Strength vs Cardio

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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…? Should I do strength or cardio training? The answer, my exercise loving friends, is 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. Don’t forget to think about flexibility, heart health, functional strength to perform daily tasks and postural correction, just to name a few.

There is no argument when it comes to the fact that 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. It is worth noting however 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 (and this helps out those before and after photos more than you can imagine).

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. Generally speaking, 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 session styles into your routine? Well again, there a few different approaches you can take. Option 1: 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. Option 2: you can try 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, whereas cardio sessions can be included to your heart’s content (these sessions can even double up – you can do 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. So, in the strength vs cardio battle who wins? 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.


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