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Personal Trainer • Jun 03, 2024

Cardio After Leg Day: Benefits and Considerations

Cardio After Leg Day: Benefits and Considerations

It’s the first day after a killer leg workout that left your muscles quivering and your knees shaking as you descended every set of stairs throughout the rest of the day. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is starting to set in, and you’re beginning to feel the ache. Unfortunately for your legs, cardio is on the menu today.

But should you do cardio after leg day? This topic has long sparked controversy in the fitness industry, with viable arguments for both sides. In the great debate of whether to do cardio or not after leg day, it’s important to understand their effects on muscle growth and recovery.

Should You Do Cardio After Leg Day?

While your legs might be unhappy with the answer, you can, in fact, do cardio after leg day. Some fear that cardio may interfere with muscle recovery, while some even claim that cardio can diminish the gains from a rigorous leg workout (more on this later).

In actuality, incorporating cardio after leg day can be an excellent way to help you recover and reduce muscle soreness. After all, cardio, while it might be the bane of weightlifting fanatics, is part of a well-balanced workout routine.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should go full-tilt in an aggressive cardio workout that leaves you depleted and exhausted. Instead, you should pick your routine wisely, keeping in mind that your legs underwent a brutal workout the day before and could use a bit of a break.

Does Cardio After Leg Day Kill Gains?

There’s a common myth floating around in fitness centers, gyms, and online claiming that cardio after leg day demolishes the gains you’ve worked so hard to achieve. While it can be partially true in select instances, it doesn’t reverse your progress.

Cardio is only detrimental to your progress when you overdo it with an already-exhausted body. Your muscles need time to recover, and while that doesn’t mean you should lounge around for days on end, it also doesn’t mean that you should do a super intense cardio workout.

Experts say that combining cardio and strength training too closely can diminish the results of resistance training, including muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size). So, while it won’t decimate your gains, so to speak, it can have adverse effects if you don’t plan properly.

The solution? Train smart. Listen to your body and avoid super intense cardio too soon after leg day. Your fitness goals will thank you for it (especially if you want to build and grow your muscles).

Benefits of Cardio After Leg Day

Cardio exercises, even after a brutal leg day, play a vital role in promoting cardiovascular health. Even though your legs might be unimpressed with your choice of exercise, cardio can still offer the same benefits, including:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Enhanced muscle endurance
  • Effective fat burning
  • Improved mood
  • Reduce your risk of various health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome
  • Increased stamina, fitness, and strength

    Best Practices for Cardio After Leg Day

    If you’re ready to boost muscle recovery and get the blood pumping to those sore leg muscles, there are plenty of cardio workouts you can do. Here are a few options:

    • Low-impact cardio: For a good cardio workout without overdoing it, go for a swim in your local pool, use an elliptical machine, row a machine, or try low- to moderate-intensity cycling. As you work out, remember to pay attention to your body’s cues and stop if it feels like too much.
    • Walking: Many people have a misconception that cardio has to be intense to be effective. In reality, it can be an exercise as simple as walking. So, after leg day, get your blood pumping with a brisk walk. If you want to turn up the heat without going overboard, walk on an incline or increase the pace to a speed walk.
    • Jogging: If you prefer to speed things up, go for a slow jog. Leave sprints for another day—today, it’s best to reel it in and keep your pace to a jog.

    Adjust the duration of your cardio session based on how you’re feeling. Don’t go overboard, or you might do more harm than good. A 20-30-minute session is usually sufficient to balance the benefits without doing too much.

    If you want help creating a balanced fitness routine, talk to a personal trainer near you.

    Closing Thoughts

    While incorporating cardio after leg day might seem like punishment, it can be a good way to promote muscle recovery and reduce soreness. However, it’s important to note that cardio after leg day isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision. While excessive cardio may potentially interfere with muscle gains, moderate and well-planned cardio can offer a host of benefits.

    So, while you don’t have to do cardio after leg day, it can be a good addition to a well-rounded routine. Of course, you should listen to your body and make adjustments tailored to your fitness regimen and individual needs.

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