Strength or cardio? How do you begin your workout? Most people enjoy a certain type of workout. Usually you’re either a strength person or a cardio person. You might enjoy the fast pump of your muscles and the intense concentration of strength workouts that really make you feel like you’re getting somewhere. Or you may prefer the long jog to lose all the mental worries of the day and get lost in the rhythm of your footsteps on the path as you run through the trees. Current physical activity guidelines have increased and it is recommended that adults do 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity throughout a week, and muscle strengthening activities on 2 days of each week. That is a lot of exercise! No matter which one you prefer, you need to be at least doing something, and it seems that a balance of both is optimal. Instead of strength or cardio, focus on strength AND cardio.
Strength Or Cardio Or Both?
Although you may be tempted to choose strength or cardio, both workouts actually use your body in different ways. Whereas strength workouts require your body to use up quick energy stores, cardio workouts require you to draw on extra oxygen stores around your body. Strength is anaerobic exercise and doesn’t require oxygen. Cardio is aerobic exercise, which requires more oxygen. It used to be understood that if you wanted to lose weight, you needed to do cardio exercise (such as brisk walking, jogging or cycling) and keep your level of effort up to the pace where you could still hold a conversation without puffing too much. Now it is understood that if you want to lose weight, you need to include muscle building in your regime. Cardio workouts will burn calories and weight training will stimulate muscle growth, which will raise your metabolic rate, helping you burn fat faster. This is why High Intensity Interval Training is so popular as it combines cardio with strengthening training, enabling you to burn calories in a shorter amount of time, however it requires a longer recovery time. So, depending on your ability will depend which kind of cardio you can do.
Strength before Cardio
If you are going to combine strength and cardio for optimum weight loss and fitness management then you need to decide which one to do first. The physiology behind anaerobic (strength) and aerobic (cardio) will actually answer this for us. When you start exercising your body begins by using anaerobic energy, then once you’ve started moving it moves onto aerobic energy. So understanding how the body uses up energy is the key to knowing which type of exercise to do first: strength or cardio. Since the body begins by using anaerobic energy, you will get better results from your workout by starting with strength training. Strength training is anaerobic so you can utilise the quick bursts of energy to do those squats and those bicep curls.
“Strength training in general requires quicker bursts of energy than cardio does. It’s more of an explosive, fine-tuned movement, whereas cardio is generally longer and more steady, and doesn’t require the quick bursts,” Jennifer Burke.
If you decide to do cardio first, then this is fine (the most important thing is that you’re moving!), however you will probably feel more sluggish performing your strength exercises afterwards as all your energy supplies will be depleted. This means you may not be able to push yourself to your max and may not be able to fit in those last 2-3 reps that typically are the ones where muscle fibres are built. However, if you are not trying to bulk up this may not be an area of concern for you. Strength first definitely helps to maximise your goals.
Strength or Cardio: Understand Your Goal
There are 4 types of goals that people usually fall into. If you can understand what your goal is, you can plan your workouts according to it.
- Weight Loss. Neither strength nor cardio is better. The main thing is that you start being active as many times a week as recommended. As mentioned earlier, if you want to lose weight HIIT is great for burning fat and calories. Running, skipping and cycling are all great for losing weight – just remember to slowly work your way up to 4-5 times a week for 30-60 minutes. You need to be consistent with your cardio if you want to lose weight and see it as a long term goal (over at least one month) before you start seeing results.
- General Fitness. If you want general fitness, then you want to incorporate both into your weekly schedule. Figure out which works best for you and mix it up to prevent boredom. Make sure you are challenging yourself so you are constantly improving your fitness.
- Training for a Specific Event. If you have a marathon or a long distance run coming up, then you need to train specifically for that event. If you are running, then you will need to focus on running drills. If you are wanting to increase your bench press, then you need to focus on this in your workouts.
- Bulking Up. If you want to gain big muscles, then you need to focus on strength first but balance in cardio to get the maximum results. Run at least 3 days a week or HIIT for 30 minutes every session.
Generally the take home message for the every day Australian is that any movement is good for your health and well being. If you need more motivation, come in and try the different strength or cardio (or both!) options here at AJ’s. We have something for every type of person. Have a chat to one of our friendly personal trainers or challenge yourself in our cross-training Colosseum classes!
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