Lifting Weights vs. Cardio: Which Is Best?
There’s a never-ending debate among gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts: Is cardio better than weightlifting, or is weightlifting better than cardio? In reality, neither is better than the other — the whole cardio versus strength training debate isn’t really a debate at all.
Instead of the black-and-white question, “Which is best?” the question should be: “Which will best support my goals?” In truth, it all depends on what exactly you’re trying to achieve. Here’s a look at which training method is best for particular goals.
If you want to: Get stronger or build muscle
You should: Lift weights
There’s no arguing this. Strength training is the best way to build muscle and strength, and the most effective method of strength training is lifting weights. Sure, bodyweight exercises and resistance bands can help, but there’s no stimulus quite like a barbell, kettlebell, or pair of dumbbells.
Your muscles respond most dramatically to strength training, as compared to steady-state cardio and even high-intensity interval training. So, if you’re aiming to get strong, head to the weight room.
If you want to: Run a marathon
You should: Prioritize cardio
With running, there’s nothing to it but to do it. You simply must run to get better at running. However, notice the phrase is “prioritize cardio,” not “cardio only.” Runners need to perform strength training exercises, too, lest they risk overuse or repetitive stress injuries. A successful marathon training plan will dedicate the majority of training hours to running but still allocate ample time to strength training (and recovery).
If you want to: Improve body composition
You should: Prioritize weight training
Once upon a time, tabloids heralded cardio as the ultimate way to burn fat. Cardio gets you in the “fat burning zone,” they said. Years later, strength training is finally getting the praise and attention it deserves. Resistance training is one of the most efficient methods for the ultimate goal of losing fat and gaining muscle.
Still, cardio plays an important role in body composition. A balance of aerobic workouts, such as a 30-minute walk or bike ride, and anaerobic workouts, such as a 10-minute HIIT session, can help keep you in the calorie deficit needed to lose body fat.
If you want to: Lose weight
You should: Do both
A healthy balance of cardio and strength training workouts can help you lose weight in a safe and efficient way. You can do cardio and strength training in the same session or split them into separate workouts. One effective way to combine cardio and strength training is with high-intensity resistance training, the cooler cousin to HIIT. Coined “HIRT,” this type of workout is essentially HIIT with weights: You’ll lift light-to-moderate weights for a high number of reps with short rest intervals, effectively challenging your heart, your lungs, and your muscles.
If you want to: Improve overall fitness and athleticism
You should: Do both
To be a jack of all trades in (and out of) the gym and to best support your health, it’s best to include both weights and cardio in your workout routine. For overall fitness and athleticism, fitness professionals generally recommend dedicating an entire session to either cardio or weight training to make the most of your training hours. For example, if you work out four days
per week, do two strength days and two cardio days. The exact ratio of cardio to weight training will depend on your specific goals.
It can be tough to include both cardio and weightlifting into your workout routine, but it’s certainly doable. A qualified World Gym personal trainer can help you establish a routine that works for yo