Mixing Cardio with Strength Training: Is One Better Than the Other?
Whether you’re a regular at the gym or you’re just beginning your fitness journey, questions about the “best” type of training always tend to arise. And one of the age-old questions is whether or not cardio and strength training should be combined in a workout regime.
We’re here to help you understand both cardio and strength training, the benefits of each, and how to combine the two into a solid fitness routine.
Looking for something specific? Jump to section:
- What Is Cardio?
- What Is Strength Training?
- The Difference Between Cardio and Strength Training: Should You Mix Them?
- Mixing Cardio with Strength Training: How to Balance Both In Your Fitness Routine
- How Aura Leisure Can Help You in Your Fitness Journey
What Is Cardio?
Cardio exercises, also known as aerobic exercises, are rhythmic activities that raise your heart rate. The goal is for your heart rate to rise into your target heart rate zone, which allows your body to burn the most amount of calories.
Strength training can also increase your heart rate. But one major difference between the two is that cardio uses your body’s ability to use oxygen during the exercise.
Benefits of Cardio Training
Many health and fitness experts recommend adding cardio workouts to your routine due to the numerous benefits they provide.
Some of them include:
- Burns fat and calories, aiding you in weight loss
- Reduces the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and even certain types of cancer
- Strengthens your heart and lung capabilities, so you’re not working as hard to pump blood to your body or hold air in your lungs
- Improves sleep quality, especially if you opt for high intensity cardio workouts
- Increases “feel good” hormones, such as endorphins, which can help tackle anxiety and depression
- Boosts self-confidence
What Counts as Cardio?
There are many ways you can add cardio to your daily routine. Some, you’ve probably heard of, or more than likely have tried out before while others might take you by surprise.
Here are some of the most common activities that fall within cardio training:
- Rowing, kayaking, canoeing, or paddling
- Jumping rope
- Climbing stairs
- Circuit training
- High intensity interval training (HIIT)
Deciding which option is the best for you also depends on your fitness goals and your fitness level. Some options may be better suited to you if your goal is to simply move more through low intensity aerobic activity. Others are better options for high intensity workouts to get your blood pumping.
Working with a personal trainer is a great way to choose an activity that will work for you in the long term!
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training, also known as weight training or resistance training, involves completing movements to build muscle mass and improve overall strength.
These movements can be done with your own body weight or equipment, such as dumbbells, resistance bands, or weight machines.
While cardio contributes to losing fat and building stamina, strength training allows you to “sculpt” areas of your body that you want to tone up. However, that doesn’t mean strength training for weight loss doesn’t exist! Lifting weights or even doing strength sessions with your own body weight is known to burn calories for up to 72 hours after your workout.
Benefits of Strength Training
Just like with cardio, there are many benefits of strength training. The good news is that this type of exercise often has a diverse range of health benefits, making it a popular choice amongst many.
Some of the major benefits are:
- Builds lean muscle and reduces body fat
- Strengthens bones
- Reduces risk of falls and injuries
- Helps with blood sugar management
- Improves flexibility and mobility
- Boosts self-confidence and body image
You can find a full breakdown of the benefits in our ultimate guide to strength training.
What Counts as Strength Training?
As with cardio, there are many ways to squeeze strength training into your daily routine. Some examples include:
- Weight training or weight lifting with free weights or weight machines
- Resistance training using resistance bands or straps
- Body weight exercises with no equipment, such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, burpees, and squats
- Yoga and pilates
- Hiking hills or climbing stairs
- Heavy gardening, such as shovelling or digging
The Difference Between Cardio and Strength Training: Should You Mix Them?
In scientific terms, anaerobic exercises, such as strength training, break down sugars in the body for energy and don’t rely on oxygen. On the other hand, cardio (aerobic exercises), relies on oxygen consumption to increase your breathing and heart rate.
So, which one is “better” for you?
Ultimately, that depends on your fitness level and goals, which a personal trainer can help you assess.
But let’s take a closer look at the two types of exercises for two specific goals:
Cardio vs. Weight Training for Overall Health
Research has shown that cardio training, such as running, brisk walking, cycling, or dancing, aids in longevity.
It’s well-known to combat health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
Weight training, however, helps with specific fitness goals, such as:
- Improving flexibility and mobility
- Preventing potential injuries and falls by strengthening muscles and bones
- Reducing abdominal fat and visceral fat, which are known to be two “bad” types of fat on the body
- Improving posture
If you need to choose between cardio vs. weight training for overall health, then cardio edges out on top. That’s because it helps combat many common health problems throughout the entire body. Plus it’s accessible if you’re looking to increase your activity levels entirely. Weight training is great for specific goals and problems you’re looking to prevent or tackle.
Cardio vs. Strength Training for Fat Loss
Losing weight is one of the most common motivations for exercising. But it’s important to choose a training method that suits your personal needs so that you see results and stay motivated to continue on your fitness journey.
Cardio is well known for burning fat and calories while you train, ultimately leading to weight loss. On the other hand, while strength training doesn’t burn as many calories during the actual workout, it helps you burn calories long after your training session. As mentioned, this form of training method sculpts muscle more than it burns fat. That means you may build muscle, but unless you burn away the layer of fat, which comes from cardio, you may not see the muscles.
So which is better for weight loss: cardio or strength training?
When it comes to this particular scenario, mixing the two is often a great course of action.
Mixing Cardio with Strength Training: How to Balance Both In Your Fitness Routine
So, how do you do it? There’s a balance you’ll need to strike when mixing cardio with strength training. Finding the right balance will prevent injury and fatigue.
Should You Do Cardio Before or After Strength Training?
It’s one of the biggest questions when it comes to determining the balance between the two types of training.
According to many fitness experts, this greatly depends on (you guessed it) your goals.
- If you’re looking to burn fat and lose weight, do your cardio after your strength training
- If your goal is to get stronger, do cardio after your strength training because if you do cardio first, it uses up much of your energy and fatigues the muscles
- If your goal is to just promote overall health, you can do either or first, but you may want to start with the one you like the least
Should You Do Cardio and Weight Training on Alternate Days?
Unless you have the time and fitness level to do “two-a-days,” where you do one type of training in the morning and one in the evening, then it’s best to alternate cardio and weight training on different days.
But you might also decide to complete 10-15 minutes of high-intensity cardio after strength training 2 times per week. Adding in shorter bouts of cardio training after strength training won’t hurt!
A Sample Schedule of Cardio and Strength Training
Part of a great, well-balanced workout routine is finding a proper ratio of cardio to strength training that works for you.
Find something that’s sustainable and that also allows you to do both types of training every week.
That balance might look like:
- Low-intensity cardio (leisurely to brisk walking): 5-7 times per week
- Moderate-intensity cardio (hiking, swimming, cycling, jogging): 3-4 times per week
- High-intensity cardio (running, HIIT): 1-3 times per week
- Strength training: 2-4 times per week
How Aura Leisure Can Help You in Your Fitness Journey
Determining your goals, finding your balance, and learning how to train properly can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re new to exercising.
Not to mention, you may want to have access to equipment to help you better meet your goals. That’s where Aura Leisure can help!
Our members enjoy free access to two of our top programmes – Fit for Life and Lean3.
- Fit for Life gives you the opportunity to work with our qualified, professional trainers who will create a custom workout routine to help you meet your goals.
- In the Lean3 program, you’ll focus on strength training, HIIT, and nutrition. You’ll see results in 6 weeks, guaranteed!
Ready to start your fitness journey? Becoming an Aura Leisure member is easy!
No matter what you’re looking for in your workout routine and gym, we’ve got you covered.
Not sure if it’s right for you? Try Aura Leisure for free and get full access to our gym, pool, and group exercise classes.