Cardio and Weight Training

Are you looking for a lean and fit physique? Trying to get the most out of your program to shed unwanted fat and develop lean muscle? Many believe cardio and weight training as two distinct types of exercise that do not work together in a fitness program – but, when you incorporate them into your program, you create a powerful tool for conditioning and fat loss. So forget about the myth that they work against each other, and let’s be clear – you should do both to create the best fitness program, no matter your goals.

How do cardio and weight training impact fat loss?


Several studies have shown that a certain level of cardio can achieve more fat loss than weight training. The continuous movement of cardio at high intensity can burn calories at a higher level than weight training. But, before you ditch the weight training, know that this is not a universal statement towards all weight training programs. And, not a universal statement towards all cardio programs.

Weight Training

Strength and resistance training will build muscle, simply put. Muscle tissue has a higher metabolic rate than fat so having more muscle raises your resting metabolic rate, which in turn burns calories. But, studies have shown the differences are not significant. However, before you wonder why bother with weights, remember that it is the weight training that builds and maintains your lean muscle mass – not cardio. So while the fat loss effect may be similar, you will not have a lean, muscled body through cardio alone. Lastly, weight training generates what is known as the after-burn effect – this is the energy your body burns after the workout ends, and can last for several hours. This is the period of time post-workout when your body is continuing to burn calories to repair and build new muscle tissue to cope with the weight training regiment.

So for an effective weight loss program, to maintain and build lean muscle, and maximize your fat burning, you should be doing both cardio and weight training. Moreover, when you lose weight it tends to be a combination of fat and muscle – so a workout that helps maintain and build muscle through weight training will help ensure you minimize any loss to your muscle gains through your fat loss efforts. But understand, you will lose some muscle during periods of weight loss. This is why professional body builders cycle through bulking and cutting programs -they need to maximize the muscle mass, before trimming it down through programs targeting fat loss.

How do you put cardio and weight training together?

This is the age old question – cardio before weights? Weights before cardio? Together, or separate workouts? The answer depends on your goals. You likely have a fitness objective for your workouts that can be simply put as a cardio goal or muscle goal. Or think of it this way, are you trying to get better at your running times, or gain muscle for beach season. Over simplified, but go with us on this.

You want to be able to put as much energy as possible into the part of training that is specifically targeted to your goals. So if your goal is cardio based, you should prioritize cardio, and then move onto weight training. The reverse is true for building lean mass – start with the weights, for maximum use of your energy, and finish with cardio.

For all around fitness, programs that involve CrossFit bring what might be the best of both worlds together – but just understand by focusing on resistance and cardio at the same time, you are not maximizing either. Nothing is wrong with that, just understand the mechanics of the program you implement.

Tips for Combining Cardio and Weight Training

  1. Put your goal based program first, then add the other.
  2. Use heavy, compound weight exercises – high weight, low rep. These incorporate multiple major muscle groups, and will work more muscle and burn more calories than muscle specific exercises.
  3. Incorporate HIIT or interval training into your cardio program. These will strengthen and develop your endurance and oxygen capacity, and enable you to improve faster than steady state cardio exercises.
  4. Divide the elements into separate workouts if you want to fully focus on each program. If you want to have full sessions, you will need to allow your body time to recover in order to fully benefit from the other program. Lifting weights for an hour and then going into a full cardio program is not an effective training method. Split the workouts into two-a-day splits, or put them on separate days and rotate your schedule.
  5. Record your training results and wokouts in order to adjust the cardio and weight training elements to ensure continued progress. It will likely take some alterations to your program to get the most of combining cardio and weight training. By recording your workout results, you can ensure you are making adjustments based on your actual performance, rather than perception. Remember, how you feel is not always the same as how you performed.

Cardio and weight training are not the mortal enemies that so many make them out to be. If properly merged, they will be an effective tool to improve your fitness, build and maintain lean muscle, and produce fat loss.

– Train Hard!

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