Does “Kettlebell Cardio” Interfere With Muscle Gain? And How Would You Know?

Does “Kettlebell Cardio” Interfere With Muscle Gain? And How Would You Know?

I got this question from Pam over the weekend which I thought I’d pass along to you, because it poses an interesting question.

Here it is:

“My question is… I’ve been hearing about how cardio isn’t the best for building muscle because one’s body will adapt to the cardio and pare down muscle in the adaptation process, along with other adaptations. However, I’m torn because when I do KBs I feel like I’m doing cardio as well (for instance with the Wolf)”

Here was my response:

“Great question.

It depends on the “type” of cardio.

Training for a marathon and lifting maximum weights are at odds with each other and the body’s resources. 

It used to be that we thought “traditional steady-state cardio” interfered with muscle building. That’s not exactly true. Too much of it does. 

One of the benefits of KB training is that we can train the heart (for health) and build muscle / get stronger “at the same time” using the appropriate loading parameters, like the finishers in “Burn” or the various programs like ‘The Wolf,’ in MKM. 

The cardiovascular adaptation is going to be different based on the activity, but with both “Burn” and the MKM programs, people find their “cardio better” while having grown some muscle.”

Pam then sent me a very astute follow up question:

“In regards to too much cardio… How would one decipher that?”

Let me tell you a story…

A couple of years ago, a client of mine and I did a “challenge” together, because he likes challenges. 

It was very simple: 

Swings + Push Ups – 100 of each – every day. 5 to 6 days a week.

The results?

Well, based up on all the other “Swing Challenges” you’ve read about, you’d expect me to say something along the following:

“Body fat melted off me like butter in a pan on a hot stove…”

But that was NOT the case.

In fact, the exact OPPOSITE occurred.

I actually lost muscle, and GAINED body fat.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

But it’s not dissimilar to folks who start running for marathons, and pack on the pounds/kilos as a result.

What happened?


My mind overrode my body and my body couldn’t keep up.

It produced too much cortisol in response to the “too much stress,” which then created a negative hormonal cascade, which fattened me up.

So THAT’S how you know if you’re doing too much cardio.

Too much of anything, really.

And that’s exactly why most of my programs are 3 days a week – not 5 or 6.

[NOTE: I do have some programs that are 4,5, or 6 days a week. BUT, they use abbreviated training durations – 15 to 30 minutes – and/or active recovery strategies.]

And that’s also why I’m such a big fan of AUTOREGULATION, versus PRESCRIBED sets and reps.

And it’s also why if you email asking me “how many sets are ‘good’” or “how many sets are ‘enough’” I won’t give you a specific number and will re-explain autoregulation to you.

That’s again because, it’s now how much work you can do…

It’s how much work you can recover from so that you get the results you’re after.

So for best results:

[1]  Train 3 days a week.

[2]  Train between 15 and 45 minutes each session, depending on what you can handle.

[3]  “Bake” your “cardio” into your strength/muscle building programming using autoregulation and physiologically sound work-to-rest ratios.

[4]  Walk and do mobility work on your “off” days.

[5]  If you’re feeling stressed, increase your active recovery measures: Walking, diaphragmatic breathing, contrast showers, sauna, whirlpool, funny movies.

Hope this helps.

Stay Strong,


P.S. For “physiologically sound cardio” that train your heart and lungs without damaging them, and build muscle and strength… 

Use the “beginner” and “intermediate” protocols found in this set of programs.

Or fully embrace autoregulation with these proven plans.

P.P.S. If you feel the “need” to train / workout daily, use this program.

P.P.P.S. If you recently bought a program, please finish it and send me your results before buying another.

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