Cardio training

Cardio VS. Strength Training – Or Should You Do Both?

Physical appearance is often the central driver behind motivations for signing up to gyms, running, and buying new physical workout equipment, however, the best way to lose weight is still highly debated across medical professions. Cardio exercise generally pertains to aerobic activity, which elevates breathing and heart rate levels, in turn (Gillian D’Souza: 2018). Some examples of aerobics include jogging, dancing, cycling and swimming. At the gym, the most commonly used cardio machines are the treadmill, cycling machines and ellipticals, and studies have shown that women are more likely to utilise this equipment and focus on cardio exercises as a priority during their workouts (Carol Sorgen: 2019). Weight training is contrastingly a form of strength training which uses weights for resistance, providing stress to muscles rather than conditioning heart strength (MFMER: 2019).

This article will address the core competition between cardiovascular workouts (cardio) and weightlifting, in terms of weight loss and general physical fitness. The conclusive findings suggest that weightlifting as a form of strength training burns more calories through stimulating metabolic processes during periods of inactivity. Having said this, weight training also leads to increased muscle weight, therefore altering the way that body fat is lost.

A study analysed by Grant Tinsley found that weight-training may actually burn fewer calories than cardio activities during the period of exercise (2017). Having said this, during a 24-week period study which examined partakers’ inactive metabolisms after weight training, men saw an increase in metabolic functions reaching 9%, where females saw an increase of almost 4%. The reasoning behind this calorie-to-energy transition in rest periods can be attributed to high excess post-exercise oxygen consumption during and after weightlifting, leading to muscle breakdown (Gillian D’Souza: 2018).


These levels of elevated metabolisms were proven to last for up to 38 hours after the weight training (Grant Tinsley: 2017). Moreover, Grant Tinsley’s findings also highlighted that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can provide similar benefits to cardio, in less time, and the recovery periods are also decreased respectively.

Furthermore, it should be noted that weight loss may not be an immediate effect of weightlifting and weight training, because the repetitive muscle stress leads to muscle build up. Building denser muscle mass, whilst simultaneously decreasing body fat percentage, will result in your scale figures increasingly overall (Jessica Smith: 2019). Having said this, as previously mentioned, during rest-periods after weightlifting your metabolism is continuing to biochemically process calories and transfer them into energy, and muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue (Mayo Clinic:2019).

In summary, whilst an accumulation of evidence suggests that weight training and weightlifting burn more calories due to the increased functionality of metabolism processes during rest-periods, cardio is still an important part of physical exercise. Most studies indicate that a highly effective workout would combine both aerobic and HIIT exercises, conditioning both muscular and heart strength simultaneously.


Versatility in physical exercise comes with several benefits.

Female athlete training with barbell

Let’s take weight loss for an example. At first glance, it would appear that the workout that consumes the most calories is the way to go  – after all, losing weight is a straightforward equation of calorie intake minus calories burned. For someone who wishes to slim down, physical exercise is a way to maximize the latter so heading for cardio machines seems like a no-brainer.

Yet, total calorie consumption isn’t just the immediate numbers on the screen of a cardio machine. For people wanting to lose weight, a key reason to incorporate strength training into their weekly workout routines is the effect muscle mass has on energy consumption.

The beauty of muscle tissue from a weight-loss perspective is that it uses up more energy than fat tissue, even at rest. Growing your muscles, therefore, translates to bigger TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure – even when you do nothing with those muscles.

It’s true, however, that muscle tissue also weighs more than fat, but if that’s something you’re worried about, ask yourself this: Would you rather weigh less and have more fat on you, or weigh more and have a bigger percentage of that weight be solid, defined muscle?


For the endurance athlete reading this, still worried about weight training slowing her down, or the bodybuilder skeptical whether the elliptical will do him any good, it’s worth remembering the many ways to train both strength and cardio.

If your end goal is in improving endurance, think of strength training as a spice to your otherwise cardio-heavy diet.

Just one strength workout a week can be an enormous help and serve as much-needed relief from the repetitive motion of your main sport.

Similarly, if you’d rather just focus on lifting, sneak in one or two cardio sessions per week – perhaps as a warm-up before loading up on weights.

Besides frequency, you can also vary the ways in which you train cardio and strength. A great tool for getting stronger without growing heavy muscles is to work out in a circuit-type fashion. Keep moving from one exercise to the next, minimizing time between sets, to keep your heart rate up and to get your daily cardio while strength training.

As for weight selection for endurance athletes, bodyweight training is golden. Good old moves like push-ups and planks are fantastic for engaging and developing big muscle groups without fear of gigantic muscles.

The weight lifter wanting to tap into the health benefits of cardio while protecting the size of his muscles will find high intensity interval training (HIIT) terrific. HIIT plays with heart rate variation, which means that a short stint of hard work and breathlessness is followed by a recovery period – and then, it’s all repeated again. The duration of a HIIT workout is short, but the list of its health benefits is long


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