Understanding Cardio Exercise vs. Weight Training
One of the most popular questions that you’ll hear being asked around the gym revolves around the difference between cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, and resistance, or weight, training. The general consensus is that cardio is for fat loss and weight lifting is for building bulky muscle. While these two ideas are, in a sense, correct, they are also over-generalizations. Let’s take a look at the differences between cardio and weight lifting as well as how this relates to your goals.
What is Cardio?
From a functional standpoint, cardiovascular training is geared toward making the body more efficient at supplying your muscles with oxygen-rich blood and nutrients. Cardiovascular training can be adjusted in a variety of ways in order to achieve a specific goal. Here is a list of common cardio-based goals:
- Improving endurance
- Increasing stamina
- Improving resting and overall heart rate
- Supporting overall health
Cardiovascular training can be aerobic or anaerobic, depending on the intensity and type of workout you are performing. Here are several examples of aerobic, or oxygen-driven, workouts:
- Stair Stepper
- Exercise bike
Here are a few examples of anaerobic, or without oxygen, workouts:
- High intensity interval training
What is Weight Training?
Resistance training is the use of a specified set of acute variables including volume, sets, and repetitions in order to stimulate the growth of lean muscle tissue. This does not mean the skeletal muscle tissue will be bulky or over-bearing. That is a separate goal of resistance training on its own. There are four primary approaches to weight lifting, depending on your comfort level and experience:
- Endurance: 12 to 15 repetitions per set using 50% to 70% of your one-repetition maximum
- Hypertrophy (enlarging of muscle mass): 8 to 12 repetitions using 65% to 75% of your 1RM
- Strength: 4 to 7 repetitions using 75% to 85% of your 1RM
- Power: 1 to 3 repetitions using 85% to 100% of your 1RM
Is One More Important?
The debate on which is more “important” has been raging on for years. What is agreed upon is that you need both. The benefits of each magnify and complement the other. It is the ratio that will vary from person to person as goals are taken into consideration.
Ratio Based on Fitness Goals
If your goals revolve around fat loss, then you would want to perform more cardiovascular training. What’s more, you would want to focus your cardio around high intensity interval training. This type of workout involves performing a series of calisthenics-based exercises in rapid succession with no break until one complete rotation. Weight lifting will still be essential to your program as lean muscle mass helps to elevate your metabolic rate. Try to follow this schedule:
- 2 to 4 days of cardio (preferably H.I.I.T.)
- 1 to 2 days of weight training (full body workouts)
If your goal is to build muscle, then weight lifting will take priority. Depending on your experience, you may want to split up your program into a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 day split. The higher the number of days, the more you can isolate each muscle group. Here is a general guideline to follow:
- Beginners: 2 to 3 day split
- Intermediate: 3 to 4 day split
- Advanced: 5 to 6 day split
- Cardio: 1 to 2 days per week
Regardless of your fitness goal, you need to incorporate weight training with cardiovascular training. Each type of exercise will help with fat loss, lean muscle growth, and overall health. If you want to lose fat, perform more cardio than weight lifting. If you are aiming to build a muscular frame, focus on lifting weight with one or two days of cardio throughout the week.