I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Cardio is the most overlooked aspect of building athletic muscle, especially for skinny dudes. After all, you need to do is eat, hoist huge weights, and eat some more and you’ll easily build muscle.
Or is it?
In today’s post, I’ll show you how to shred bodyfat and improve your conditioning while simultaneously building athletic muscle.
Building an athletic body isn’t just lifting and crushing your diet—you need specific conditioning to preserve athletic muscle, maximize workout efficiency, and enhance your overall health.
What’s the point in being strong and jacked without the ability to use or sustain your athleticism?
Don’t fall for the belief that conditioning zaps your training to the detriment of your health and athletic performance.
When it’s all said and done the real badass bro’s are strong and well-conditioned machines, not just swole.
Don’t be like most scraggly hardgainers who avoid conditioning like it’s the plague. Your #gainsz won’t hemorrhage out of all your orfices, far from it.
Drop the “cardio keeps me small” sob story—it’s time to maximize your training with well-planned high-performance training. Two conditioning methods you’ll build renewed athleticism and get jacked with minimal fat gain.
1) Jumping Rope
Hardcore exercises like sled pushes and sprints get all the glory, but one old school tool doesn’t’ get the attention it lightly deserves: the jump rope.
Jumping rope is low impact and not-overly catabolic—two huge factors in recover for hardgainers. Beyond that, jumping rope is safer than most conditioning drills for two reasons.
First, jumping rope is a self-limiting exercise: to jump rope without failing you must stay in an aligned, joint stacked position while moving, forcing your trunk to stay engaged and resilient under the load of movement. If you miss mess up, welt your calves or triceps, or catch a toe, the exercise ends. All of this makes it extremely unlikely to over-do it; and, even better, nearly impossible to incur injury.
Second, jumping rope is a low-impact movement, despite a high number of foot strikes. Here’s why this is important for us formerly skinny guys: the lower impact does not create a hyper-catabolic environment that will erode your precious hypertrophy like other repetitive impact exercises. In other words, you will get shredded without about dropping lean body mass.
For hardgainer conditioning Double-Unders and the Runnin’ Man are my two go-to conditioning drills with each being performed twice per week with at least 48 hours between workouts.
So, if I did double-unders as my focus on Monday I would wait until Wednesday or Thursday until my next jump-rope conditioning session.
Exactly like it sounds—whip the jump rope two times in a row with one singular jump. Work up to sets of 10 and use a lighter rope, like the Cross Rope Burn set. Rests 30-60 seconds and continue on for 10-15 minutes or until your lungs and calves explode, your choice.
No, you don’t need the Running Man outfit Arnold wore in the movie, but that will increase your anabolism 400%.
Fact. Seriously, I’m kidding. But, seriously.
Run in place while skipping the rope. Not only will this improve your coordination, it’s a deceptively tough conditioning workout. Go for time and work up to 10-15 minutes of continuous “running.” The impact is far less than your traditional steady state cardio or plodding along on the treadmill.
As it stands, the jump rope is the ultimate low impact tool for accelerated fat loss, conditioning, and improved athleticism for hard gainers.
2) Low Volume Sprints
Sprints are the best method to preserving your athletic muscle and shredding bodyfat, especially if you want be semi-athletic.
You have Two Options:
Sprints Before Lifting or After lifting.
Sprinting before lifting is ideal because it potentiates the nervous system, meaning it functions at a higher capacity heavier weights and more explosive training. This comes with a risk vs reward trade-off as sprinting done before training should be enough to spark the nervous system yet low enough in volume and intensity to not fatigue the body and hinder lifting ability.
The most explosive exercises need maximum focus and energy and thus, must done first in a workout to reduce injury risk.
Further, sprinting is a technical movement that needs practice, unless you want to wreck your shit and pop a hamstring.
That’s why sprints get scheduled before Olympic lifts or heavy strength work—it improves your training and reduces the chance for injury when fatigue and recovery are managed.
What to Do:
Perform low volume, short distance sprints before training rather than long-duration sprints when you’re already gassed and fatigued.
Two days per week perform five sets of 10-20 yards with walk-back recovery and adding one sprint per week is ideal.
This way, you’ll condition the body to high velocity, high impact movement without excess stress and training volume to interfere with your gains.
Option Two: Sprints at the end of your workout:
I’m a huge fan of sprints, but there’s a catch:
Performing any coordinative skill under excess fatigue runs the risk of engraining a poor movement pattern and subsequent injury.
In other words, sprinting while exhausted from your hardgainer training is a great pop yo’ hammies, especially if you haven’t sprinted in ages.
While sprints are obviously a great exercise, and not inherently “bad” or dangerous, they’re a skill that requires mechanics and practice before piling on tons of volume, a process to which most gym rats aren’t willing to dedicate time.
To remedy the problem, use sprints
with sub-maximal speeds and on a hill or incline. Using an incline and submaximal speeds prevents over striding and most hamstring related injuries.
If you go with this option sprint two days per week on a treadmill or hill. Don’t worry about the specifics; work your ass off for 10 minutes with 5-10 second sprints and 30-60 second rests. Increase your speed before the jacking up the incline to technique.
Do your Sprints:
Just do your sprints.
Being strong is important, but being athletic is more about movement than just being strong in the gym.
Without a base of movement it doesn’t matter how strong you are, inefficiencies in movement will hold back your high performance training.
Sprints fire up fast-twitch fibers and potentiate your nervous system for greater muscular recruitment and strength to keep your strong and shredded as you escape hardgainer hell.
Hardgainer Cardio Solutions
It’s important to prioritize weight training as it’s the driving force for muscle building. Regardless, well-planned conditioning is imperative to improve work capacity, improve athleticism, and keep you lean while you’re bulking. Conditioning one to three times per week, but absolutely no more.
Sample Conditioning Routine
Monday: Upper Body Training
Tuesday: Lower Body Training+ Sprint work
Wednesday: Off or Jump Rope
Thursday: Upper Body Training
Friday: Total Body Training + Sled Work
The hard to swallow fact is you still need some conditioning even if you’re looking to gain mass. Hypertrophy training is no reason to get fat and out of-shape—it’s a cop out for laziness and poor.
Train with these two conditioning methods you’ll build renewed athleticism and get seriously jacked with minimal fat gain.