Many people when embarking on a weight loss journey often find themselves stuck on an important question when it comes to the exercise component - Should they prioritise weight training or cardio?
So what is more important when it comes to weights vs cardio?
First and foremost, it’s important to keep in mind, when it comes to fat loss results 70% of your result is attributed to your nutrition. Leaving only 30% of your end result to the type of exercise you’re doing.
With that being said, in this article we’ll look at how to optimise your time and effort when it comes to which form of exercise you're doing to be able to achieve your health and fitness goals.
What is cardio?
To determine the effectiveness of cardio vs weight training for fat loss, let’s first begin by getting an understanding of exactly what cardio is. Cardio exercise, known as aerobic exercise, is any type of activity that is performed to raise your heart rate into your target heart rate zone.
Cardio exercise is referred to as aerobic exercise as it relies on the body’s ability to utilise oxygen as its main source of energy during a workout.
Examples of types of cardio exercises include running, swimming, walking and cycling, just to name a few.
Benefits of cardio
The benefits of cardio vs weight training are varied. There are many associated benefits with cardio exercise specifically. Some of the known benefits include:
- Improved heart health. Regular cardio exercise has been widely known to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (Warburton, D. E., et al, 2006).
- Weight loss. Numerous studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise is effective for both weight loss and weight maintenance. It helps to create a calorie deficit and maintain a calorie deficit, contributing to fat loss when combined with a balanced diet.
- Stress reduction. Regular cardio exercise helps to release endorphins, which are natural mood lifters! Studies have shown that exercise can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression (Salmon, P. 2001).
What is weight training?
Now that we have a sound understanding of cardio and its benefits, let's take a closer look at weight training. Weight training is also known as resistance training or strength training and is a type of exercise that involves using resistance to induce muscular contraction.
The common goal of weight training is primarily focused around building muscle and strength. Where cardio is known as aerobic exercise, weight training is known as anaerobic exercise. This includes short bursts of intense physical activity that does not rely on oxygen for energy production, but instead uses the body's stored energy source (primarily glycogen) to fuel the activity.
Examples of weight training include barbell squats, deadlifts, leg press and push ups, just to name a few. This type of exercise is typically high intensity and short in duration, typically 30 minutes.
Weight training vs cardio: which is better for fat loss?
It’s time for the big reveal! Weights vs cardio? It may come as no surprise, but when it comes to weights vs cardio for weight loss, a balanced program is what will help you achieve sustainable fat loss results.
We know a lot of people when starting out make the mistake of getting the balance of weight training and cardio wrong, or following a program that’s unsustainable. There’s a common misconception that extensive hours on the treadmill are required to achieve weight loss through cardio. And whilst striving for 2 hours of daily cardio might seem effective for weight loss, is not a sustainable or healthy approach for the long-term.
In fact, there is substantial evidence supporting weight training can lead to an afterburn effect, also known as excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Which means that after the exercise has ended, the body burns calories at an elevated rate due to the energy required for muscle repair and recovery.
A typical exercise program you can expect at Vision, includes a balance of both weight training and cardio - tailored to your specific goal.
We break your program up into weight training, low to moderate cardio and high intensity cardio. Your specific program will always be very clear about the balance, and specifically minutes of each type of exercise you need to perform to get your desired results.
Considering all these factors, it’s important to recognise that your diet and consistency will play the most significant role in determining your body composition and achieving your weight loss goals. Without the right energy intake, relying solely on exercise can be a challenge in reaching those goals.
In the pursuits of weight loss, both cardio and strength training have their place. Achieving a balance between these two forms of exercise, along with maintaining a well-balanced diet, is key to your goals.
Frequently asked questions about weights vs cardio for weight loss
- Can I lose weight by lifting weights only? Incorporating weight training into your fitness routine can contribute to weight loss. Building lean muscle mass through resistance training can lead to an increased metabolic rate, resulting in more calories burned even at rest. Because of the additional benefits experienced with cardio activity, we would always recommend a combination of both types of exercise.
- What happens if I only lift weights and no cardio? Focusing solely on weight lifting without incorporating cardio can still lead to weight loss. However, including cardio in your routine offers additional benefits such as improved cardiovascular health and enhanced endurance, all which will positively impact your weight training sessions.
- Should I skip cardio to build muscle? Combining cardio and weight training can be highly effective for overall fitness. Cardio helps maintain cardiovascular health, whilst weight training promotes muscle growth and strength. Both complement one another and should not be substituted.
- Is it OK to do cardio and weights on the same day? Provided you’re feeling up to it, it’s okay to perform both cardio and weight training on the same day. Be sure to manage your energy levels and allow for adequate rest and recovery.
- How often should I do cardio if I lift weights? The frequency of cardio sessions can vary based on individual goals and preferences. Based on your goals and fitness level, our program will detail a personalised approach to the volume of cardio and weight training sessions required for you.
- How do you split cardio and weight training? We break your program up into weight training, low to moderate cardio and high intensity cardio. Your specific program will always be very clear about the balance, and specifically minutes of each type of exercise you need to perform to get your desired results. You’ll work with your trainer to determine the best plan for you, taking into consideration your goals, timeframe, availability and personal preferences.
Warburton, D. E., et al. (2006). The benefits of physical activity in cardiovascular disease: a review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 48(8), 1585-1591.
Salmon, P. (2001). Effects of physical exercise on anxiety, depression and sensitivity to stress: a unifying theory. Clinical Psychology Review, 21(1), 33-61.