By Lee Boyce, CPT Men's Fitness
The science behind fitness and health can be confusing—and it's certainly ever-changing. One minute, a study supports a particular food/exercise/claim, then the next, a newer study reports that eating, doing or trying that thing is the worst thing you could possibly do to yourself.
We read a lot of studies here at MensFitness.com—so we know how frustrating all of that apparent flip-flopping can be. In order to help make sense of all the breaking and headline news, we've aligned ourselves with some of the industry's top experts—clued-in doctors, trainers, dietitians and researchers who can help us seperate fact from headline-grabbing fiction and give us the real-deal advice on how to live a healthier, fitter lifestyle...every day.
This week, our expert breaks down the main differences between cardio training and weight training.
Q: What's the difference between cardio training and weight training? Is one better than the other?
A: If you’re after general conditioning, maintaining existing muscle mass and keeping body fat to a minimum, you’re going to need to make a focus on balancing both cardio and weight training. The key is to make sure that one complements the other. Focus on 3 to 4 lifting days and 2 to 3 cardio days in order to promote the results you’re looking for in this respect.
Here’s the catch – only performing steady state cardio can be counterproductive - Too much steady state cardio per week can result in muscle loss. Having said that, seek alternate methods that involve a bit more explosive movement to utilize your strongest muscle fibers available. A half hour of sprints (or even better - hill sprints), intervals, or a solid round of basketball, tennis, or football can be just what the doctor ordered.
If you’re after strict cardiorespiratory benefits, put your emphasis towards steady state cardio. Train for muscular endurance in the weight room and up your reps to above 10 per set. 2 to 3 days a week, aim for distance covered on the treadmill rowing machine, or outside over a longer period of time. 30 to 45 minutes is a good guideline, as the muscular endurance and aerobic capacities will be challenged greatly. This can do well to offset the conditioning one can lose during certain phases of training (like a bulking phase, where you’re eating more and making less effort to drop body weight or body fat).
Above all, however, always lift weights more often than doing cardio. The repeated impact of running, linear motion of biking, swimming or rowing, and endless creations of the same movement pattern and ROM can create muscle imbalances over time that can lead to joint problems. A smart resistance training program can at least counter these effects – so be wise and make cardio supplement your weight training.