Cardio or Resistance Training?

I want to first start off by thanking you all for reading my blog and for the tremendous response we’re getting.  In this post I want to address a question we recently received via email at fitnessdefined@bodyblocksfitness.com (remember send me your questions).  The question was submitted by John C. (one of our readers) who asked,

“what is better for you, cardio or weight training?”

This has got to be one of the most common questions that I have been asked throughout my career and honestly there are a number of different beliefs regarding the question.  Surprisingly many people believe that cardio is the best choice between the two.  A majority of people seeking to lose weight head straight for the treadmills or the elliptical trainers.  The question is how did this become the “go to” remedy?  The reality is that people hang on to the beliefs and myths as if they were facts and truths.  They have no idea why, other than just because someone told them so.  There is no real accreditation, it’s just “that’s the way it’s always been done”.

Any type of training should be result specific.  This means that there should be a specific goal that the training is being used to accomplish.  Cardio (short for cardiovascular) is a great method to strengthen the heart and lungs and to improve oxygen flow throughout the body.  Yet as we stated, most individuals head to the cardio equipment when they are trying to lose weight and burn calories; very few people get on a cardio machine and say “oh I want to exercise my heart”.  The reality is that cardio alone burns fewer calories than weight training.  You might be saying right now “no, no that can’t be true” and I hate to break it to you, but it is.

Me training my good friend and long-time client Jerry

Obviously during your workouts you want to try and burn fat instead of muscle.  You can do this by focusing on burning off your glycogen first.  When the body breaks down complex carbs it produces glycogen which is then stored in your muscles as energy.  Your body is going burn off glycogen first before it burns the fat.  It’s easier to burn, like burning pine in fire vs. a piece of oak.  The pine will burn first.

Resistance training in the work zone* produces three times the caloric output of cardio. This means that you want to structure your workouts to ensure that you have enough energy to hit the work zone associated with your fitness goals.  In order to effectively reach the work zone, your muscles will require energy (glycogen). When you do your cardio before your resistance training, the initial 20 minutes are spent burning that glycogen which results in not having the energy to achieve your desired rep range; it will be as if someone has unplugged you. By starting with Resistance training you ensure that your muscles have the energy that they need to achieve the desired output. What’s better is that when you follow up your resistance training with cardio, your body is already in the fat burning zone.  This means that you are maximizing the potential of your entire workout!

So the real answer to John’s question is that fitness should not be a trade-off of Cardio or Resistance, rather it is a matter of balancing the two to ensure success.  At the end of the day, getting the best fitness results are a simple matter of exercise efficiency.  Hopefully this article demonstrates the drastic impact that something as simple as the order of exercise can have on fitness results.

For more information check out this article “Warm Up With Cardio, Then Go to Weights. Right? Wrong”.

Another great fitness myth busted!  Thanks for the question John.

Send your fitness questions to me directly at: fitnessdefined@bodyblocksfitness.com

*Work zone: Maximum output for a desired rep range. For example an individual attempting to increase muscle endurance should work in a 12 rep max range.  Therefore if more than 12 reps are achieved the weight was too light and if less than 12 reps the weight was too heavy.

3 Basic Work Zone Ranges:

Strength: 6 Rep Max

Hypertrophy: 8 Rep Max

Endurance: 12 Rep Max

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