In the world of exercise, there are two main categories that often differ opinions.
Cardio and weight training.
Are they two pieces that fit together to complete the weight loss puzzle, or does focussing on one have a negative effect on the other?
Both are types of exercise, and both are great when involved in a body transformation, but which one will be best for you?
To find that out, let’s start at the beginning.
What are They?
There is a wide range of cardio workouts available to do at the gym, at home, or in the great outdoors.
Cardio workouts often last longer than muscle ones, sometimes lasting over an hour. Some of the more popular cardio workouts are running, cycling and swimming.
Not all cardio workouts are as intense as this though. Simple things such as walking the dog on a night can be classed as cardio as long as you pick up the pace and increase your heart rate.
Muscle workouts are different.
Firstly, they’re a lot quicker. Whereas cardio is a drawn-out exercise in which the longer you go, the more you benefit, muscle workouts are often in short bursts of strain on the muscles.
If you’re in the gym, this could be doing things such as bench-pressing, deadlifting weights or using the leg press. If you’re at home, you can also do muscle exercises in things such as press-ups, sit-ups, and squats.
Muscle workouts need to be targeted a lot more than cardio. So, picking certain areas to work on with each workout and making sure all muscles are getting worked on is vital to make sure your exercise is having an effect on the whole body.
The Benefits of Cardio
When going through a body transformation, most people want to lose weight whilst simultaneously building muscle.
Performing cardio exercises is a great way to shed the pounds, with calories potentially being burnt at a rapid speed depending on the intensity of your workout.
It is a great workout for the body and the mind. With proven links to reducing anxiety and depression, the positives for taking a run or going on a bike ride are vast and varied.
It is also a great workout for many of the major organs. Lung strength and capacity increase which in turn means that you can do longer exercises and go further, as well as strengthening the heart and the immune system.
Just as muscle workouts increase the strain on specific muscles, aerobic exercises put a strain on the body (internal and external) and the mind, and getting through these exercises only makes the pressured parts stronger.
The Benefits of Strength Training
If you’re doing muscle training, the main benefit of this is an increase in muscle mass.
But this isn’t the only positive of this form of exercise. As your muscles get bigger, they also get stronger, both in terms of what you can lift and how quickly you can recover.
It is a workout that involves you moving your body and putting areas under strain that don’t often get put under such pressure, and this has a huge effect on the range of movement and power your body can provide.
And it’s not just your muscle that gets stronger, your bones are put under strain as well, and studies have shown this to have a positive effect on bone strength as they grow to be more accustomed to lifting heavy weights.
Like cardio exercises, it isn’t just the body that gets put through a workout but also the mind.
Muscle-building exercises are also known to have a positive effect on a human’s mindset and are also often linked to an increase in confidence and a reduction in anxiety and depression.
So, the two different types of exercise certainly come with many different benefits each, but do they help each other?
Does Cardio Build Muscle?
Cardio is often seen as the enemy of muscle growth. Instead of building muscle, there is an idea that doing aerobic exercises actually reduces muscle mass by using some of your muscles as fuel.
This isn’t necessarily true. Of course, everyone’s body is different, but on the whole, doing cardio shouldn’t affect your muscle mass.
But, it can put a pause on your training.
Cardio can be exhausting, and if you are spending a lot of your time on a bicycle, and not much time in the gym doing other exercises, you aren’t going to be building muscle.
Your muscles need time to recover and getting through 100 quick laps in a swimming pool doesn’t give them that time.
Cardio can help to build up aerobic strength and make your body tough and ready for action, but it doesn’t build muscle strength at the rate of weight training.
It is inevitable though that running five miles will increase some muscle in the legs, just like swimming 50 laps of front crawl will definitely increase core strength in the long run.
Does Weight Training Help You Lose Weight?
If you’re looking to lose weight, then performing cardio exercises is undoubtedly the best option. But that doesn’t mean you should count out muscle training altogether.
Weight training does burn calories. If you did an hour-long strength workout, you would maybe burn 200-300 calories. You can expect to burn double this and more if you were performing cardio, but it isn’t a wasted session in your weight loss journey to be pumping out reps in the gym.
There are other ways muscle training helps you to lose weight. After a muscle workout, studies found a male resting metabolism to rise by 9%, and a female by 4%.
While this isn’t going to have you shopping for smaller trousers in a week, over time it will show an improvement.
Burning calories is about increasing your heart rate and working up a sweat, and weight training will do this, just not to the huge effect of cardio exercises.
Friends, not Foes
What we have here are two forms of exercise that both specialise in one thing.
Cardio is great for losing weight. Strength training is great for building muscle mass.
Together, they can help you achieve goals, but if you want a successful body transformation, you need to think of these as partners, not enemies.
Spreading workouts over the two categories is a great way of shedding weight and also building muscle.
If you can intersperse aerobic exercises with weight training, you will achieve the best of both worlds. You will also find both help each other out. Your running will improve with stronger leg muscles. Your rep count will improve with higher aerobic strength.
Cardio and muscle workouts shouldn’t be looked upon as foes, but friends, and to achieve the body you desire, you must make sure you are doing a bit of both.
When working out, it is vital you leave your body time to rest. Muscles grow while in recovery, and if you overload your body with stress, you are putting yourself at risk of injury.
Devising a plan to spread your workouts out and share them between the two categories listed above, is the ideal way of taking your body to the next level.
Not sure how to do this? Ask the professionals at The Cut Gym.
From 6-month changes to a 12-week body transformation, we can create a plan to suit your needs.