If you want to lose weight or build muscle, this article will show you why you should focus on strength training over cardio.
First, I’d like to assure you that this is not one of those articles which make bogus claims like “running will make you fat” or “cardio is bad for fat loss”.
Frankly, cardio is good for weight loss and overall health. But it’s not the best approach for someone who wants to get lean and strong fast. In fact, cardio has some benefits over strength training, but that’s a topic for another day.
Today, we’ll focus on the benefits of bodyweight training or weight lifting that you can’t get from cardio.
Why you should focus on strength training over cardio
1. Better body composition
Folks who do strength training have better body composition than cardio enthusiasts. Reason for this is that strength training increases lean muscle mass while cardio doesn’t.
A person who does cardio and another who does strength training may have the same body fat percentages but totally different physiques. Just picture the physique of a marathon runner and a sprinter.
If your goal is to have lean defined muscles or a firm toned body, strength training is the way to go.
I may also add that it’s impossible to target a specific muscle with cardio, while with strength training you can target abs, arms legs and so on.
2. Faster metabolism
Did you know that most of the calories you burn in a day are burnt by doing nothing? That’s right, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) burns more calories than exercise (activity) and thermic effect of food combined.
Did you further know that gaining three pounds of muscles can boost your daily RMR by 120 calories? So by using strength training to increase muscles mass, you’ll be able to boost your RMR and consequently burn more calories.
Additionally, research shows that strength training boosts metabolism up to 48 hours after training, while this study shows that 45 minutes of cardio boosts metabolism for up to 12 hours.
3. You’ll lose more fat
You may be surprised to find out that cardio burns more calories than strength training, minute per minute. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll help you lose more fat.
You see, cardio leads to loss of both fat and muscles mass while strength training sheds fat only. And if you’re a skinny-fat person, doing cardio can actually make things worse.
In this study conducted by researchers from West Virginia University, which compared the effects of strength training vs cardio, on lean muscle mass and RMR. Found that the group which used strength training didn’t lose muscle mass despite eating an 800/day calorie liquid diet, while the cardio group lost 4 pounds of lean mass in the 12-week period.
If you do cardio you’ll lose lean mass and fat but with strength training, you’ll only lose fat, and it’s even possible to gain muscle.
4. It’s the best way to build strength
Whether you’re a guy or a lady, being strong will make your life easier. Being strong teaches self-reliance. You don’t have to call for help every time you want to move something in the house.
Now, intense cardio may build some strength but it’s nothing compared to what strength training can do. And by the way, don’t focus strengthening a specific body part – strengthen all muscles.
5. Excessive cardio may hinder weight loss
Have you been doing a lot of cardio but not seeing any changes on the scale? Well, too much cardio can slow weight loss and even cause weight gain in some cases.
This happens for two reasons. One – excess cardio raises cortisol levels, as a result, cortisol causes inflammation, slows muscle recovery, damages other hormones and ultimately makes it harder to lose fat. In fact, excess cardio has the same effect on the body as stress.
Secondly, cardio leads to loss of muscle. This results in metabolism slowdown and slow weight loss.
If you like cardio, limit it to 30 minutes. Doing it for one or two hours two can be disastrous.
6. It will keep your hormones balanced
The most important hormones for muscle growth are testosterone and growth hormone. In fact, high testosterone level is what makes men more muscular than women. So if you’re lady don’t worry about being bulky – you don’t have enough T to support a muscular physique.
This study found that strength training boosts these two hormones in young and elderly people.
Research also shows that strength training lowers cortisol and estrogen levels – hormones which hinder weight loss.
7. Improved bone health
Strength training forces the bones to become denser and stronger because it puts pressure on them. This reduces the risk of injuries and bone fractures.
Now, if you’re in your 20’s and early 30’s, bone health may not be a concern, but as we grow older bones start to weaken. Strength training will keep bones strong at old age.
Cardio may strengthen leg bones but it won’t do much for the upper body. I may also note that excess cardio can weaken your joints.
8. Your posture will improve
Posture affects your mood and can actually hurt your spine. The good thing is most posture problems can be fixed. In fact, building muscle automatically improves posture.
Sometimes bad posture is caused by muscles imbalances – so when you strengthen the weak muscles, your posture will automatically improve.
You can also use bodyweight exercises to fix bad posture. Either way, building muscles greatly improves posture.
Cardio doesn’t have such benefits. In fact, most runners have a hunched back posture.
9. You’ll gain self-confidence
Gaining strength, getting leaner, building muscle and improving your posture will boost your confidence. When the outer images change the inner image will change too.
Even though I don’t have to quote a study to assert my point, the skeptical ones can check out this study. Go ahead and start using the 3-day beginner bodyweight workout to build supreme confidence in no time.
10. It’s possible to continue training after an injury
Let’s face it, if you’re a runner with a knee, ankle or hip injury, you have to rest until you recover from the injury. And surprisingly, cardio training has more injuries than you would think.
But with strength training, you can still train even if you have an injury. For instance, if you have a shoulder injury, you can do squats, lunges, and ab exercises. And if you have a lower-body injury you can do push ups and pull ups.
Be careful though, you definitely don’t want to strain injured joints. Always give injuries time to recover fully – otherwise you can make them worse.
Now, this is not an article against cardio, I love cardio. Jumping rope is one of my favorite exercises.
But in today’s busy world, folks don’t have time to do both cardio and strength training. So if you’re that person, the best form of training to focus on is strength training. But if you have time, a combination of cardio and strength training will give you amazing results.
I will never get tired of saying this – diet is the key to your weight loss transformation. If you don’t eat right, you won’t lose weight, no matter how hard you train.
If you’ve experienced other benefits of strength training, share them with us in the comments.[related_posts_by_tax posts_per_page="4"]
R M Davis
May 13, 2016 at 12:38 pm
This is a very simplistic and partly inaccurate view of the weights vs cardio question. Soccer players are among the fittest athletes on the planet and they do a lot more than 30 min. of cardio. Lots of body builders couldn’t run around the block.