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10 Reasons You Should Focus On Strength Training Over Cardio

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Strength training targets specific muscles and builds muscle mass, It helps achieve a better body composition and higher resting metabolic rate (burning even more calories while doing nothing!). Lifting weights means stronger bones and a better posture and unlike cardio, it burns only fat, not muscle. Sculpt your body while lowering cortisol and estrogen that hinder weight loss.

Firstly, I’d like to assure you that this is not one of those articles which make bogus claims like “running will make you fat” or “cardio is bad for fat loss”.

Frankly, cardio is good for weight loss and overall health. But it’s not the best approach for someone who wants to get lean and strong fast. In fact, cardio has some benefits over strength training, but that’s a topic for another day.

Today, we’ll focus on the benefits of bodyweight training or weight lifting that you can’t get from cardio.

Better Body Composition

Folks who do strength training have better body composition than cardio enthusiasts. The reason for this is that strength training increases lean muscle mass while cardio doesn’t.

A person who does cardio and another who does strength training may have the same body fat percentages but totally different physiques. Just picture the physique of a marathon runner and a sprinter.

If your goal is to have lean defined muscles, or a firm toned body, strength training is the way to go.

I may also add that it’s impossible to target a specific muscle with cardio, while with strength training you can target abs, arms legs and so on.

Faster Metabolism

Did you know that most of the calories you burn in a day are burnt by doing nothing? That’s right, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) burns more calories than exercise (activity) and thermic effect of food combined.

Did you further know that gaining three pounds of muscles can boost your daily RMR by 120 calories? So by using strength training to increase muscles mass, you’ll be able to boost your RMR and consequently burn more calories.

Additionally, research shows that strength training boosts metabolism up to 48 hours after training, while this study shows that 45 minutes of cardio boosts metabolism for up to 12 hours.1

You’ll Lose More Fat

You may be surprised to find out that cardio burns more calories than strength training, minute per minute. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll help you lose more fat.

You see, cardio leads to loss of both fat and muscles mass while strength training sheds fat only. And if you’re a skinny-fat person, doing cardio can actually make things worse.

In this study conducted by researchers from West Virginia University, which compared the effects of strength training vs cardio, on lean muscle mass and RMR. Found that the group which used strength training didn’t lose muscle mass despite eating a 800/day calorie liquid diet, while the cardio group lost 4 pounds of lean mass in the 12-week period.2

If you do cardio you’ll lose lean mass and fat, but with strength training you’ll only lose fat, and it’s even possible to gain muscle.

It’s The Best Way To Build Strength

Whether you’re a guy or a lady, being strong will make your life easier. Being strong teaches self-reliance. You don’t have to call for help every time you want to move something in the house.

Now, intense cardio may build some strength but it’s nothing compared to what strength training can do. And by the way, don’t focus on strengthening a specific body part – strengthen all muscles.

Excess Cardio Hinders Weight Loss

Have you been doing a lot of cardio but not seeing any changes on the scale? Well, too much cardio can slow weight loss and even cause weight gain in some cases.

This happens for two reasons. One – excess cardio raises cortisol levels, as a result, cortisol causes inflammation, slows muscle recovery, damages other hormones and ultimately makes it harder to lose fat. In fact, excess cardio has the same effect on the body as stress.

Secondly, cardio leads to loss of muscle. This results to a slower metabolism and slow weight loss.

If you like cardio, limit it to 30 minutes. Doing it for one or two hours can be disastrous.

To Keep Your Hormones Balanced

The most important hormones for muscle growth are testosterone and growth hormone. In fact, high testosterone level is what makes men more muscular than women. So if you’re a lady don’t worry about being bulky – you don’t have enough T to support a muscular physique.

This study found that strength training boosts these two hormones in young and elderly people.3

Research also shows that strength training lowers cortisol and estrogen levels – hormones which hinder weight loss.

Improved Bone Health

Strength training forces the bones to become denser and stronger because it puts pressure on them. This reduces risk of injuries and bone fractures.

Now, if you’re in your 20’s and early 30’s, bone health may not be a concern, but as we grow older bones start to weaken. Strength training will keep bones strong at old age.

Cardio may strengthen leg bones but it won’t do much for the upper body. I may also note that excess cardio can weaken your joints.

Your Posture Will Improve

Posture affects your mood and can actually hurt your spine. The good thing is most posture problems can be fixed. In fact, building muscle automatically improves posture.

Sometimes bad posture is caused by muscles imbalances – so when you strengthen the weak muscles, your posture will automatically improve.

You can also use bodyweight exercises to fix bad posture. Either way, building muscles greatly improves posture.

Cardio doesn’t have such benefits. In fact, most runners have a hunched back posture.

You’ll Gain Self Confidence

Gaining strength, getting leaner, building muscle and having a better posture are all confidence boosters. When the outer image changes the inner image will change too.

Even though I don’t have to quote a study to assert my point, the skeptical ones can check out this study.4

It’s Possible To Continue Training After An Injury

Let’s face it, if you’re runner with a knee, ankle or hip injury, you have to rest until you recover from the injury. And surprisingly, cardio training has more injuries than you would think.

But with strength training you can still train even if you have an injury. For instance, if you have a shoulder injury, you can do squats, lunges, and ab exercises. And if you have a lower body injury you can do push ups and pull ups.

Be careful though, you definitely don’t want to strain injured joints. Always give injuries time to recover fully – otherwise you can make them worse.

Final Word

Now, this is not an article against cardio, I love cardio. Jumping rope is one of my favorite exercises.

But in today’s busy world, folks don’t have time to do both cardio and strength training. So if you’re that person, the best form of training to focus on is strength training. But if you have time, a combination of cardio and strength training will give you amazing results.

I will never get tired of saying this – diet is the key to your weight loss transformation. If you don’t eat right, you won’t lose weight, no matter how hard you train.

If you’ve experienced other benefits of strength training, share them with us in the comments.

References   [ + ]

1.Knab, Amy M., R. Andrew Shanely, Karen D. Corbin, Fuxia Jin, Wei Sha, and David C. Nieman. “A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 43, no. 9 (2011): 1643-1648.
2.Bryner, Randy W., Irma H. Ullrich, Janine Sauers, David Donley, Guyton Hornsby, Maria Kolar, and Rachel Yeater. “Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 18, no. 2 (1999): 115-121.
3.Craig, B. W., R. Brown, and J. Everhart. “Effects of progressive resistance training on growth hormone and testosterone levels in young and elderly subjects.” Mechanisms of ageing and development 49, no. 2 (1989): 159-169.
4.Tucker, Larry A., and Karen Maxwell. “Effects of weight training on the emotional well-being and body image of females: Predictors of greatest benefit.” American Journal of Health Promotion 6, no. 5 (1992): 338-371.
Brian Syuki

Brian Syuki is a fitness expert who teaches people how to get leaner and healthier using bodyweight exercises and proper nutrition.

Brian Syuki

Brian Syuki is a fitness expert who teaches people how to get leaner and healthier using bodyweight exercises and proper nutrition.

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