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Cardio: How Much Should You Build Into Your Workout

Cardio: How Much Should You Build Into Your Workout

Putting together a comprehensive training program that offers a full body workout can be one of the most difficult parts of getting fit. Cardio and weight training are equally important, but understanding just how much cardio you should get in a weekly basis can be a challenge. Getting in shape and training your body to function efficiently is all about creating a balance. Any comprehensive fitness plan will address resistance training and cardio training equally, resulting in a balance that produces visible results.

How Much Cardio Do I Really Need Every Week?

Balancing your workout boils down to creating a healthy mix of weight training and cardio training. A proper balance will allow you to reach your goals in a more effective manner. Your goals will have a lot to do with creating an effective balance; if you are looking to lose fat or if you are trying to build muscle your training balance will differ greatly than if your goal is aimed at training for a certain sport or event. Every fitness regimen has different goals, but regardless of what your goals are, you should aim to build 5 hours of cardiovascular training into your workout each week. Knowing the average amount you should aim for is the first step, finding the best way to incorporate your cardio time into your weekly workout comes next.

How Do I Incorporate Cardio Into My Workouts?

Your starting point for incorporating cardio into your weekly routine depends on your goals. Your specific body type and diet are also important factors to consider.

Muscle Training

When you are seeking to gain muscle, spending at least a half hour each workout on cardio is a great starting point. Depending on your current body structure and end goals, you may need to do more or less cardio to reach your ideal size. Weight training at least three times weekly in conjunction with your cardio routine is a great way to evenly build and maintain muscle mass. Muscle gains can actually decrease when too much time is spent on cardio exercises since they burn vital calories that are usually used to build muscle.

Weight Loss

Those who are looking to lose weight need to focus on burning larger amounts of calories. This means that you will need to focus more on cardio than you would on weight training. Spending at least 45 minutes to an hour each workout doing complex cardio training is a good way to encourage your body to burn extra calories while maintaining key muscle density. Limiting your weight training to two sessions weekly will ensure that you don’t lose mass while doing extra cardio to maintain your fat burning efforts.


Cardio training for specific sports depends most on the needs associated with that sport. For example, if you are into cross-country, you will need to incorporate more cardio sessions into your routine than you would if you were training for basketball. A good rule of thumb is to think about how cardio-oriented your sport is and focus your session count accordingly.

Cardio For Your Body Type

Now that you have your fitness goals in mind and a general idea of how much cardio you should incorporate to meet those goals, it’s important to fine-tune your cardio routine according to your body type. Everyone falls among the three main body types; endomorph, ectomorph, or mesomorph. While each person can have only one type, you can also have tendencies that are in line with either of the remaining two.


This body type belongs to those who have smaller bone structures and are naturally slim. In many cases, they have a fast metabolism and won't gain excess weight regardless of what they eat. Since it's pretty easy for this body type to lose weight, smaller amounts of cardio will be needed to reach their weight loss goals. On the other hand, when those with this body type seek to grow their muscle mass, they may have to limit their cardio severely in order to preserve the calories the body needs to build bulk.


This body type belongs to those who are naturally heavier, which often is paired with a slow metabolism. This body type is able to gain weight quickly, but in most cases a person with this type must work twice as hard to lose it. The muscle mass found in this body type is more than the other two which allows for a reduced amount of weight training in order to gain mass. To see notable weight loss, this body type will need to focus more of their energy on the cardio portions of their routine. For those with this body type who are seeking to gain muscle mass, it’s important to keep a balanced amount of cardio, but not to overdo it or you run the risk burning the calories you need to build muscle.


This body type is probably the most desired of all three. Those with this type are naturally muscular, lose weight with little effort and are able to bulk up on muscle mass with equal ease. If you have this body type, you can get by with only adding two or three sessions of cardio to your regular fitness routine and still reap positive gains.

Final Thoughts

Everyone is unique and so is your exercise routine. Your how much cardio you add to your routine all comes down to how much time you have to invest to achieve the results you want for the body type you have. The guidelines listed above are a great starting point to help you understand how often you should train with cardio to reach your body goals, but ultimately you will need to fine tune and adjust your workout according to what works best for you.

We always suggest that you experiment to find the right amount of cardio it takes to reach your goals, but not so much as to have a negative impact on your health, recovery or strength training. Good luck!

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