Will Cardio Ruin Your Physique?

I was texting with a client Tuesday night while at Target with my fiancée looking for some essentials for our new apartment #domesticatedAF.

“What do you think of (trainer x)? He’s all about intermittent fasting, counting macros (proteins, carbs, and fats), lifting 3 days per week, prioritizing upper body, no high intensity interval training (HIIT), etc,” my client asked.

“I agree with 90% of what he’s saying.”

Then I thought for a bit about what I didn’t agree with, finding myself very agitated.

“But I’ll argue to hell and back over the 10% I don’t agree with.”


Not everything in the fitness realm is so black and white. Fads come and go, and “gurus” are switching their recommendations and allegiances like John Kerry circa 2004.

No gains

HIIT versus steady state cardio is part of the 10% aforementioned. When all the research on HIIT came out (“It will boost your metabolism 3x more than traditional steady state cardio in half the time”) everyone hopped off the cardio bandwagon and onto the HIIT.

Don’t get me wrong, the HIIT research consistently shows that metabolism gets cranked up 3x more than steady state thus burning more body fat (if you’re in a caloric deficit) AND it does take A LOT LESS TIME. But, there are a couple small issues with HIIT nobody addressed:

  1. HIIT is very taxing on the nervous system and thus is harder to recover from.
  2. Because of #1, you will have a much harder time making gains in strength and power if you are doing concurrent training (training two variables at the same time)
  3. Wrongly so, nobody uses linear periodization anymore in their programming. (If you missed my blog about linear periodization, it is a programming technique in which you break up different qualities of training – muscle growth, strength, power, fat loss, enduranc) into different times of the year).
  4. When you go into a caloric deficit, it’s pretty taxing on your system. Pair that up with HIIT and you’re bound to plateau REAL QUICK.

Trust me, there is a time and place for HIIT, but it depends upon:

  1. Which phase you are in your training program
  2. How many times a week you train
  3. Your recovery time
  4. Your diet

For so long, everyone hated on cardio. It will deplete your muscle mass, ruin your joints, and isn’t as effective as HIIT for fat loss, ESPECIALLY if you are doing cardio and strength in the same session.

While too much cardio will do the above (and no proper functional strength training program in tandem), some interesting research on cardio and it’s effect on strength just came out in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning, showing that cardio and strength training performed in tandem has no effective on muscular strength and size!

The Study:

Who – 12 untrained females
What – Allocated into two groups. Over 24 weeks, 1 group performed strength training followed by       endurance and the other performed endurance followed by strength training. Variables tracked were:
– Growth hormone*
– Cortisol*
– Testosterone*
– Muscular strength
– Muscular size

** Important hormones in building lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat.

Results –The groups showed NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE
Conclusion – 1) Cardio before OR after strength training has no effect on muscular strength and size and 2) Changes in hormones responsible for muscle growth and body fat loss do not predict long-term gains in muscular size and strength.

Readers note: I would still program cardio at the end of the workout so you don’t increase your chance of repetitive stress injuries.


One of my favorite researchers, Bret Contreras, recently stated he doesn’t do as much HIIT training and does more steady state cardio (uphill treadmill walks 45 minutes per day for 4 times a week) because HIIT kills his strength gains. You can read more about it HERE.

He has been able to gain a ton of strength (and thus muscle mass) while dropping body fat. His physique isn’t too impressive, but he dropped 22 lbs in 20 weeks, most of which was body fat.

I have been programming more cardio in my own as well as my clients routines. I like it because it allows me freedom to go outside and hike, bike, etc instead of being stuck in the gym to do ALL my cardio. Don’t get me wrong, I still hop on the bike and do HIIT in the gym, but now I have the option to go outside and get my cardio in. It allows me to not burn out, enjoy the time in the gym I do have (~4x/week), make consistent strength gains, and hit my metabolism from another angle.

Another fitness pro I love is Greg O’Gallagher (website HERE). If you ever get a chance to read him, please do. Has a great physique and is a huge fan of steady state cardio.

Currently, I aim for about 10,000 steps per day for my cardio.

It’s the best form of cardio because it allows you to be outside, hit your glutes/hamstrings (from the hills), and allow your nervous system to recover.

Thus, I am launching the DC Fitness 10,000 step challenge September 14th!



Join me in my 10,000 steps a day endeavor. It’s $29 to enroll for your chance to win:

  • Personal training sessions
  • CASH
  • Supplements
  • A date with Tad Hamilton



You’ll also receive:

  • 31 days of functional strength training programs with FULL VIDEO LIBRARY
  • Facebook accountability group access

Losing motivation? Want to switch up your routine? Want to join a fun competition?

Register today at:

I’m limiting the spots to 10 total so I can keep better tabs on all participants.

Take a step in the right direction and join us #pun #cheesey


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