If you want to build big arms, then you need to train hard and heavy, eat well, and get plenty of rest. But beyond lifting, many guys also want to include aerobic in their routines, either for health reasons or to shed fat.
The answer depends on a couple of factors, so let’s take a look to see where you might fall.
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Aerobics for Fat Loss
Most guys should only be using aerobics for fat loss once their calorie levels have fallen below about 2000 per day. Until you’re at that level, fat loss is most efficiently achieved through calorie control. You usually don’t want to drop much below that level, though, because you risk missing out on key nutrients, and that’s when you need to bump up your activity in order to burn more calories.
If you’re serious about fat loss, then you are best served to make THAT your primary focus until you get your body fat down below 12%, or even lower. In that case, ALL of you weight training activities should be geared toward maintaining your lean mass as you shed fat.
Beyond the beginner stage, gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is a pretty tall order for most lifters, so you will do well to keep the mass you have — and that includes arms — while you get lean.
Aerobics for Health
If you are engaging in cardio for health purposes, particularly of your cardiovascular system, then there is less of a chance that you will be working at a caloric deficit. In that case, you should be able to make gains in both arm growth AND overall fitness at the same time, but beware the SAID principle.
Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID) is a fancy way of saying that your body will get better at the exact things you train it for — in this case building bigger arm muscles and improving at running, rowing, biking, etc. If you give it two big hurdles at once, your body CAN get better at both, but neither will benefit from the full power of your recovery system.
In other words, expect mixed results.
Aerobics and Arms
In the end, whether you do a lot of aerobics while you’re trying to build big arms comes down to personal choice and your individual situation.
When you’re losing fat, you’ll do well to maintain arm size. When you’re using cardio for health reasons, you CAN grow your arms, but they won’t bulk up as fast as if all of your energies were focused on lifting.
In all cases, extreme endurance work, such as training for long-distance races, can put a halt to your muscle growth.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you have a complete physical first and tell your doctor about your plans to make sure you’re healthy enough for the rigors to come.