Many gym goers find themselves stuck with this tricky question. Is cardio or strength training better? Life is busy and finding the best use of your time is important. So which is a better use of your time, or is there a perfect balance between the two?
One of the most important questions to ask is, what do you enjoy? Consistency is key, because that will give you the best results. If you enjoy it, your more likely to do it. Whatever your goals may be, they require a consistent level of training for you to reach them. Choose what is going be fun and challenging—and stick with it!
Let’s examine cardio training specifically. Cardio can be key to reducing fat and body mass. Cardio training does burn more calories in a session when compared to strength training. Due to this caloric expenditure, cardio is normally associated with the loss of body fat as well as muscle mass. Too much cardio and not enough calories will lead to a loss of mass (both fat and muscle). Remember, when you lose muscle mass, your natural basal metabolic rate slows down, which means you will burn fewer calories per day. You may not get the long lasting results you want.
The human body is a master at adaptation. Whatever the body is asked to repeat, it will become very efficient at performing it. So the same workout repeated over time will become less effective. What once was a great calorie-burning workout may not produce the same burn over time. To prevent plateauing, mix up your cardio, think about changing the frequency, intensity, time and type.
Strength training increases lean muscle mass and improves resting metabolic rate. Muscle tissue is metabolically more active and burns more calories than fat tissue. The more muscles you have, the bigger your resting energy expenditure, which means that your body burns more calories “while doing nothing”.
A good resistance workout also increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC is the calories your body continues to burn after a workout. Just like a cars engine that gets hot after a road trip, your body takes time to cool and recover after a hard workout. In order to return to homeostasis the body uses oxygen to replace the energy spent during the workout and works to recover and repair stressed tissue.
Could their be a happy medium? What about metabolic strength training?
Metabolic strength training involves high intensity intervals, and movements that train the entire body. The benefits of metabolic training include high calorie burn, cardiovascular benefits, and retaining lean muscle mass.
Overall, it’s important to have a workout that you enjoy and want to continue to do regularly. The most important element of actually accomplishing your exercise goals is consistency. Other factors to consider include: fitness level, how much time your have, and your goals. In short most experts recommend a combination of cardio and strength training for overall health and fitness.
By Nichole Arthur, Group Fitness Instructor at PRO Club