The cardio or weights debate is a long-standing one. Typically, you see men gravitating towards heavy dumbbells and women preferring to sweat on a treadmill or a workout class, although this is certainly changing.
What are your fitness goals
To start, there are arguments for both. On the most general level, any type of exercise or movement is better than none at all. To figure out which one is best for you as an individual, it’s best to think about your fitness goals — what are you looking to achieve from your workouts?
For the Endurance Athlete
If you are training for any type of endurance race — marathon, bike race, etc. — your training regimen will consist of mostly the type of cardio exercise required for that race. Cross training, or adding in workouts that complement your training, is important to avoid injury, and often times these will include strength components as well.
For Weight Loss
If you’re looking to lose weight, both cardio and strength workouts will help you achieve that goal, but you may notice results faster with a higher percentage of cardio. As your body becomes more attuned to physical activities, incorporating more weight training will help challenge the muscles and lead to a kick start in your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so increasing your lean muscle mass will help speed up your metabolism even at rest!
Working on increasing your strength will obviously involve a higher concentration of heavyweight work. Cardio is still important, but too much without an adequate protein intake may cause your body to burn muscle rather than fat, which will negate the work you have put in. In this case, more strength and less cardio may be more beneficial.
Goal-Oriented Cardio and Weight Combos
Strength and cardio complement each other and only ever doing a workout that consists of one or the other will likely do you more of a disservice. Strength work not only builds muscle but strengthens bones and joints as you age, helping to prevent or delay diseases such as osteoporosis. Since we now know that both are important, here’s a quick look at when you should do each in your own workouts.
If your goals are to:
- Lose weight or fat — Strength before cardio because this way your muscles will use up your glycogen stores first for energy, meaning that your body will start to use fat for fuel by the time you get to cardio.
- Build strength — Either strength only or strength before cardio.
- Just be healthy — Either one is fine at any time. Make sure to find something you enjoy so that you’re more likely to continue it.
- Build endurance — Cardio first, but don’t shy away from strength cross training
In conclusion, choosing to do weights or cardio is a personal preference that really depends on what your personal goals are. Exercise is not a one-size-fits-all thing, so figuring out what you want to accomplish will help make the decision easier for you.
Erin is a NASM-certified personal trainer, and a writer dedicated to focusing on physical, emotional, and mental health. When she’s not writing, she’s trying out new desserts in Chicago and relaxing with her husband Neil and her dog Donut.