Strength vs Cardio… Which is best?

The question most people want answered when they decide to to get fit and healthy, is how do I burn up those excess calories as quickly and effectively as possible… with strength or cardio training? The answer, my exercise-loving friends, is you need to do both! Wonderful, isn’t it 🙂

There are many facets to this debate, and the calorie thing should not be the only consideration. Improving general health and fitness is a combination of many things, not being limited to weight control. What about flexibility, heart health, functional strength to perform daily tasks and postural correction, just to name a few.

There is no argument cardiovascular training will burn more calories in a session. However it is worth keeping in mind that when you are actually lifting weights you are burning more calories, it is the rest time needed in strength training that limits the total calories burned in a session.  Worth noting however is that higher total calories burned doesn’t necessarily translate to greater body shape transformation. A well designed strength training routine is likely to have a greater impact on body composition than cardiovascular training on a session for session basis.  This is because while it will be burning less total fat content it is simultaneously increasing lean muscle mass (helps out those before and after photos).

The crucial point above is ‘on a session for session basis’ a drawback with strength training is that your muscles need time to repair themselves.  So you need longer recovery time between sessions. This is where cardiovascular training takes the reins and is able to ensure your calorie burning quest can continue; as it places less demands on the muscles of the body and focuses on your body’s ability to use oxygen you need relatively little recovery time between sessions. This allows you to fit extra sessions into your week. This is very handy when trying to burn those extra calories.

So what’s the best way to incorporate both these styles into your routine? Well again there a few different approaches. You can adopt a circuit based training style which will target both strength and cardiovascular fitness at the same time. Quite a time efficient approach. The other is trying to incorporate a good mix of strength and cardio sessions into your week. Strength sessions should try to be separated by at least a day’s rest where as cardio sessions can be included to your heart’s content (can even double up 2 in a day if you’re really keen). This second approach will allow maximal gains in both strength and cardio however is more time consuming. The take home message is that whatever your schedule may be, a program that incorporates a good mix of both strength and cardio work will produce the best results.