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The Pros and Cons of Cardio vs. Weight Training

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Should you do cardio or weight training? Which is better?

When it comes to exercising, there are primarily two areas which are focused upon. These two being cardio and weight training. And while there are a few exercises which combine the two together, for the most part, the blogs, trainers, and health magazines keep the two separate. This raises the question “which is better, cardio or weight training?”. Both are equally important to your overall health. However, for those which can only allot a minimum amount of time to exercise, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of cardio vs. weight training.

First you must determine your desired end

Cardio and Weight Training each have a different goal, and as such you should understand what you intend your final goals to be. Losing weight should not be a factor when working out. Per building muscle 101, to lower your overall weight all you must do is lower your calorie intake by 500 to 1000 calories on a daily basis. So, food intake should not be the overall goal which you are trying to obtain. Yet, if you wish to tone your body while burning fat, then yes, you would need to do some exercises.

Cardio vs Weight Training for Fat

Determine if you want to tone or to build muscle mass. Factor in your existing health. If you find that your circulation and your breathing are not well maintained, then adding cardio to your daily routine may increase your ability to do those heavy weight training exercises. There is no definitive answer that you can receive as to which one is better, as each person’s body is different. There is only an answer as to which exercise you should choose per your desired end.

Toning your body with cardio

Live Strong claims that cardio is the most effective form for fat-burning so long as there is a well-planned routine. The major muscle groups could be worked with a rowing machine, while the lower legs and abs can be toned using a treadmill or an eclipse. The pro of doing cardio to tone is that there is not a real strain upon the body. Granted, you are increasing your heart rate and your breathing, but there is not 225lbs sitting on a straight bar that you have to push off of you. This being stated, the cons of cardio is that it tends to take a bit more duration to achieve results. For example, if you are performing a walk, the walk needs to be at a 2.0 incline and for 40 minutes 3 times a week to see any real results.

Perhaps the biggest con of caridio for toning and sculpting the body while using weight is based upon the fat which is already present. While your cardio exercises may tone the muscles, if the layers of fat are not dealt with, you are apt to get discouraged with the visual results.

Cardio as a means to lower heart related issues

When comparing cardio to weight training, the major benefit of cardio over weight training is the heart health which one can get from doing cardio. This is why elementary schools have the Jump Rope for Heart which is sponsored by the American Heart Association. According to lead doctors and practitioners, a person should do 30 minutes of cardio 5 to 7 days a week. Keep in mind that the study is on any exercise which increases the heart rate. By forcing the heart to pump blood, you increase the strength of the heart and your overall health, reducing the risk for heart related illnesses.

Once should keep in mind that the heart is a muscle and that variations will be needed in order to keep the body from becoming accustom to your workout routine. Swimming, dancing, bicycling, and organized sports are just one way in which you can add some variation to your cardio. Everyday health states that “getting an optimal cardio workout isn’t necessarily about how you move your arms and legs or what sports gear you use.” The article then goes on to promote aerobic exercises as a means of cardio stating that “your heart and lungs will work harder than normal to meet your body’s increased demand for oxygen.” The point is that regardless of the exercise, the cardio needs to increase the heart rate and increase the breathing in order to be effective.

Weight Training for toning as opposed to cardio

When I first started weight training, I had the presumption that all weight training builds muscle. And while there is a bit of truth in this, it is also misleading. I was quickly informed that the heavy weights add bulk, while the lower weights tone and cut. Having an adjustable workout routine which focuses first on toning the muscle that you have (even if it is under a layer of fat), cutting the layers of fat, and then doing heavy weights to increase muscle mass is ideal.

One of the pros for weight training with light weight is that you will not have to switch up from your cardio to do your weights. All you will need to do is increase the weights on the bar or do another form of exercise with the weight that you have, targeting different muscles. For those which have a gym membership, this is quite a benefit. Using the cardio equipment, then waiting on the weight bench is a bit of a hindrance in keeping the blood moving and the motivation intact. If you are planning to tone your body using weights, use a dumbbell of no more than 25lbs and do a lot of reps. Don’t hurt yourself.

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The main pro of using light weights to tone the body is that apart from a dumbbell, there is little to no equipment involved. Unlike cardio which takes a bit of time to get the body’s heart and lungs to their peak, a good light weight training exercise can be done in 5 to 15 minutes routine a day.

Weight Training for Bulk

One of the misconceptions about weight training is that you must go big or go home. This would be a major con to weight training. As a person may feel that he or she needs to have more weight than can be safely handled, heavy weight training opens the door for injury. Men’s Fitness claims that one of the major issues with weight training, and a contributor to injuries, is “trying to do too much too fast, in both reps and weight.”. Bravado is a major con for weight training, and although we state and wish not to workout in a dangerous fashion, many men and women feel a bit belittled when the person beside them can lift more and do more.

When strength training/bulk training, you should lift for today. Get a weight that is comfortably lifted using the proper techniques. If this means that you can only lift the bar, lift the bar. If you can add on some weight, do so. What you do not want to do is try to put your max on the bar and do reps. It is a recipe for disaster.

Why weight training should be used over cardio to build muscle

To build muscle tissue, your muscles must be torn and then rebuild the fibers. If you are tearing muscles and fibers when you do cardio, then the odds are that you doing something wrong, as cardio focuses mainly on the heart and lungs.

Cardio Vs. Weights For Fat Loss

Think of building muscle in this way. When you lift heavy weights, your muscles are expanding and contracting to push the weight. The push and strain are so much that there are tiny rips that occur within the muscle group. Your muscle is not becoming non-functional and you are not damaging the muscle to dangerous levels (such as tearing it from the tendon or ligaments). Yet, the muscle does see a bit of damage when you work out. The body then must repair the muscle by building the are where these small tears occurred. In a way, it is scar tissue, but not really. When the new tissue and the old tissue merge together, you get bigger muscles. When working out keep in mind that the body has to heal between workouts.

So, which one is better Cardio or Weight Training?

As you have seen, there are pros and cons to both cardio and weight training. It is up to you to decide which routine is best for you. However, to sum up the top pros of cardio are:

  • Increases Heart Health
  • Can help with weight loss
  • Increases oxidation and circulation in the body

The top pros of weight training are:

  • Lower workout times needed to get a good routine in
  • You can easily switch from toning to building muscle
  • Is really the best method for bulking up

The cons for each of these are roughly the same. The person does not do enough of the exercise or they over do it, they do not pay attention to their personal limits and cause themselves injury, and the routine does not show immediate results and so they abandon exercising all together.

Regardless of whether you choose to integrate a cardio or a weight training routine into your life, you should be consistent with it. Results will take a while, but if you are dedicated you will see the toning of muscle, the increase in agility, better breathing, a healthier heart, and a healthier you.

Remember, it is always best to consult a doctor prior to any major lifestyle changes including adding a cardio or weight training routine to your daily life.