Things get more confusing still when you’re an ectomorph—naturally thin and already burning a ton of calories just by reading this blog post.
Not all of us skinny guys are particularly inclined to lift weights though, and not all of us ectomorphs are looking to build up big burly biceps. Strength Training. Strength training (anaerobic training) is meant to build up muscle size and strength, bone density and tendon strength, as well as improve coordination, speed, power balance, stability and mobility. Wouldn’t it be amazing if weightlifting didn’t just made you stronger, it also made you fitter?
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science (study) evaluated a bodybuilding workout by cardio standards. They found that about half of the time they spent weightlifting was spent with the ideal heart rate for improving cardiovascular health and fitness.
So yes, weightlifting—even typical bodybuilding bro style—does indeed count as some of your cardio. To make that better still, you could structure your weightlifting workouts in a way that kept your heart rate higher for a little longer. In our Bony to Beastly Program we lift for three hours per week, and our workouts are made up of pairs of compound exercises performed one after another.
We don’t officially program any cardio in addition to our workouts, but our guys are free to do play sports and whatnot as they wish. Instead of strength and power, endurance became associated with physical prowess and fitness.
Most of those risks can be minimized by doing things properly. Learning how to run correctly (which is actually very difficult) and wearing proper footwear will solve most of the downsides of jogging. So, when done properly, weightlifting should make you healthier and reduce your risk of injury. The problem is that after perusing some pop culture mags, we often think adding in jogging, HIIT or cardio on top of our strength training is the best way to lose fat.
Your metabolism is also affected by the amount of muscle you have on your body, but again the effect there is surprisingly small. Weightlifting is traditionally geared at building up muscle size and strength, and it does it extremely well. Some studies show that your strength, speed, power and size gains would be reduced by only 20-30% if you add in heavy endurance training to your strength training. If you’re relatively out of shape then to a certain extent both types of training can help with both. Most people aren’t trying to train for a marathon while simultaneously trying to build muscle.
With us ectomorphs though, since cardio burns calories without increasing our appetite, we’re often best leaving it out unless we love it.
So cardio can be worked into a muscle-building program, but you’d need be mindful of the type of cardio you do and the amount of cardio you do. Cardio isn’t really something a non-overweight person would do to improve how they look.
As guys who are naturally thin and have no trouble with overeating, running will often take us further away from our aesthetic goals. Running is something we’re really good at as a species, and with a little bit of training we make truly incredible distance runners. It may sound like I have a bias in favour of lifting weights, and I have to admit that I’ve grown to love it, so perhaps I do … but I chose this type of exercise because it was the type of exercise that lined up with my goals, not because I was particularly inclined to lift weights. If you want to master this once and for all and gain 20-30 pounds over the next couple of months check out our full step-by-step muscle-building system for naturally skinny dudes – complete with training program, nutrition program, recipe book, exercise videos, members community and individualized coaching from us. I’ve been doing a combination (I finally found the motivation to start moving again) of the two. Oh man ever since I started doing Marco’s workouts with supersets I find I get sweaty pretty easily. I’ve been thinking about getting a stationary bike though, since I thought that I ought to do more cardio to get rid of my tummy fat.
DenisRunning or any other slower paced cardio in a limited version (10, 15, 20, 30 min), following weight training is good for blood circulation to clear the lactic acid buildup from infected muscles.
Personally, I recover much quicker with two 30 min cardios, as opposed to just doing nothing.
I’ve been thinking about getting a stationary bike though, since I thought that I ought to do more cardio to get rid of my tummy fat. MannieReally enjoyed reading this article, was actually how i came across your wonderful site!
Iv been devouring your articles whenever i am procrastinating as i have exams at the moment haha! I have never been in the gym before, your usual skinny fellah weighing in at 112 pounds and 5’5 in height.
Weightlifting keeps you young, spry, strong, resistant to injury, lean, intelligent, focused.
That last thing you want to do is burn calories by jogging around town, since that will mean you need to eat even more. Cardio stands for cardiorespiratory training, where the goal is to maintain an elevated heart rate using exercise.
I mean, most people know that cardio isn’t really designed to make you look better, so it gets cred for being the non-narcissistic and wholesome form of exercise. In fact, many of us would rather stick to our natural strengths–endurance stuff—rather than take up a sport where our prowess is determined by the size and strength of our muscles.
Weightlifting improves insulin sensitivity, as does having more muscle mass. (study, study) This makes being lean and mean a breeze, since it helps shuttle the calories you eat into muscle instead of fat.
They measured the heart rate of 16 young and healthy people while doing a fairly typical bodybuilding weightlifting workout: bench presses, lat pulldowns, curls, leg presses, etc. For absolute optimal health, the World Health Organization recommends doing cardio for about 2.5 hours per week, so the weightlifting workouts provided about half of that.
This builds muscle optimally well, and I suspect this would also give you all three hours of your weekly cardio requirements for optimal health.
Apparently after the first and second World Wars, while Russia and parts of Europe continued to value strength, the West became fascinated with aerobic fitness.
Running a marathon was the benchmark of fitness, whereas it could just as easily have been deadlifting 400 pounds. Plodding along on treadmills, concrete and asphalt can be hard on your feet, the cartilage in your knees, and your joints.
The same is true with most types of cardio and aerobics.Understanding the fundamentals of good lifting will solve most of the downsides of strength training, and serious injuries associated with weightlifting are surprisingly rare to begin with. Stronger men are less susceptible to injury both in and out of the gym because we learn and practice proper movement patterns, develop good postural alignment, gradually develop denser bones and build up tons of protective muscle to stabilize our spine and joints. When you lift a couch or rev up your lawnmower you’ll be densely boned, strongly tendoned, and cozily protected underneath a thick layer of muscle.
You can lose fat just through solid nutrition, sure, but adding in exercise can allow you to burn fat faster, as you’ll be burning more calories.
We get a lot of skinny-fat guys, some guys come to us after having inadvertently bulked themselves into some fat, and some naturally thin guys want to play to their strengths and rock even lower body fat percentages. It would be fairly using for losing fat if you went and burned off a bunch of calories and then came home and ate extra calories to make up for it. Since your metabolism is what’s steadily burning calories all day long, it plays a huge role in how quickly you can burn fat. Each pound of muscle burns about 6 calories per day at rest, so adding twenty pounds of muscle to your frame would burn an extra 120 calories per day.
When losing weight our bodies can get energy from stored fat or by breaking down muscle mass. The participants who ate at a controlled calorie deficit dropped 21.1 pounds over 3 months.
My posture is slightly worse in the after shot, which can’t really be helped, since it was taken when my posture was still very much a work in progress. Improving your cardiovascular fitness will allow you to recover better between lifting sets, and recover better between workouts.
It’s not bad, but it means we need to eat even more, and eating enough to build muscle is often challenging enough for us already (although a big emphasis in our program is clever eating strategies to make that easier).
We tend to be able to build muscle pretty effectively and leanly with or without cardio added in (even if you think you’re skinny-fat).
If your goal is building muscle then you’ll see better results if you emphasize building muscle. Not to mention it improves our cardiovascular health, gets endorphins flowing and can give us a runner’s high. It’s also great for making you look better, because it fixes up your postural alignment and broadens your shoulders.
I’ve heard Marco recommend that to some people as well, to help with recovery—especially guys who are in the habit of training already and enjoy doing it more frequently than 3x per week.
We do dynamic stretches to prime our muscles and get into solid movement patterns, followed by a couple light sets of our first pair of exercises, to practice our form and get the blood flowing in the right places. I would say it’s a decent system for fit and athletic guys with a LOT of experience lifting weights already.
I was a long distance runner back in high school but that was just for the extra credits (and i was good at it :P) however, its no longer something i do.
I have a question though as i am looking to join though my question may seem a bit different to the guys around here. You’ll also spend more of your life feeling awesome, since exercise affects your neurotransmitters and releases endorphins. If that sounds like you, cardio is a good way to get some health and lifestyle benefits without needing to lift heavy.
Lifting heavy weights also reduces anxiety, counteracts the effects of aging, and reduces your risk of dying from, well, pretty much everything.
If you’ve ever done a heavy set of deadlifts followed by a heavy set of chin-ups you already know what I mean. It became a media craze that lasted for decades and worked its way into our culture on a deep level. Weightlifting results in eleven times fewer injuries than playing soccer, for example (study), and the most common injury is dropping a weight on your foot—hardly the sort of injury to have nightmares about. Having strong spinal erectors, for example, is an excellent way to safeguard your back against injury—especially for us longly spined ectomorphs. So for us skinny guys who also care about how much muscle we have, driving ourselves into a calorie deficit via cardio can be counterproductive, as it doesn’t protect us against muscle loss. This group ate at a controlled calorie deficit and added in 3 weekly hours of endurance training. Hell if you’re fat, skinny or skinny-fat you can expect much better results than this as far as muscle is concerned. As I lost fat it chiselled out the muscle underneath, making my chest look a whole lot bigger. If lifting weights is an option though, then you’ll see much much greater results there. Cardio is designed to improve your cardiorespiratory system, so it’s not really doing much in the muscle-building department. The effects are fairly proportional, so the more running you do the slower you’ll build strength, speed, power and size. If you lift in a way that improves your cardio, this may be enough, but for the very unfit, or for people who prefer lifting in a powerlifting sort of style (just a few reps per set, several minutes of rest between sets), doing extra cardio carries benefits there. There are subsets of weightlifting designed specifically to make you look better, too (namely bodybuilding). And it’s key when it comes to getting lean, since it causes your body to burn fat for energy instead of muscle.
I haven’t felt nauseated from training since my first month of heavy lifting, but the deadlifts were the culprits then too. I don’t go out of the house often so I substitute 8-10 3minute rounds on a punching bag in the morning then weight lifting in the evening.
I don’t go out of the house often so I substitute 8-10 3minute rounds on a punching bag in the morning then weight lifting in the evening. You’d need great posture, great form, and great core strength to do any of those exercises safely, let alone get decent results out of them. Cardio and endurance training is mostly an oxygen delivery thing—more blood vessels, more red blood cells, more blood, etc—whereas strength training is mostly a muscle thing—more muscle fibres, thicker muscles fibres, more fluid in your muscle fibres, etc. That’ll jack your heart rate up like no other and have you sleeping like a baby at night. Cardio and aerobics training makes you svelte, light and healthy, and gives you excellent muscular endurance and oxygen delivery. With weightlifting, some guys wind up with cranky shoulders from bench pressing poorly, and some guys have sore backs for weeks after reckless deadlifting.
People exercise and burn calories, but oftentimes their appetite doesn’t go up by the same amount. As far as metabolism goes though, a good rule of thumb is that the more joints and muscle groups involved the better, and the heavier you go the better. Training for endurance can produce small muscles gains in extreme beginners, but it caps out very early. See, despite my long lanky limbs I was a crap jogger … until I started building up my strength. For example, 15-30 minutes of cardio once or twice a week on top of a heavy weightlifting routine wouldn’t be significant enough endurance training to result in any interference at all. I would have much preferred jogging around the block or popping in a p90x DVD because, as a skinny guy, I would have felt much more comfortable doing it. Even for guys with years of experience practicing the lifts, it would still be quite dangerous and rather pointless. Best of all, since your individual muscle groups are getting plenty of rest, you’ll be able to lift heavy enough to optimize muscle growth (and the other benefits of heavy lifting).
After a few months of strength training I found I could all of a sudden jog pretty effortlessly—without ever having trained my endurance. Were I trying to become a jogger though, I would have improved my ability to jog much more quickly had I trained by jogging. In fact, strategically adding in a bit of cardio, depending on what type of cardio you do, can sometimes accelerate results. One recent meta-analysis looking into concurrent training (strength training + endurance training) found that while lots of jogging reduced strength and hypertrophy, small amounts of biking actually increased it.
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