Strength Training Versus Cardio: What You Need to Know

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

I get it… there’s just something about that feeling you get when you’re a sweaty hot mess, heart rate is skyrocketing, and you feel the high of a good sweat sesh. I think these feelings give us the sense that we’re accomplishing something so much greater than pushing some weights around. We feel accomplished, fit, and typically better than when we started. We feel like this has to be the BEST way to lose fat. BUT, the fact is… while cardio has incredible cardiovascular benefits and is proven to increase fat loss for overweight individuals, the body will eventually experience adaptation and the fat burning process will significantly slow down. No doubt, cardio holds an Important place in our fitness journey. It has the potential to increase heart rate variability, helps to avoid mental fatigue, relieves depression, uses fat for fuel, holds potential to add years to life, and positively enhances self-image. Cardio is an important aspect of fitness that should not be overlooked. However, as they say in the old Spanish proverb… it’s wise not to put all your eggs in one basket! Putting all your time and effort into one variable does not equal the best outcome. With that, let me tell you the benefits of strength training:

Strength training involves the use of musculoskeletal force applied to an outside force (weights, the ground, etc.), inducing stress to the body. Like with cardio, over a period of time practicing strength training, the muscles will adapt to the stress that is placed on them. However, there are numerous factors to break past the threshold of adaptation. To ensure muscle growth and increased strength, one can simply add weight, change the tempo of specific moves to induce time under tension (TUT), add reps, implement isometric holds (holding a weight in place), or increasing the frequency of workouts. This process is known as progressive overload and ensures that muscles do not become stagnant and stop growing.

Strength training helps to maintain and support functional movement, strong bones, improved posture, body composition, and increased metabolism for the long run. When lifting is done properly and with progressive overload, the body builds and maintains lean muscle mass, creating a higher metabolic rate, thus, burning more calories. While cardio is most efficient in burning immediate calories, strength training has the potential to burn calories for hours, making the process of calorie burning more sustainable and long term. Fat loss + lean mass increase= change in body composition.

So, what does this all mean for you? It depends on what your goals are, but if you’re like me and want to build muscle and have that muscle visible by losing the fat covering it, strength training needs to be a regular thing for you. I implement cardio one day a week (efficient to keep up cardiovascular endurance and health) and set a goal of 8-10K steps per day just to keep my total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) up… (so I can eat more!).

I implement strength training 4-5 days a week, focusing on a split training program most of the time (training a specific muscle group in one session… ie. Lower body day).

Switching from my cardio bunny phase to strength training has been a game changer for me. While I did see positive benefits from running a few days a week, ultimately my body wasn’t changing and I was burning out.

When I started strength training, my body composition started changing. My body fat decreased significantly, and the slow progressive building of muscle in my physique has built a confidence in me that I’ve never had before.

If you’ve read the entire post up to this point, kudos to you! I know for some, the science behind training can be mind numbing, but ultimately, it’s the science that lets us know if something works. Both cardio and strength training has important benefits and should be incorporated in your fitness program. Just don’t become a slave to the thought that you have to constantly exert all of your energy into aerobic training to get results.

I hope this tidbit of information is helpful in choosing what to incorporate in your weekly training. If you have any questions, hit up the comments section below and I’ll be happy to converse with you!

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