Can You Do Muscle Building Cardio?

You might ask a muscle bound gym goer what they do for strength and they reply “lift weights,” then you ask about cardio and they say “I lift weights faster.” While this is obviously a facetious reply, it does kind of make sense.  Kind of.

What I’m referring to here is barbell complexes. They are a bit like circuits but you move smoothly on from when exercise to the next.

To be fair, both circuits and complexes can contribute to both muscle and cardio improvements. However, it is worth keeping in mind that your fitness level can affect this, if you are already quite strong then a circuit or a complex would have to be done with a weight so submaximal that all it will do is increase your cardio and muscular strength endurance (rather than out and out muscular strength).

Granted, you could increase the weights you’re lifting each time you do it but it will stall quickly if you’re not doing straight up strength work too.

Circuit vs Complex

A circuit is based upon the time set for each set of exercises, whereas a circuit will be where you transition from one exercise to another, almost seamlessly.

Circuit –

AMRAP – 10 minutes.

  • 15 pushups
  • 5 pullups
  • 20 squats

So, here you would do a 15 pushups, 5 pullups, 20 squats all as one round and then when you were ready you would do it again. The goal would be to do as many rounds of these within the 10 minutes as possibly could.

Complex –

A complex, however, is a little less simple. (See what I did there?)
This is where you will have a variety of similar exercises where you can go straight from one to the next and once all are done, have a little rest and go again.

An example of this would be –

  • Deadlifts x 8
  • Barbell Row x 8
  • Clean x 8
  • Shoulder Press x 8
  • Back squat x 8

You can see here that each exercise ends in the position for the next exercise to start so that you can make this seamless transition I hinted at earlier.


Kind of. It’s more like conditioning than it is cardio. The difference here is that the conditioning effects will be more towards the specific skill of lifting weights, whereas cardio training would be more general than this.


Muscle Building?

Again, kind of. The weights you use here might not result in the sufficient volume or intensity to adequately build muscle or strength. The weights would have to be largely submaximal to be used correctly, or else you would tire out within the first exercise.

So, Muscle Building Cardio?

You can probably guess my answer here but – kind of, again. A beginner doing this kind of thing would gain some muscle mass through this, whereas a more advanced lifter would find that it only helps in terms of their work capacity within sets or smaller portions of their workout. Which is still valuable, but it is unlikely to build any kind of muscle.

James Wilks

Hey guys, thanks for reading. This website should help you cut through all the BS and make an informed choice with supplements. I was like you 2 years ago, trawling the internet looking at review, after review, after review. But now that's changed, I've taken my years working in the supplements industry and created this website to help you make the right choice. If you like something please share on social media! Or drop me a message. Always good to hear from you guys.

Recent Posts