Cook up food for the first couple of days of the week
        Monday – Home Day – Abs and stationary bike or kick boxing
        Tuesday – Gym Day – treadmill HIIT and weights machines (legs)
        Wednesday – Rest day
        Thursday – Football 5 a side (this is set in stone)
        Friday – Rest Day
        Saturday – Rest Day

        Your book mentions a 3 day routine to substitute for the 5 day programme, I was wondering could this be condensed into 2 days in the gym or would this be too much stress on those days?

        e.g could I do:
        Sunday – Gym Day – Chest, Tris, Bis + Cardio

        Monday – Home Day – Abs and Bike or Kick Boxing
        Tuesday – Gym Day – Back, Legs + Shoulders (skip the cardio)
        Wednesday – Rest Day
        Thursday – Football 5 Aside
        Friday – Rest Day
        Saturday – Rest Day

        Sorry to bombard you with questions!!

        • Michael Matthews

          Really glad you’re liking the book!

          Ah cool, no worries we can work with that. If you can lift 3x per week, you can follow the 3x routine in the book.

          If 2x, do this:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com /maintain-muscle-and-strength/

          And then you can supplement it with some home training if you’d like:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

          And cardio can be done separately of course.

          What do you think?

          • Djedga

            Thanks again – you seem to have an answer for everything ;0) will start with the 2 day program and see how I get on for a month or two then take it from there! Now off to the gym – not starting the new regime until Sunday after I’ve re-read the book and my protein powder turns up though!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! Great let me know how it goes!

          • djedga

            I missed dumbbell rows from Sunday in my last post ;0)

            Also I have been doing the 10 reps range but been thinking about doing something with higher weights and 6-8 reps to promote more size..

            Finally my wrist strength is awful on my left side (and strength in general is playing catch up with my right side) so I’ve just ordered some wrist straps before moving onto heavier weights @ 6-8 reps.

          • Michael Matthews

            You can definitely do that. In fact emphasizing the 4-6 rep range works wonders as well.

          • djedga

            Sorry that probably made very little sense, I replied to my reply which seems not to have been posted. It was a long one!

            To summarise:

            3 months of heavy lifting and increased calories (macros about the same as before – just upped cals from 1500 to 2500-3000 slowly over the first month and added some protein shakes).

            Wight gone from 73.5Kg to 76.9Kg, so roughly 8lbs in that time. Waist gone from 34″ to 32″ which is great (bywaist I mean jeans waistline not around the navel).

            I’m just thinking about reducing the calories and adding back some cardio as tum is starting to come back again (obviously a little fat added in that 8lbs). It’s not a lot and I’m sure that my “fat self” from before is probably a bit paranoid too so maybe I see more than an impartial person would.

            Body fat has gone from about 15-17% to about 14-16% ish. Should I now “cut” and if so for how long? I was thinking 1 month then back to upping the calories again.

            Current routine is: (3 sets of 10)
            Sunday: chest press, incline chest press, dumbbell rows, chest flyes, closed grip pull downs, lat pull downs, deadlift.
            Monday: rest day or abs (alternate)
            Tuesday: deadlift, squats, closed grip pull downs, pull ups (as many as I can do – about 3 sets of 5), leg curls, leg extensions, front raises, side raises.
            Wednesday: rest
            Thursday: Cardio (football)
            Friday: rest
            Saturday: rest

          • Michael Matthews

            Great job man. That’s exciting. Yes you’re in a great place to cut now that your metab is humming. I like it!

          • djedga

            Exciting indeed.

            34, just about the fittest I’ve been since I can remember and really enjoying the process… Why did I not do this before?!

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha. 😉

  • AKash Dey

    Hey mate i got one question if i do jogging in the morning and then soon after it i go gym and do weight training will i be able to loose my total body fat and gain muscle ?? i also brought a ultimate nutrition 100% whey….please sort me out…

    Cheers

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that could work but better would be the cardio after the lifting. What do you think?

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  • Ahmed

    Ok , here is the case
    i am 21 years old and 5-6 month ago i decided to start lifting weight and eat healthy , i was 152 lbs
    and i am 177 cm , i cut off junk food completely and bad sources of fats and now i am on 163 lbs
    but still i do have belly fat which i though it would go with eating healthy but it is still there
    i lift 5 days a week , i did measure my BF % and it is on 13.9 , on my diet i do eat alot around 140 gms + of protein
    and alot of carbs also around 140 gms , is there anyway to lose the belly fat and getting around 10% BF without losing my progress in weight lifting and starting cardio
    which will also burn muscles ?

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow great job! That rocks.

      You’re still pretty lean. Honestly I think you should continue bulking until you hit the 16-17% range and then cut…

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

  • BodyweightFan

    Hi Mike,
    I am a “hard gainer” when it comes to building muscle mass. Went to the gym for years. I started bodyweight exercises (strictly, no weights) and am seeing results I’ve never seen I the gym for the same period. Despite being more on the thinner side, I do have excess belly and waist fat. I am eating healthier than ever and the fat is going away slowly but surely. How does doing moderate cardio (20-30 minutes) just twice a week sound to you? I think that’s the way to go, but just want your opinion.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great! The cardio is totally fine. I recommend HIIT–you’ll get the most fat loss from it.

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  • Makiev

    Hey mike i was doing rlly wekk 4 months agi a got a pretty nice bulky cutted shape…however i had a minor car accident and had to stop training for 5 months…now im back at the gym and i cant seem to handle as many weights as before…is that normal or is it caused by my accident ? (Did not break anthg juat tiny bruises )

    • Michael Matthews

      Shit I’m sorry to hear that. 5 months of no training will result in muscle loss. But that’s okay, just get going again and you’ll be fine.

  • MC

    Awesome article. I think the most interesting thing about this the insulin sensitivity benefits cardio brings, which is a huge factor regardless of goals.
    Quick Question: you said that this mainly applies to the legs, so would doing a full body workout with very light weights of around 15-20 reps be a good idea on off days to speed recovery to sore muscles?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yes IS is very important for overall health.

      Yes, you can do that.

  • Jason Brown

    With spring coming up, I’d like to get out and do some hill sprints as my cardio. Do you have any recommended routines for hill sprints other than the standard 60 seconds hard, 60 seconds off?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool! 60 seconds will be a bit intense for hill sprints. I used to do flat sprints at 100 yards (sprint 100, walk 200, sprint, walk, etc.) and that destroyed me…

  • James Beck

    I find that if I spend 15-20 mins on bag work and shadow boxing on chest, shoulders, back and arms day and 15-20 mins of kicking and skipping on legs day greatly reduces my DOMS. Currently loosing belly fat and gaining muscle on a 5 day lifting week with 6th day being “fun cardio” (bike riding, swimming, climbing wall, playground, parkour etc) while maintaining a fairly calorie neutral diet (3300 a day as I have a physical job).

    Thanks for all the great articles Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome, keep up the good work! I also find that cycling on legs day reduces DOMs.

  • Michelle

    I wonder if I’m doing too much cardio. I lift weights. I also enjoy taking classes like Krav Maga self defense which is intense dripping cardio for one hour, Crossfit which is intense too, bellydance, yoga, jogging. I can’t cut them out because I genuinely enjoy them all during my week. I lift every day focusing on a different body part. My goal is to have good stamina and endurance as well as build strength,muscle and define toneness. I’m just trying to eat more throughout my day. I don’t eat enough protein (from meat). I’m 5’2 female, pretty slim, definitely want to build some curves.

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow. What’s your overall schedule look like?

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  • Debbye S. Sparks

    Hello Mike, I just bought your book thinner leaner stronger and I’m loving it… I have a question tho, I really like to run, I enjoy it, and I’m thinking about running my 1st half marathon, I usually do one day of intense cardio a week – Saturdays – and I do weight lifting training the rest of the week with a little bit of cardio here and there. I wonder how much can that damage my muscle growth? Or my “lean” look? By intense cardio once a week I mean I run at least one hour, 10Km aprox, even though I’m looking forward to run more… 15Km and so on until I can run the half marathon.
    How can I prevent my muscle lost? Should I stick to the same pre and post work out meal advices you give us on the book? Like the 20 – 30 – 30 for pre work out meal? Do I need the same amount of carbs? Since glycogen is not that low when I do cardio, but may be if it’s that intense it is or not? Thank you!!!! I really need your answer!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      That’s not a problem. You won’t build as much muscle as you would without all the cardio but it doesn’t mean you can’t make gains. I have quite a few marathoners that also follow the program and do well.

      Yes, protein and carbs before all runs and protein after.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • shannie

    I really enjoyed reading this. My question is if you’re burning fat amd building muscle, does your weight stay the same? How about your bmi?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! It can for a bit but usually weight goes down in time because people have more fat to lose than they can replace with muscle week after week.

      BMI is irrelevant. Body composition is everything.

  • Tim

    Great article. I too agree that a strength training routine sprinkled with a little bit of cardio is the best approach, especially HIIT.

    The key is to keep the HIIT sessions short and only do them 1-2 times a week.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yup, that approach works really well.

  • Cory Krigbaum

    Thanks for the link to this, its a great read.

    I understand that Cardio, if done properly, will help with muscle recovery and helps with metabolism.

    If I am going to cut from 15% to 10% BF, does something like this make sense (keeping in mind I will incorporate your 6 strategies to lose fat and belly fat loss routine).

    3-4 heavy lifting days per week (6-8 rep range)
    2-3 LISS (Army PT in the morning, ~1 hour)
    3-4 HIIT (No longer than 25 minutes)
    15 km bike ride to and from work twice a week (only when PT is “strength days”)

    Obviously my LISS is in the morning and bike ride so its okay to do Heavy Lifting in the afternoon. Should I do HIIT after some of those workouts or should I alternate days?

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  • Mando Pando

    i don’t really understand how cardio doesn’t build muscle. Look at federal prisoners…all they do are press ups, sit ups, push ups, and pull ups all within their cell and grow massive amounts of muscle. I also don’t see how if you eat more before or after a workout as you would with weight lifting, why wouldn’t running build muscle??? its almost as if it is a scam, in order to get guys to enter into gyms more, buy protein supplements, and buy more gear from fitness websites…

    • Michael Matthews

      Weightlifting is really big in prison actually. I’ve emailed with quite a few guys on this. Many also get their hands on anabolics.

      Cardio most certainly doesn’t build muscle like weightlifting. I don’t even have to cite research to back that up. Just look at people that only do cardio but never any resistance training…

      • Mando Pando

        true ill give yah that

        so body weight training will not build any muscle or definition?

      • Anders Gustav

        on the other hand, there are sports that build sizeable amounts of muscle without resistance training, look at the thighs of soccer players or skaters. not as fast as resistance training of course, but some sport certainly promote growth with no weigth training involved.

        • Michael Matthews

          If you use a muscle intensely and frequently enough, yes, it will grow.

  • spikebat

    Hi Mike, book is on order and fantastic to see you so open to helping all these commenters out. One quick question….I am looking to start a weight training program after a few years off (kids, work, the usual excuses) to build some good quality muscle heading into my mid 40s. I also like to ride my bike. If I cycle an hour (20-25k) on rest days (3 weight training sessions a week) am I going to struggle with muscle gain? I’m still keen to keep the miles/cardio up but also want to build some quality muscle. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I really appreciate it.

      That shouldn’t be too big of an issue. Just make sure to have protein and carbs before and after…

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Jose Lopez

    so you can still build muscle doing HIIT cardio 3 times a week??

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes

  • Scott

    I don’t know how you can come to the conclusion that HIIT preserves muscle mass. The study was done on 14 untrained premenopausal women with no dietary restrictions. They all burned the same calories but the liss group lost more weight, probably as a result of differing diets which were not controlled! The conclusion is then made that the hiit group preserved fat free mass better but actually they just lost less weight: “higher intensity tended to maintain fat-free mass, possibly, in part, through the smaller weight loss”. A study comparing weight loss without keeping diet constant is a complete waste of time and no conclusions can be drawn from it.
    If you’ve got the energy to be doing hiit cardio properly 3x a week then you’re not lifting hard enough or long enough. Why sit on a bike when you could be lifting weights which burns calories as well as stimulating muscle growth.

  • Jose Lopez

    awesome article!! so im trying to build muscle I got my calories up to 3000 a day!! I know that one cardio session I burn at least 400 calories…what if in cardio days I eat 400 calories more which are the ones that I burn by doing cardio that day…so I would eat 3400 and burn the 400 calories with cardio…and just eat 3000 calories in a day of no cardio…would that work?? would I lose lots of muscle??

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! You may or may not need to do that. Kind of just depends on your body…

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  • Ilke

    Hi there,
    I’ve always been a skinny girl, and I have good genes to thank for that!
    But I want to build a butt and make it curvy!! I also want to cut in on my arms.. I’ve been doing cardio a few times a week but I’m also scared I’ll loose weight and my butt will be flatter. What should I do?

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  • Cara Stone

    Mike ~ here’s my dilemma: I’m a personal trainer, running coach, & Insanity Instructor. I’m also a distance runner myself. Right now though, I’m at just over 25% body fat and NOT happy about that. I’d like to (eventually) get my body fat down to 14%, which is the low end of ‘athlete’ range for my age & gender (49 yr old female). In order to have a (feminine) muscular, fit physique, I need to not only reduce body fat, but gain more lean muscle mass. I’m about to start marathon training, which means A LOT more than 30 mins of cardio 3 times a week. In your opinion, is it feasible to marathon train, reduce my body fat by 11% (or so), AND put on that sexy lean muscle mass…simultaneously? So many people say ‘No; they’re competing goals,’ but I feel like it COULD be possible, with some very close monitoring of my nutrition plan and plenty of strength training, which I do and have come to love as much as running. What do you think???

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  • dirtyharry9815

    Hey Mike, just a quick question… I’m not in a heavy bulking stage… I’m mostly trying to maintain, but obviously always trying to lose more fat and gain more muscle at all costs. I workout 6 days a week and do cardio usually 4-5 days a week and I’ve been doing HIIT after my workouts for time-sake, but would your recommendation be that for fat loss, HIIT would be best as faated cardio in the morning instead of directly after a workout??

    Love all of your articles btw… very helpful.

  • dirtyharry9815

    Hey quick question… I’m not really trying to bulk heavy I’m just trying to maintain where I am but obviously always looking to lose fat and gain more muscle. I workout 6 days a week and do cardio usually 4 days. I tend to do HIIT directly after my workout for time-sake, but would you recommend fasted cardio in the morning for the best fat burning results as opposed to directly after training or is there not a big difference?
    Love your articles btw… very helpful.

  • Travis Curnutte

    When was this article posted? the date. Cannot see it anywhere on the page.

    • Michael Matthews

      Apr 11, 2013

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  • Alvaro

    Mike, why is it better to do cardio after strength training? what is wrong with doing it before? I do a mix bodyweight lifting routine: dip bars in the form of “8×3” exercises (8 sets of 4 reps each with 10 seconds rests in between, 4 minutes rest and then another two “whole” 32 reps sets) combined with heavy sandbag lifting for shoulders. almost 40 minutes, but first I run 8 km on treadmill at 16km/hours in 30 minutes…at 3600m above sea level!! (according to treadmill 1300-1500 calories) I started adding Dimatize whey protein to my diet and it seems to be working for grow muscle but not really for fat burning. i do this routine 2 to 3 times a week, when i don’t do cardio i do a more intense bodyweight routine w/ heavy sandbag. (read your article on bodyweight, i agree, but the swinging dips on parallel bars work a little better than normal dips and give you lots of dynamic strength, time under stress increases also push further away the muscle growth limit frontier…adding sandbag became a must tough). you think i should increase (or change to HIIT) cardio to burn more fat or should i reduce calories? i’m at 77kg and 1,80 m height, i eat slightly more than 2000 calories a day. I’ m targeting 80 kg of lean muscle.

    • Michael Matthews

      Because cardio before saps your strength. If you do it after you’ll find your lifts go up quite a bit.

      This will help you on the diet:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      Let me know!

      • Alvaro

        Hi Mike, been following your macro nutrient advices and it s working fine i m still a at surplus phase (10-20% surplus works great) for a fews more weeks, so i have a question on the same topic: does cardio hiit rope (jump 20 minutes) after leg strength training interfere with muscle hypertrophy? i always get the impression that if i do cardio after strength, muscles don’t feel as pumped. Thanks!

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Clay Eamer

    Hey Mike, have you ever tried using a prowler for cardio?

    • Michael Matthews

      No but it looks fun. 🙂

  • Sindre

    Hey Man! What do you eat, when do you eat before cardio when you are bulking?

  • John

    Hi,
    I recently started to go to the gym to build muscle. I am a skinny guy so I want to get bigger. I am eating like crazy to gain some mass but my only worry is that if I start doing cardio exercises, will the calories from the food be burnt off and leave me with no gain? Because usually people use cardio to lose weight not gain it. Thanks

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  • Richard Starkey

    I ran 2 or 3 times a week with no weight training and lost 16lbs. I’m currently back in the gym 3 times a week doing full body compound workouts trying to gain some size. I became skinny fat looking so am not sure how much cardio to do now. I was thinking of simply running for 20mins or so once a week. Will i lose muscle?

  • JR

    Hi,

    I do weight training for 45 minutes and HIIT cardio directly after that. Does that weaken my strength training strongly or is it just some percents?

    When would be the ideal time for cardio? The day after or the day before weight training? In the morning? I do weight training in the evening, 2 times a week.

    I tried cycling and the elliptical trainer and find the latter much more exhausting. I assume it also mimics some movements I do with weights, but is it a good alternative or would you definitely recommend cycling?

    About intervals: I did 15 second sprints and 45 seconds recovery so far and wanted to gradually go to 30 | 30 while you recommend 30 second sprints and 60 seconds recovery (and shorter recovery periods over time if I get you correctly). Is there an advantage if I start with 30 second sprints and more recovery?

    When you say that an HIIT session should not last longer than 30 minutes – does this include warm-up and cool-down?

    OK, lots of questions. Would be great to get some answers.

    • It’s probably not a big deal. It may be ideal to separate those workouts but if you can’t, keep doing what you’re doing. Personally I would lift, have a scoop of whey, and then do cardio.

      You can do cardio whenever you want, really. I like doing it before dinner.

      I like cycling but it’s just a preference.

      This should help you better program your HIIT workouts:

      https://legionathletics.com/high-intensity-interval-training/

  • JR

    I forgot one thing – I use a very high resistance for the sprints (15 to 20 out of 20). Does that make sense? I ask because you recommend 4-5 (out of ?).

  • danielle clark

    ok so i have 30lb to lose i have been going to the gym every day i do 30-40 min of cardio and 45 min lifting doing abs every day and switch every other day between upper body and lower and a 1500-1700 calorie diet is the weight training helping or hurting my fat loss … the scale isnt moving and im not seeing much of a change yet but i dont want to be skinny and flabby so do i keep doing what im doing or do i need to change something?

    • The most important factor in weight loss is calories. If you’re not in a calorie deficit you won’t lose weight. It’s that simple.

      So, the first thing you need to do to help you achieve your goal is to set up a proper meal plan that puts you a calorie deficit. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      As to your training, I recommend weightlifting first and and then doing cardio. You want to be as strong as you can for the lifting.

      LMK what you think!

  • Chris Scanlon

    Could this be resolved by eating back the calories burned from running?

  • Swapnil Prabhavalkar

    Hi Michael,

    I am currently following a 5 day split:
    1. Chest n Biceps
    2. Back n Triceps
    3. Shoulders and Traps
    4. Legs
    5. Abs

    I want to burn fat as well as gain muscle, so wanted to include cardio in
    my schedule. But not really sure whether I should do cardio in the
    morning on empty stomach or after workout or should I do cardio on days
    when I am not doing weight training?

    I would like to know the frequency, type (HIIT / normal) so that I don’t lose my hard earned MUSCLE.

    Thanks in advance.Sorry for the lengthy post.

    • Cool on the split.

      I recommend doing 3-5 sessions of 20-30 minutes of HIIT a week. You should do these completely separate from the weight lifting.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/high-intensity-interval-training-and-weight-loss/

      LMK what you think!

      • Swapnil Prabhavalkar

        Thanks mate !!

        I just didn’t get what you mean by completely separate from weight lifting. Should I do HIIT cardio on remaining days when I am not doing weight training or should I do Cardio in the morning and weight training in the evening?

        • YW!

          Sorry I wasn’t clear. No, it’s okay to do HIIT and training on the same days, but they should be done separately. Meaning, you could do one in the morning and one in the evening.

          If you have to do them together, do the weights first then the HIIT.

          • Swapnil Prabhavalkar

            Thanks !! I will try this right away !!!

          • No problem!

            LMK how it goes.

          • Swapnil Prabhavalkar

            Hi Michael,

            I have been following HIIT cardio training consistently for a month now and I have also changed my diet. I have lost around 6kg in a month.

            Thanks for your advice which helped me to lose weight.

            Cheers,
            Swapnil

          • Great job on the results brother!

            NP for the advice. Happy to help.

  • Sara El-Jammal

    Great article! Thanks for the info.

  • JR

    Hi,

    I do cardio directly after lifting – cycling.
    Is it better to do it on the days when I don’t train my legs? Or the other way around?

    Thanks in advance!

    • I recommend doing it completely separate from lifting (like one in the morning one in the afternoon) but if that’s not possible after the lifting is fine.

      Whatever days work for you are fine. I imagine it being rough after leg day though…

  • Ryan

    Great article,dude I’ve been lifting ten years now,seen some great gains,but I’m at 13%bf and wanna get to 10% or lower, I’m 205 and honestly kvetching did cardio once in all those years ,always trained like a lunatic,all natural too.my question is I’m liking the sound of hiit cardio,can you please give me any recommendations? Really don’t wanna lose muscle but I do realize it’s a definite possibility.thanks

  • fahad lashari

    Hi. Great article! Very helpful. So I am what you would call a ‘hard gained’ however I follow a strict caloric surplus diet to the last calorie. I’m currently eating in a surplus of 300 calories. Which I will be increasing by 200 calories per month. I train 5 days a week for bodybuilding. Doing the following split:

    Monday chest tris
    Tuesay back bis
    Wedesday shoulders and traps
    Thursday legs
    Friday arms
    Saturday rest
    Sunday rest

    I used to boxing before bodybuilding and I loved it. The confidence it gives, the power and ability to move so fast. I love it. So I would like to do a single 1hr session on Sunday with my old boxing trainer. The session will start with 3 rounds of skipping for 2mins (1min breaks). 4 rounds of pad work

    • Cool on the cals and the workout split.

      The boxing shouldn’t be an issue. You may need to add in some cals to ensure the surplus, but that all depends on results. As long as you’re gaining .5 pounds a week, you’re good. 🙂

  • deyon strydom

    This is a great article. It taught me quite a few things but I need help in knowing the answer to one question.
    I’m 17 and started hitting the gym recently to bulk up my muscles. I’m doing a 2 day split and resting on weekends. I go to the gym in the afternoon but to increase my fitness I want to go jogging every morning however I am afraid that it will negatively impact my muscle gaining. I want to know if it will?

  • Jojo Guardiola

    I do an average of an 60 min a day on the elliptical, and do a little weight lifting. My goal is to loose the excess pounds. According to the ellicptical at my gym, I’m buring about 750 range. I stay at a 1400 caloric intake to lose weight.. it can fall less than that with the cardio. I eat light through out the day. I’m a 37yr old 5’8″ 168 lbs. I want to get back to 155 then start bulking “a little”. With the weightlifting I do now, maybe 2 to 4 days a week (depending) for roughly 45 minutes, will this cardio I do on a normal basis hurt my gains? I read so much and I read all kinds of contradictions. I’m not trying to be a weightlifter, bodybuilder, just cut. Am I okay with the cardio to lose this subbourn belly fat? I appreciate your help!

  • Alex Mc

    Cardiovascular training has increased my ability to recover during rest periods, leading to a higher volume and intensity of resistance training. Since starting to jog at least 10km a week, my strength has drastically increased. I definitely eat more now, but have had no trouble staying around 100kg. Researching this, I believe it is to do with capillarisation and an increase in size and number of my mitochondria, meaning that I can utilise oxygen better whilst removing more waste products at a quicker rate.

  • Susan M

    Hi Mike!
    I was wondering if a rowing machine is a choice for HIIT training. We have a treadmill and a rowing machine. The rower is nice because it works the upper body too. My concern is that if I can’t row it fast enough, it’ll be a steady state cardio workout. Your thoughts? Do I monitor my heart rate to determine if I’m working hard enough? Thanks and I’m enjoying my One Year Challenge for Women, I’ve never felt better. Thanks a million.

    • HIIT is the ideal for cardio. If you’re able to do HIIT on the rowing machine than go ahead! If not, I recommend something else.

      No need to monitor hear rate.

      Glad you’re enjoying the 1YC. Happy to help!

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Adarsh Ks

    Haii iam Adarsh,
    Iam a person who wants muscle mass.. And i do cardio every day for 10min.. Iam person with a lil tummy.. Does the daily cardio reduces my muscle growth? And my body mass?

  • Rob

    Hey Mike,
    I am currently lifting 5 days a week for one hour and am following the nutrition principles you recommend. My goal is to build muscle. Im a 19 year old male.
    I walk, 3-5 miles daily due to my job. I also bike to work (13 miles round trip) Monday- Friday and I enjoy this because it is therapeutic, I can get my vitamin D, and also save money on gas.
    Will this amount of activity negatively impact my muscle growth? Thank you!

    • Rob

      To clarify, I am not showing signs of overtraining and am eating to compensate for the caloric output. I am just moving into a lean mass phase from maintenance and want to make sure I am not spinning my wheels.

    • Great!

      Hmm that’s quite a bit of cardio. Ideally you would do less for maximizing muscle growth.

      That said, you can still make gains of course.

      IMO take it easy on the bike rides. Don’t pedal too hard, haha.

  • Giles

    Micheal,

    Hey man, great article. Would love some advice:

    I been running every morning for a week so far about 2.2 miles. I then go to the park and use the body lift apparatus (if you know what I mean) .

    I am quite skinny and have super high metabolism.

    Doing this for 7 days straight I have noticed a significant difference in my size, I think I’m getting cut , but I’m worried from this article that me getting cut will disappear with the amount I’m running.

    Subsequently after I get cut enough in another 2 weeks or so , I intend to lift free weights in the gym to gain muscle , but I also intend to start boxing.

    With this info, what do you reccomend? Cut the cardio? I mean I’m going crazy on it right now because in only 7 days I have seen such a change. Thoughts? Should I cut cardio when I start to try to build muscle rather than get lean and cut?

    Really appreciate it bro!

    Giles

  • One

    Hello Micheal,
    For starters, excellent article. Like everyone else, I am trying to figure out whether my cardio may be hurting my gains. To give you a little background, I used to play soccer competitively and due to grad school, I have turned to lifting to get my daily dose of exercise. I usually work out 4 days a week and every two weeks, I play an 1 hour of indoor soccer and 90 mins of outdoor soccer (what can I say, I love the sport). Can this be hurting my gains? Should I eat more cause I would hate to lose the love of my life (soccer).

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it.

      Nah, I wouldn’t worry about that much soccer. It shouldn’t effect your gains at all.

      If you’re bulking and focusing on building muscle, you may want to increase your cals on those days but otherwise, you’re good!

  • Shaniqua Jade

    I try to skip/jump rope for 10-20 minutes after my weightlifting sessions. Does this count as steady state or HIIT?
    Also, am I right to be worried about doing cardio the day after heavy leg day? As much as I want to try and squeeze some cardio in, I’m just really worried about it negatively affecting the gains to my glutes and hamstrings that I’m trying to make (I’m a girl so I want a Beyoncé booty!)
    Thanks,
    Jade

    • It’s steady state unless you follow the HIIT protocol of alternating between high and low-intensity periods.

      It may be tough to do cardio after leg day, but it won’t effect your results from leg day!

  • Daymon Sandles

    Hi, Mr. Michael,

    I am a cyclist, so my single-speed road bike is my only means of transportation; I always bike long and hard for at the absolute minimum of 10 miles a day. However, I do want to build lean muscle. I want my arms to bulge from my shirt sleeves; my chest and abs to be quite noticeable; my legs and glutes to catch my attention when I walk by a window or mirror. But, like you said, excess cardio can have a negative impact on muscle growth. But what if I were to do weightlifting workouts so intense, coupled with eating a ton of food, that my muscles would have no choice but to grow and become more defined? Is that possible? If so, then could you please give me some tips on the level of intensity that I should be operating on when working out in the gym? I’d really appreciate it.

    Sincerely and respectfully,

    Daymon

    • Cool on the cycling.

      The problem with that high volume of cardio plus lifting 5 days a week is overtraining. So more intense workouts won’t help.

      Instead, I recommend trying a 3-day BLS split and see how you do. You could make good gains with that. You can see the 3-day split here:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/

      Regarding calorie intake, you’ll just have to include the hours of biking per week in your activity total when calculating your intake. You can calculate it here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Hope this helps! LMK what you think.

  • Ricky Reed

    Hey If i would run 4-5 miles two days a week and lift weights and do ab workouts 3 days a week would that afect my muscle and ab growth?

  • fanaticwp

    hey i run 30 (4 km ) min on treadmil 5 times a week and after do my program with muscles…any problem ??? i want to lose fat and after do for mas ….

    • Ehh. I don’t recommend doing cardio before the weightlifting. It can negatively effect your strength in the gym. Instead, I recommend doing the weightlifting first, then the cardio. Or, I recommend doing them at completely separate times.

  • Stephen Paragone

    I would love some help! I’m 32 I currently weigh in at 211, I’m 5’7”. I started at 235, I’ve been doing body beast and currently I’m in the bulk phase. I stick to the program every week and weigh myself every Sunday after a 2 hour insanity cardio workouts. Since I’m in phase two, I try to extend the workouts to get more time in, I try for an hour of lifting each day, and I look to ARNOLDs routine to add on. Everyday is different, arms, chest, back, legs. I’m keeping my protein intake to my ideal weight ( Which is 185) so 185 grams of protein. But overall I try to eat under my daily caloric intake as shown on the calorie counter app so that I can loose more weight. Am I effecting my muscle growth at all, should I be eating less to see the scale continue going down, because so far its working but I’m worried that all the hard work lifting is only hurting me. Help is greatly appreciated. Stephen

  • Jojo Guardiola

    I was needing to read this! Well, I’ve been struggling with this for a while now. I go to the gym 56 days a week and do intense lifting for about 45 mins (little longer if I’m feeling good) then jump on the Isotrack climbing system (sort of like the stairmaster) for 40 mins. I sweat like crazy!
    I’m 5’8″ 161 with love handles bulging stomach. I’ve dropped my caloric to about 18-1900. I feel like I’m not losing weight fast enough and have been doing this several weeks now. I feel like my gains may be hurting, but my goal is to get rid of the stomach and love handles. I try to eat healthy and take in about 160 grams of protein along with BCAA’s etc.
    Am I doing something wrong? I’ve actually been in the gym for more than 6 months and feel like I’m going in circles. I’m concerned about my Caloric intake with working out 5-6 days a week and possibly doing too much cardio, if that makes sense.
    I appreciate your help!!!

  • Zeke Conception

    Hey there Mike. Right now I usually jog a mile before and then after I do my workouts. As well as once a week I do a 4 mile jog. But if I’m alternating my days, like on Wednesday I do chest, and Thursdays I do bis and tris, would I be good? The main reason I run before a workout is because I usually jog it over there. What would you recommend? Thanks.

    • I would save the cardio for after your lifting. You will be stronger in the gym that way…

  • Somar Awad

    hello, i’ve been using pro complex gainer for the last 2 weeks. i was 68.6 kg before i started. next week i weighed 69.4 kg . this week i weighed 67.7 kg. i actually lost weight. i’m eating 4 meals a day, including 2 meat meals, and the 2 protein shakes recommended. i’ve been using this program (http://www.building-muscle101.com/5_dayworkout.html) for 2 months now and exercising a bit more, usually abs and cardio at a moderate pace. and swimming for 40 to 60 minutes after. what am i doing wrong? and what can i do to actually gain weight as muscle not fat. thank u

    • I get where you’re at. First, I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating real food, and just sticking to calorie-dense foods

      If you’re trying to put on weight, I’d recommend bringing the cardio volume down to 1-1.5 hours weekly and no more.

      Other than that, to put on weight, you just gotta eat more my friend. This will also help:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      YW! Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Somar Awad

        gd article, just to be clear. should i cut on swimming too?
        i’d rather not.
        thanks for the help

        • Thanks! The swimming is fine but you want to make sure you’re not doing too much cardio every week.

  • Gerardo Amezquita

    Hey, If I am currently bulking should I take FORGE for my cardio?

    • Nah. I don’t recommend fasted training while bulking and Forge should only be used when training fasted.

  • Albert

    My name is Albert I’ve been training for football at my high school a month now it’s hard to gain size because we have to complete in cardio how do I gain size
    And still be able to compeet?

    • Hey Albert!

      Too much cardio will effect muscle growth. You’ll just have to make sure you’re eating enough to keep up with all the cardio you’re doing.

      Simply put, if you’re not getting stronger and gaining weight, you gotta eat more. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Edward Anzueto

    Hey my name is Edward, I am in Track and Field for my senior year and my event is sprints. So far we warm up for half a mile, then do 3 miles as our workout, then we try to do cross-fit ( yup it sucks ) . I try to workout on the weekends, lifting very heavy with around the range of 4-6 reps. I eat a lot of good carbs, protein, and veggies while weighting 190 at a height of 5’8. I would like to know if what I am doing will affect my muscle and strength progress since I am in track?

    • Hey man!

      Great on what you’re doing and while that isn’t ideal for muscle building purposes, it is what it is…

  • Phillip

    I absolutely love the results I’m seeing with you program Mike! Im about to begin my 1st bulk. Will you let me know what you think.

    On my lift days( 5X/Week) with a 10% surplus. I would train in a fed-state.
    In order to keep up some fat loss, on my HIIT Cardio Days (2X/Week) while consuming 100 kCal less that my TDEE for that day. I would train in the morning in a fasted-state with Forge.
    I want to keep up some fat loss so is it ok to incorporate carb cycling? For the week i would be in a surplus
    (1)What are your thoughts?
    (2)Why do you recommend against Fasted-Training while bulking?

  • Miguel

    Hi my name is Miguel and I do a full body routine 3x a week. Warmup on the treadmill for 10 min and cooldown on the rowing machine for 20 minutes.

    On 3 other days of the week I do HIIT on the treadmill for 25 minutes. Steady state “fat burn” on the cycle, and 20 minutes of light jogging.

    My goal is full body transformation. Male, 25, 5’10”, at 181 lbs. I recently started using an app to help keep track of my calories and learned I was barely getting in 800-1200 per day which from what I’ve read is dramatically low even for a deficit.
    Each workout I go as hard as I can and started raising my calories up to about 2000.

    Is that still too low? And is the high deficit the reason why I haven’t seen much change on the scale over the past month?

    • Miguel

      *full body transformation with an emphasis on weight loss. Preferably all fat loss but I kinda want to see results sooner rather than later and figure I can build muscle or “bulk” once I lose some poundage

      When I was 16 I was overweight(225 lbs) and decided enough was enough so I started excercising with weights and cardio and a healthy diet. I ended up getting obsessed with losing weight though and started running everyday and lost 80 lbs. flash forward and add in a couple of distractions (I.e. Fitness and nutrition were put on the back burner) and I’m 181 lbs. my body is just uck and I wanna look good naked. But this time I want to do it with weightlifting in the mix so I don’t just end up an amorphous lookin dude that’s too scared to go shirtless at the beach.

      Any advice? Like should I dial it back on the weights when I lift because all the cardio I do does leave me a bit drained and I don’t want to risk an injury trying to get stronger and lose weight. Maybe not go as hard on lifting days until I’m at a weight I’m happy with and cut down the cardio then?

    • Hey Miguel! Cool on everything you’re doing and thanks for all the info.

      First, let’s continue with the RD:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      Yep, the longer you’re in a steep deficit like that, the lower your TDEE gets and the harder it becomes to lose weight. So, let’s do the RD and then go to a standard 20-25% deficit from TDEE.

      Keep this in mind when you’re back to cutting:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      The amount of weightlifting you’re doing is fine. Let’s make sure you’re not overdoing the cardio:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/cardio-and-muscle-growth-friends-or-foes/

      Let’s start with those for now.

      LMK how it goes.

  • Shyam Shankar

    Hello! I want to lose some fat and build muscle at the same time. I have been running 4 kms . 2.5 miles ( 6 times a week, I go to gym) and after that I do the weight training, the routine (chest for one day, shoulder for the next and so on).
    Am I doing this correct? Or should I not frequently do cardio and reduce it to twice/thrice a week and focus on muscle growth? The point is, I have a tiny bit of belly and I do abs exercises thrice a week. So I need to run to cut down that fat. But am I overdoing it?

    Btw, I am 21 and 5 Ft and 8 inches and I weigh 63 kgs/ 140 pounds. It would be great to get a reply, looking forward to it!

    Thanks.

  • Phillip

    Hey Mike! I’m Currently bulking right now and am still curious why you recommend HIIT training to LISS when building muscle. I understand the idea of over training and reducing the surplus, but
    1) wouldn’t HIIT prevent you from recovering before your next workout?
    2) Do you recommend 1 or 2 sessions/week if I lift 5X/week?

  • Pavan S

    Alrighty, so I’ve been doing HIIT for a while now, once a week prior to my cut while bulking, now 2 times a week after I ended my reverse dieting process which I probably didn’t need. I’m down to like 6-7% body fat legit, weighing like 151-152(slight glycogen depleted and slightly dehydrated morning weigh in) @ 5’9 1/2.

    Anyway, the real odd thing is that I don’t break a sweat.. like at all when I’m weightlifting. The only time I really sweat is when I’m doing HIIT and even that is around 164+ bpm, probably like level 20 on the stationary bike.
    I know the only real reason for your body to sweat is when it feels hot, and requires to cool down. I used to break a sweat kinda fast after my 2nd set of squats, but even that doesn’t occur. Should I be worried, and my resting heart rate isn’t really much lower than it used to be.

    • Great job on the cut. That rocks.

      I don’t sweat much when I lift either. A bit on my heavy pulling and squatting but that’s also my body–I don’t sweat easily.

      Nothing to worry about, no.

  • Bill

    There is an outdated fact written in here. In the “cardio and muscle recovery” subtitle you say that DOMS is the result of damage to the muscle fibers but in your recent articles you say that DOMS is the result of damage to the connective tissue.

  • Perials

    Hello! I’m 15, turning 16 in a month, and I’ve been training at home for almost 3 months now. I am not interested in becoming a bodybuilder, I just want to look nice and fit.

    I am skinny (but normal) and my muscles are starting to show. I do 15×10 (150) push ups and 200×1 crunches a day. I don’t do any leg exercises, besides playing football (soccer).

    I am thinking of incorporating to my routine a 5km run twice a week (I would do that right after my push ups and crunches). That way I excercise my legs and I do some cardio.

    Do you think that’s ok? Will it help me at all? I need your approval man!

    Great web, keep it going. I follow you from Uruguay!

    • Perials

      Maybe not 5km but 3 or 4…

    • Hey hey! I get it!

      Cool on the exercise you’re doing. I recommend a good bodyweight routine that targets all the main muscle groups, though. Check out mine:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

      Totally fine to incorporate the runs.

      Approved. 🙂 Will do man!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Ash

    Hey, I’ve been doing intense workouts 5-6 days a week and eating a healthy high protein diet for a solid four months to bulk up. I’m starting to see small gains, but nothing really sticks out to me. Along with working out i also run about 5-8 miles a week. I was wondering if running is hindering my muscle growth or is it too early to tell? I’m also 6’3, 200 pounds and in pretty good shape.

  • Sue

    Mike, I’m a runner and want to build musclet/strength – I saw you recommended a 3-day split (does that mean 3 days of weightlifting and any number of days running? If so, how do I use the challenge book as a guide- it shows 5 days lifting – not sure how to modify. Thanks

  • Steven Martinez

    Hey Mike, I used to box and I would like to say I’m in pretty great shape. I just joined a weight lifting gym about a week ago and I always incorporate cardio in my workouts, usually I just try to achieve 3 miles in a good amount of time before I do my lifting. I can’t not do cardio because it’s a big part of my life and I love running. I plan on going to the gym about 5 times a week and I run every time I go. At the moment my main goal is to gain a lot of strength and work on my chest more than anything. Do you think I can achieve these results whilst still being able to run so often?

  • Bill

    Hey Mike ,

    I have been doing kris gethin 12 week transformation program with insanity (hiit )workout for 5 days a week , and the i rest for two days n thn i start all over again , my aim is to shed some weight while on the other hand i can tone my body . Am i over traning ?

  • Hey Mike
    I’m in the process of leaning down, I’m about 20-22% BF right now, coming from 34% at my fattest. I’ve been at it about 10 months, though my progress has not been linear (due to a lot of trial and error, plateaus, an injury).
    I’m currently on IF and lifting about 3 times a week. I have plateau’d in strength, because I’m still in a deficit (although I am much more strong comparing to when I started, because I am/was a newbie)
    I’m currently lifting 3 times a week and doing 3 to 4 one hour Cardio sesions: 40 minutes of brisk walking followed by 20 minutes of slow steady cardio OR 20 minutes of HIIT followed by 40 minutes of brisk walking.
    Am I over doing it?? Or I shouldn’t be worried about muscle loss?
    Thanks !

  • BBBBadders

    Hi Mike! Thanks for the very informative article! This is somewhat of an odd position to be in, however here goes.
    I am currently overweight, (need to lose around 10 kg to reach ideal, am 5ft 10 and not much muscle except legs). I can easily (and have been doing) around 2.5 hours of intense badminton every day, as well as the ‘insanity’ HIIT program. I’m very proud of my cardio ability, yet obviously nothing else, so I’m currently working on losing weight and once i reach my goal BF %, I want to start gaining muscle etc However, I want to maintain this significant level of cardio ability. Do you think this is at all possible?
    Thanks in advance!

  • Amanda

    Hi Mike!

    I am wondering if I overdo cardio- I do your 5 day lifting routine and on top of that I do 15-20 mins of steady state plus 2-3 rounds of tabata or 15 mins of regular HIIT 6-7 days a week. I try to do a total of 30 mins of cardio each session combining steady state/HIIT/tabata- is this too much? I am having a hard time sticking to my daily caloric limit so I try to do extra cardio to make up for it.

  • amos

    I underestimated the exercise bike. The 22 min interval workout where they bump up the resistance really fried my legs! What’s ur opinion on doing the exercise bike 3 times a week on a bulk?

    • Yep, it’s rough!

      That much should be fine as long as you’re gaining the 1/2-1 lb a week. I wouldn’t recommend any more cardio than that though, and if you are having trouble gaining the weight you’re supposed to on a bulk, I’d reduce the cardio volume.

      • amos

        One more thing, I know it’s out of the context but I’ve always been doing high rep burnt out sets and have great amount of endurance and stamina. It’s my first time using the barbell but I manage to hit them between 4-6 reps especially for the compound movements with good form. But I don’t feel tired or as sore as how I used to when training (although I pushed hard during the exercises). Is it normal or am I doing something wrong?

        • Sure, that’s fine.

          Either bike will work. Whatever you prefer. 🙂

  • russ

    Hey Mike,
    I’m a big fan of your book and the website. So I’ve been doing the 5 day lift routine for a couple of months now and only recently am getting my cutting diet right. Im at about 25-30% bf last time i checked and Im so ready to shed all this extra weight, trying to put in at least 2 20min hiit sessions a week. Only recently i decided to run a marathon coming up in 6 months, so i’ll be doing some running type cardio for that. Nothing excessive, maybe about 1-2 miles of jogging just to get my legs used to it again. Do you think i should change up my workout schedule to accomodate my running, and cut out the hiit for now? My main focus is still to lose as much fat as possible

    any advice would be most appreciated

    • Happy to hear it! Thanks for the support.

      Cool you’re rolling on the routine and awesome you decided to run in a marathon. That’s intense.

      Yeah, let’s drop the HIIT sessions and for now, we can keep up the 5-day split, but as you increase the running volume, we’ll probably want to reduce to a 3-day split to help prevent overtraining.

      To keep you on track with the fat loss, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Reuben Schreiber

    Hi Mike
    I want to ask you if my cardio is too much.
    I lift 5 x per week with high volume un the afternoon,and do morning cardio everyday for 30-40 min at a moderate intensity as I work a desk job and dont move much during the day.Will this amount be fine?

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