Strength Training vs. Cardio: Finding a Balance
Strength Training vs. Cardio: Finding a Balance
You’ve got your workout clothes, your sneakers, your water bottle, your towel… you’ve even got the motivation! It’s time to hit the gym. But then it hits you - what kind of workout should you tackle today? Cardio? Strength training? A bit of both?
The quick answer? Your lifestyle goals and your body are unique, so your workout should be unique too. If you feel like you’ve been working hard in the gym and not seeing the results you want, you may not have the right balance of cardio and strength training.
The Cardio Bunny
If you have weight to lose, I recommend cardio in any form. Just get moving! Whether it’s walking, running, biking… find something you enjoy doing to help you get the weight off. But remember, after a while, if you’ve lost the majority of the weight, you may actually see a stop in weight loss and minimal change in your body shape. (More on how to switch things up in a moment.)
Even if you aren’t looking to lose weight, if you just love cardio, then absolutely make it a part of your workout plan! Cardio is important for cardiovascular strength and endurance. You just don’t want to make it your focus 7 days a week.
I used to be a cardio bunny, running for miles and using the elliptical for what seemed like days. But I realized I wasn’t seeing much of a difference after all that running. I’d hit a plateau.
If this sounds like you, and you mostly focus your gym time on cardio but feel like you are stuck, you may want to change the type of cardio you’re doing. Try a shift from steady state cardio, (running at a steady pace or the elliptical), to Interval Training.
Interval training is when you alternate between two activities, typically requiring different rates of speed or degrees of effort. So for instance, if you love running, you can change your rate of speed rather than going at once pace for the entire workout. Try going faster than your jog for 1 minute followed by 30 seconds of walking, and repeat.
One popular form of Interval training is HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training. This is when you perform repeated bouts of short duration, high intensity exercise intermingled with periods of lower intensity intervals of active recovery or rest.
For example: On a scale of 1 - 10 of perceived exertion, (how tired you are), high intensity should be considered anything over an effort of level 7.* Using running again as an example, you could sprint for 200m followed by a jog, (active recovery), for 400m, repeating this as many times as able, working towards a goal of 10-12 repetitions.
You can apply Interval training to almost any type of exercise. Be sure to keep the simple principle in mind of doing 1 minute of work, followed by 2 - 3 minutes of active recovery.
Benefits of Interval Training
Do it Anywhere
Increase your Metabolism
Quick and Convenient
No Equipment Necessary
If you’re looking for a great workout that incorporates the HIIT technique, check out Core Fit’s Bootcamp Yoga here.
Now let’s take a look at weight lifting. If Interval training is so great, why lift weights?
It’s All in the Lift
Weights don't make us bulky, (a common misconception), but they do help us gain lean muscles and that toned look most of us desire! Add in some weight training and you’ll start to see a nice change in your body shape.
When weightlifting, you first have to choose which lifts to do! I always recommend doing a variety of lifts, and working your full body to avoid plateaus and boredom. Your goals can help you choose which lifts to do, on which days, and for how many reps and sets. A certified trainer can help design a program that makes the most sense for you.
In short, heavier weights and lower repetitions are going to be good for someone looking for hypertrophy, or muscle growth. Lighter weights and higher repetitions are going to be good for someone looking for muscular endurance.
Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training helps increase muscle mass and bone density helping to reduce fractures and injury.
As you gain more muscle your body burns more calories and helps you reach physique goals.
Improved Daily Activity Tasks
Lowered Blood Pressure
Increased bone, ligament and tendon strength
Finding a Balance
Now, back to our original dilemma - how to balance both cardio and strength training into your exercise regimen.
This is what we call Program Design and it should really be individualized to a client. It’s not a “one size fits all” situation. It’s best to work with a professional to figure out what sort of balance is right for your body and your goals.
Depending on those factors, the number of days you spend on each type of exercise will vary.
No matter what your goals are, it is a good idea to include both. Maybe it looks something like this:
If you’re looking for muscle gain and growth, spend four of your gym days doing strictly lifting! Think heavy weights, low reps, with each day focusing on specific body parts rather than bouncing around. Then incorporate 1 - 2 days of cardio - some combination of your choice of Interval Training or steady state cardio.
If you’re looking for considerable weight loss, get moving! The goal here is to get your heart rate up and sweating! Pick your favorite activity you are going to enjoy and stick to, whether that’s walking, biking, swimming - anything! Establish a routine, then gradually, carefully start incorporating weights and Interval training into your routine.
If you just want to tone up, combine weight lifting and HIIT. Consider doing 2 days of each!