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Strength Training Versus Cardio For Weight Loss

Strength Training Versus Cardio For Weight Loss

When you think of workouts geared toward weight loss, what comes to mind? If you instantly thought of running or spinning, you’re not alone. There’s a common misconception that cardio is what leads to weight loss. Cardio — short for cardiovascular — does burn calories, which aids in weight and fat loss efforts. And it can even boost heart health.

But it would be a mistake to say that cardio is the only way to see results or that it will change your body composition. Just like it’s a myth to say that strength training will make you bulky. Fact: All muscles are lean in nature!

The truth is that a combination of strength and cardio in the same session paired with a healthy diet is the best solution for those who want to minimize time yet maximize progress. Doing both will allow your body to tighten, tone, burn fat efficiently, and give you the results you are looking for.

Read on to get the lowdown on the benefits of balancing strength training and cardio workouts. 


strength training versus cardio

3 Cardio Benefits
Cardio benefit #1: It burns calories
Weight loss happens when you’re in a caloric deficit (approximately 500 calories below maintenance). This can be achieved through diet changes and, to some degree, exercise. The aim of cardio is to get your heart rate into a target zone that leads to calorie burn to help increase your caloric deficit.

Cardio benefit #2: It’s flexible
The nice thing about cardio is that it’s flexible, requires less recovery time than strength training and you can get it in anywhere. Whether you’re at the gym, at home or out and about, there’s no limit to how you can fit in a cardio session, which makes it easy to adapt to your lifestyle. And while muscles need to rest and recover after a training session to grow stronger, you don’t need to worry as much about injury or over-training with cardio.

Cardio benefit #3: It’s good for your heart
Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America, so doing what you can to protect your heart is essential. While there may be some workouts where you feel like your heart may explode (sprints, right?!) that feeling of breathlessness you experience should improve over time. When you commit to regular cardio, your body becomes more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen around the body. And better circulation may prevent heart attacks.

strength training versus cardio

3 Strength Training Benefits
Strength training benefit #1: It builds muscle
Strength training causes your muscles to contract, which in turn causes microscopic tears to muscle cells. This causes your body to quickly repair the muscle damage and, when repairing, your body will rebuild your muscles even stronger and help you look more toned. Muscle breakdown is called catabolism and muscle repair is called anabolism.

Strength training benefit #2: It burns more fat
As you’re working to build more muscle, you’ll also burn more fat. This is because muscle is more metabolically active than fat. In plain English, that means you'll burn more calories just by having more muscle.

Strength training benefit #3: It protects bone health
An estimated eight million women and two million men in the U.S. suffer from osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones, and increases the likelihood of painful, sudden bone fractures. Even if you don’t suffer from osteoporosis, you lose bone mass as you age. This is especially significant for women after menopause. But studies have shown that strength training can keep bone loss to a minimum and help protect against fractures.

strength training versus cardio

How Do I Combine Cardio and Strength Training?
“The best way to improve health, aesthetics, and performance is to combine strength training and cardio. Strength training will increase your muscle mass which can help you increase your metabolic rate (which burns more calories at rest). Cardio has more of a “cardio”-vascular component and is great for heart and lung health as well as burns more calories during the activity, usually,” says Fit Body’s Physical Therapist Dr. Amy Schultz.

Most of the Fit Body app programs combine strength and cardio in one workout, such as Shred, or have separate cardio days, like Tone. For any workout program that doesn’t contain cardio, such as the postpartum program Revive, Schultz recommends you add cardio even if it’s just a 20-minute walk.

Bottom Line: What if You Can Only Do One?
Each Fit Body program has varying degrees of strength training and fat burning designed to get you results. But we prioritize strength since that will have the biggest impact on long term progress.

Of course, we understand that you all have your own preferences and lifestyle needs. So, if you love a good run, don’t stop — keep moving! Ultimately, you want to find a program that you enjoy and helps you achieve your goals, so you continue to prioritize it.

But if you’ve been focused exclusively on cardio, keep in mind all the amazing things that strength training does for you:

  • More efficient fat burn.
  • Tightens and sculpts your body (it doesn’t bulk you).
  • Lowers your risk of injury in everyday life.
  • Makes you feel like a total badass and gives you more confidence than you knew possible!


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