Strength vs Cardio

Both strength and cardio training have huge benefits. Depending on what your goal is will dictate how you use each discipline. No matter what the goal though, I believe that both should be part of your training schedule.

If you’re after general conditioning, maintaining existing muscle mass and keeping body fat to a minimum, you’re going to need to make a focus on balancing both cardio and weight training. The key is to make sure that one complements the other. Focus on 3 to 4 lifting days and 2 to 3 cardio days in order to promote the results you’re looking for in this respect.

Here’s the catch – only performing steady state cardio can be counterproductive – Too much steady state cardio per week can result in muscle loss. Having said that, seek alternate methods that involve a bit more explosive movement to utilize your strongest muscle fibers available. This is where HIIT (high intensity interval training) comes in very useful. This is performed usually in a 10-15min period where you will go all out for 10-15secs then rest for around 1min. This has been proven to be a great fat burning whilst also maintaining lean muscle mass. I’m afraid performing cardio on it’s own has little benefit for body composition compared with weight training.

If however you’re after strict cardiorespiratory benefits, put your emphasis towards steady state cardio. This involves cardio for a longer time period, typically 30-45mins per session. Both muscular endurance and aerobic capacity will be challenged greatly when working in the 65-75% HR zone. To train for muscular endurance in the weight room look to increase your rep range above 12 per set and increase intensity by adding in supersets, tri-sets and drop sets.

The most common misconception I come across as a trainer is that people believe weight training is only for building muscle and cardio is for burning fat. In actual fact weight training is a great fat burner! Studies have shown that the metabolism can be boosted by up to 36 hours after a weights session. That sounds like a pretty good fat burner to me. However the biggest difference between weight training and cardio is that you can completely change the shape of your body through weight training. Weight training will allow you to create a much leaner attractive physique than cardio ever will. Cardio will help towards weight loss but it will not do anything for your body shape. If your goal is to look better and feel stronger then weight training is king. When I say weight training I mean exercises such as squats, bench press, deadlifts, shoulder presses and lunges. If the goal is to increase muscle shape and size then a rep range of 8-12 is best. We have some of Glasgow’s finest trainers in our gym who will happily teach you how to perform these exercises properly and safely.

Above all, however, always lift weights more often than doing cardio. The repeated impact of running, linear motion of biking, swimming or rowing, and endless creations of the same movement pattern and ROM can create muscle imbalances over time that can lead to joint problems. A smart resistance training program can at least counter these effects – so be wise and make cardio supplement your weight training. Long term you will reap far more benefits and feel more satisfied by what you see in the mirror by making weight training your main focus.