Resistance Training Vs. Cardio: Which Is Better?

The age old question(s) when it comes to getting started in the gym: What is better for me to do at the gym; cardio, or weight lifting? Can I do both? What is better if I want to lose weight? Become more defined? Feel more energized?

Unfortunately, this is not a this-or- that scenario – the answer to your fitness and body composition problems can’t REALLY be solved with primarily one type of exercise. A good exercise routine will incorporate both aerobic exercise AND weight lifting. If this is news to you, I’d suggest you keep on reading…

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time. Think: running, biking, rowing, circuit training. It is the best way to improve your stamina; a workout for your heart, lungs, and circulatory system, as well as your lower limbs (and potentially upper depending on the type of cardio).

Your ability to use less energy for the same amount of work will increase if you incorporate cardio into your routine. Not only that, but your heartrate and breathing will return to normal much quicker after intense exercise as your conditioning increases.

Heart-health – this is important, right? Doing cardio will increase your heart health by making it more efficient at pumping blood through your body, therefore decreasing your heart rate – which is good!

Weight-loss wise, cardiovascular exercise burns more calories minute-for-minute than weight lifting does. So, if one of your goals to reduce overall body mass you should increase the amount of cardio included in your exercise routine.

Resistance/Strength Training

Resistance training is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.

Many people think of weight lifting as a way to gain muscle size and become aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Although this is true, this weight lifting perk pales in comparison to how much your bones, ligaments, and tendons will benefit from regular resistance training. As you age, bone tissue loss starts to happen faster than bone tissue can generate. This acceleration is especially heightened in post-menopausal women, and those who are sedentary. Through strength training however, cells that rebuild bones (osteoblasts) are stimulated, thus decreasing the severity and speed of bone degeneration.

Although cardiovascular training is great for shedding body weight, resistance training reigns superior to cardio when it comes to keeping the weight off. When you start weight lifting you will start to build muscle. Muscle burns more calories per pound than fat does at a resting state, so by increasing your muscle mass, you also increase your calorie-burning capacity, therefore keeping your weight controlled becomes much easier!

Weight lifting also creates better posture (as long as the weight lifting is done correctly and with good form). By doing compound, free-weight movements, this allows you to strengthen multiple muscles and joints at a time, while also strengthening your postural and stabilizer muscles. When these muscles are strengthened, it means you will be able to hold your spine and body in a better, more optimal position that won’t put extra stress on your body.

How much should be done of each?

Cardio Resistance Training
The American College of Sports Medicine has two basic recommendations for cardio exercise. The first suggests 30 minutes of moderate cardio five times per week, and the second recommends 20 minutes of intense cardio three times per week.

Note: cardiovascular training does not necessarily mean running. Circuit training, biking, swimming, and even dancing can be considered cardiovascular training. Why? Because they all (should) raise your heart rate.

3-4 days a week of 45-60 minutes of resistance training is ideal for muscle growth and gaining strength.

No muscle group should ever be trained more than 3 times per week, nor should the same muscle group be trained on consecutive days. Allow 48-72 hours between training the same muscle group, this gives them enough time to heal and rejuvenate before stressing them again.

All muscle groups should be trained to avoid becoming unbalanced and, if possible, free weights should be used to incorporate stabilizing muscles.

NOTE: If you’re going to be participating in both resistance training AND cardio in the same session, put the cardio at the END of your workout. This way your muscles aren’t fatigued and their glycogen stores are not limited for lifting those weights!

So what should you take from this?

At the end of the day, neither one of what we’ve discussed is “superior” overall, each has their benefits. Cardio is a great way to keep your heart healthy and kick start your weight-loss journey, but resistance training is a great way to keep your muscles and bones healthy, as well as help you keep your weight off and recompose your body.

Depending on what your goals are, you could be doing one, the other, or both. Obviously if your main goal is to become strong AF then you should primarily be doing weight-lifting and strength training (duh). If you’re training for a marathon, stick to primarily cardio.

If you’re not training for anything but you just really enjoy weight lifting – do that! When it comes down to it, exercise is exercise and I would rather you be doing SOME FORM of movement than absolutely nothing at all.

I know this was a little all over the place, but I hope I got my point across relatively well and you learnt something new!

Until next time


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