T Nation

Bulking and Rowing

I, like most people, am trying to gain lean mass while lowering body fat.

I understand you should not over do cardio while bulking.

But what about rowing? I do two 20 minute HIIT session on my concpet 2 rower each week but want to bump it up to hopefully lose more fat. I have read on a rowing website than rowing as carido will help gain muscle, while running can break down muscle.

So if I were to row 4-5 times a week in addition to 4 days a week of WS4SB would I be over doing it cardio wise?

Depends what you’re doing on the rowing machine. For instance, Dr. Lowery is always promoting low intensity “cardio” (120-140 bpm) prior to breakfast (can have an eggwhite or a few bcaa’s or little carb-free whey isolate) for a 1/2 hour or so to stay lean. You could do that for 4-5 days on the rower.

Or, you could to HIIT for 3x a week. Running HIIT will not make you loose muscle. In fact, if you’re doing sprints (on hills or on flat ground), you may find your legs growing if you’ve never done them. Personally, I would recommend you doing the HIIT 3x a week but alternate workouts. Mix up rowing with running. People have often said that doing chins/pull ups everyday will hinder gains a bit (but will promote definition in the muscle) because of not allowing the back to grow/heal. Who knows, if you alternate, you just may grow a bit faster in your back and you won’t be neglecting legs.

With that 3x a week, you could add a couple of those low intensity sessions on off days. If you eat enough, you’ll be fine.

Sorry if I sound patronizing, as I saw how many posts you have/what level you are.

HIIT while on a calorie restriction is dangerous, especially if your goal is increased mass. Any cardio beyond low intensity while on a significant calorie restriction can be a mistake; it tends to be highly catabolic which is the opposite of anabolic, which is what you are trying to simultaneously do. I would suggest you prioritize your goals and focus on one.

It is possible to simultaneously add muscle while losing fat, but it is going to be a small amount of muscle and a small amount of fat. To do this you would need to eat around maintenance for calories prioritizing your nutrition around your workouts. Something like 300 kcals below maintenance on non training days, and increasing calories by 400 on training days would probably work. Even on this approach I wouldn’t go overboard with the cardio, let your nutrition cause your fat loss.

Rowing may be a good way to add muscle on an untrained individual, but it is still catabolic, especially to someone with an appreciable amount of muscle. Stick to the two sessions a week and toy with your nutrition.

I have been doing about 15 min on the rower after my workouts. Its about 3 minutes for warmup, then about 7-10 minutes of interval, and about 5 min for cool down. If anything, I have been putting on a little mass and losing fat. I stopped weighing my food though so don’t know exactly how many calories I’m bringing in though. I’ve been doing a day of total body + rower, then a day of usually dumbbell circuits, then a day off. I’m not putting on slabs of muscle, but I’m getting a little bigger, stronger, and leaner.

I don’t want to screw up your bulk or anything, but I think adding more intervals whether sprint, rower, or weight circuits are a good way to drop body fat while maintaining or adding muscle. It might be faster to focus on one or the other, but I don’t see anything thing wrong with following the middle road and doing both simultaneously.

If anything, you can give it a shot and if you notice strength or energy decreases, you can up your cals or cut back on the cardio.

Still, 4-5 intervals sessions plus lifting sounds like a lot to take on and it might be overtraining a bit, and cutting into your recovery.

…Hmmm, I guess after considering these options, I would have to agree with Zagman and say just cut back your calories on non-training days, and be careful not to go too crazy with the cardio. Its funny how things seem to straighten themselves up when you write out the options, not that I’ve ever really done it.