So, as we all know I'm a huge fan of doing whatever you want for your working out. You have to be realistic about the things that you want in your physique and not think that you are going to have defined biceps by running (duh) but doing whatever makes you happy. If you are enjoying yourself then you are going to be much more successful and healthy. For example, I could totally JUST lift weights and maintain my shape, but that's not what it's about. I live and breathe endurance sports and so that's what I do.
But, with that, some people are like "okay that's all fine and dandy but what is going to get me from point A to point B" and cardio recommendations can be CONFUSING!
I just wanted to share my opinion on this.
When you are doing cardio as a bodybuilder, the reason for your cardio is to lean out and show your definition more. I like to describe it as a short term fix type situation. Building muscle is the primary goal always with bodybuilders so the cardio should be in moderation until they are dialing into their show at which point they will start doing more steady state cardio. The goal in bodybuilding really is to get away with as minimal cardio as possible. If you can be lean without it then by all means, you want to do none because you want to conserve every bit of muscle that you have but that's not the case for most people.
Bikini athletes are doing hours and hours upon end of cardio is like this never ending cycle. They don't have a lot of muscle so they have to do a lot of cardio to get down to the leanness that they need to be for their show because it's within a certain time frame, and then when they do that excessive amount of cardio, they waste more muscle making it again harder for them to lean out without doing excessive cardio. HAMSTER ON A WHEEL.
It's like people always preach that you shouldn't do too much cardio but then every competition is doing tons of cardio? Why? Well it's not good in the long haul but the shows are around the corner and the girls HAVE to lean out for them so they have to do the cardio to get them there if their diet is not dialing them in.
When people begin a weight loss journey, they jump on an elliptical and call it a day and that's because we all want that short term fix. You aren't going to see the benefit of a weight lifting session normally that day. That's going to be something that takes time whereas the cardio is going to get water weight off, make you feel instantly thinner and then the cycle begins. People have socially become afraid of weights (especially women) because they think this makes them bulky which is quite literally absolutely false. It helps to build your metabolism, and it helps so that you can eat more food and lose faster. It's like a triple win. However, you may see in a weight loss challenge group there is a lot of cardio recommended and that's because most of the time challenges are short and therefore the person running it wants people to get results. To get quicker short term results, cardio is definitely going to get you there.
HIIT cardio is all the rage now (high intensity interval training) which has been shown in clinical trial to be the best for fat loss because it burns calories during and after the workout so that is something that I recommend vs just jumping on a treadmill for hours.
So, why do bodybuilders do cycling, elliptical and stair master instead of running. Well classically, bodybuilders are huge people. Think about Jay Cutler running down the road doing mileage. HA! That's going to be really hard on their joints therefore it's become this thing that got passed down all the way to bikini athletes that they are doing elliptical and machines versus running. Steady state cardio is steady state cardio. It's all the same.
So, then you have runners like myself who like to lift? Where does that fall? You have to learn about the different energy systems that you are utilizing in order to be able to keep up with everything. You can't tax all the systems at once, but rather flip flop the aerobic & anerobic system with rest so that you can continue to train and improve in all areas. It's a tricky balance. Basically, the only time that you would want to do this is if you truly do love the sport. If you are JUST looking for weight loss then I wouldn't recommend becoming a runner. It's not going to be the ideal way to lose weight.
Weight loss is energy expenditure at the end of the day so yes running will help you to lose weight, elliptical will help you to lose weight but our bodies are much more complex than that with the exchange of muscle and the use of glycogen and at what point does the body start burning off muscle during a cut and too much cardio? There is no way that you will be able to pinpoint this.
I hope this explains the conundrum behind cardio, and I feel I did a terrible job but it's convoluted. The request from this came from the fact that you hear cardio is "bad" for you, and then all the bodybuilders are using it to get shredded, and that's just because they are not concerned in those weeks leading up to the show about anything other than how shredded they can get because all the work in developing the muscle is done at that point. However, being careful also not to waste any muscle by not eating properly and just doing TONS of cardio (this is what the typical American does). And then also recognizing that cardio is a GREAT exercise for your cardiovascular health, but it's just not the best if you are slaving away on the elliptical and looking for long term weight loss results.
Build lean muscle. Do supplemental cardio....unless you're a runner and then train for your races and don't worry about it but also make sure you are eating enough to not lose muscle while training.