What is the place of cardio in open male bodybuilding?

Jordan Shallow comments on different cardio tactics in men’s open bodybuilding.

Bodybuilders hate cardio. At least, that’s the stereotype we often see in sports. And that makes sense. Male Open competitors weigh around 250+ pounds. That’s a lot of weight, muscle or not, to move with aerobic motion. That being said, all serious bodybuilders understand that cardio is a necessary part of training, whether they like it or not. The question is – how much cardio is too much? And how much is too little? What’s the right tactic for cardio in monster mass categories like open male bodybuilding? In our latest GI exclusive, Jordan Shallow shares his tips on how to properly use cardio in a men’s Open training program.

The biggest fear bodybuilders have about cardio is that it might burn off some of that hard-earned muscle. Muscle, of course, is the key factor in sculpting a perfect physique and the lifeblood of a competitive bodybuilder’s career. However, a bodybuilder must also go through a cutting phase during contest prep to be as conditioned and shredded as possible come game day. Cardio is part of this equation. On top of that, cardio has universal benefits for your heart and lung health that shouldn’t be ignored.

So what is the correct answer here? We have heard of some successful professional bodybuilders who do no cardio at all and others who do two hours of cardio during contest prep each day. What is really the best tactic for including cardio in a male bodybuilding program? Muscle Doc Jordan Shallow gives his take on this topic in our latest interview.

How to Use Cardio Properly in a Men’s Open Strength Training Program

Jordan Shallow thinks the days of a male Open bodybuilder doing two hours of cardio during contest prep are over. The reason? Because more and more athletes understand that cardio in the offseason is not taboo but in fact vital to building the proper core for contest prep later.

Shallow thinks part of this change is happening because competitors are aware of the health risks of modern bodybuilding. Unfortunately, we had a tragic year of bodybuilding-related deaths in 2021 that continued to bleed into early 2022. While we can’t directly correlate this to any specific aspect of the bodybuilding lifestyle, the athletes are increasingly health conscious.

Jordan Shallow thinks doing three days of light cardio a week in the offseason is a huge benefit for a competitive athlete. It helps manage physical stress and also helps manage the emotional stress that comes with the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle.

As time builds up this simple cardio base during the offseason, a bodybuilder will need a lot less cardio during contest prep. If you combine this with thoughtful, tactical strength training that has cardio elements, you have a much more balanced workout program and are less likely to burn muscle.

Jordan Shallow cites the giant sets of Milos Sarcev as an example. Here’s what Shallow had to say in this example:

“You do a giant set of Milos, it’s cardio. You are running a marathon with your backs. You are running a Milos marathon. But if you have a strong aerobic base, you’ll be able to get more benefit from strength training for the actual duration of the set and have a bigger toolbox to recover from that stimulus.


Although Jordan Shallow is not a male bodybuilder himself, he sees these kinds of changes happening inside the industry. He thinks the taboo behind cardio is starting to lose its grip – which benefits everyone in terms of overall health and better contest preparation.

You can watch Jordan Shallow’s full comments in our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above. It also explains how the general public can learn to count their macros for fat loss.

Teresa E. Burton