Cardio vs weight training has been the age long debate among health nuts for since the 70’s (or even earlier). When it comes to cardio vs weight training, most people are referring to jogging/biking/swimming vs lifting barbells and a leg press.
There are different types of cardio and weight training, but we’re going to keep it simple. We will compare the more popular “steady state” cardio (jogging, biking, etc) and HIIT (high intensity interval training) to basic resistance training (pressing, pulling etc). The idea was that weight training provided strength and muscle building while cardio made your heart and lungs stronger. Unfortunately, this has been twisted over the years.
- Your muscular system is linked to your heart and lungs
- The reason people benefit from cardio is because they’re inadvertently working their muscles as well
- Any work you do to your muscles will also condition your heart and lungs
- It shouldn’t be “cardio vs weight training”, instead weight training FOR cardio
- The benefits of weight training far out weight cardio in every aspect
- Weight lifting is only dangerous if done incorrectly, as is most other things (even cardio)
- The heart and lung are there to fuel the muscles with oxygen. Therefore working the muscles, works the heart and lungs
Cardio vs Weight Training
“In general, the harder an exercise is, the better its results will be; don’t look for ways to make exercises easier—look for ways to make them harder.…More exercise will never produce the results that are possible from harder exercise…”
Steady State Cardio
Cardio is believed to be helpful to the heart and lung, as well as weight loss. I’ll start by saying cardio is more unhealthy than it is healthy. There are a few reasons behind this. Long distance running is stressful on the joints, decreases fat metabolism, decreases immune function, and increases cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone in our body. Long distance or prelonged steady state cardio leaves our bodies in starvation mode. While in starvation mode, cortisol is increase, inflammation is increased and fat metabolism is decreased. These is even some evidence that steady state cardio may even promote heart disease! Check out my top 3 weight loss myths to see why steady state cardio isn’t effective for weight loss.
There are people who swear by cardio however. It’s true that cardio may aid in endurance, but it’s not for the reasons many think. The heart and lungs are not separate from the rest of our bodies. In fact, our muscular system is what the heart and lungs are there to power. Our lungs take in oxygen for the heart to pump into our muscles (and other vital organs) when they necessary. When do our muscles get worked out the hardest? When we lift heavy things. The reason cardio helps when it does is not because of the heart and lungs, it’s because of our muscles are getting stronger. The only problem is that the process in which we are doing it is dangerous and ineffective.
“Wearing that personal trainer nametag doesn’t make you right”
― Andy Ostrom
Weight Training & HIIT
Lifting weight has been constantly linked to body builders or cockroach-bodied supplement models. The reality is that without supplements and steroids, it’s very rare for the average person to get that big. Especially women. On average, women have about 1/14th the amount of testosterone men do.
That means unless steroids are involved, women aren’t going to be bench pressing their significant others.
Another popular idea is that weight training or high intensity training is dangerous. It is true that free-weights may be dangerous because there’s a learning curve involved. There is skill that is necessary to handle free-weight. Once your form is down, you can add heavier weight. Machines on the other hand don’t have that learning curve because you’re restricted to the plane of motion the machine gives you. The advantage here is that there is very little risk of injury.
Scientific evidence shows that high intensity training such as sprinting and circuit training are also superior to cardio. Just like cardio, resistance training is responsible for some inflammation, but all exercise is stressful, so that’s a given. The difference is that it’s brief and infrequent so there is no chronic effects. It’s really a no brainer that the less we frequently we’re exposed to stress, the better. The harder the exercise is, the less we can do of it and the more rest we need.
“…Work harder, but very briefly and infrequently” – Arthur Jones
The Winner Is…..
By this point, you’ve already figured it out. The science is clear. High intensity training is superior to cardio in every way. Jogging is a 30 minute version of a leg press. In one minute, you can achieve more benefits from a leg press than you can from jogging for an hour. Not only that, but you do so without all the negative effects of steady state cardio.
For more information about weight training and HIIT, you can check out Body by Body by Science by MD Doug Mcguff and the blog of fitness expert Fred Hahn. Lift heavy, eat fatty meat and get plenty of rest!