The Weights v Cardio debate

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Assuming you go to the gym regularly and train, most of you reading this will probably fall into either the cardio (CV) training or weight training (resistance) camp. Some of you may do both. It is common for both groups to debate which one is better to achieve their ideal physique. The general theme is that cardio (running, cycling, etc..) is best for fat loss and weights are best for packing on muscle. Is this true? Is weight training best for every goal or do you need a combination of the two? Lets explore the science behind the argument.

The Difference Between Weights & Cardio
The good thing about aerobic exercise is that it’s relatively easy to do - most people can run or cycle without going to the gym or without too much instruction or technical know-how. Most sports require large amounts of aerobic fitness and therefore cardio training is important if you need to play these sports well. Playing tennis or squash, for example, is no fun when you’re out of breath in the first 5 minutes. So if you are big on sports, or want to run for the bus without getting out of breath, then you will need to include CV training as part of your exercise routine at least 2 or 3 times per week.

There is a good argument that cardiovascular workouts are also a great way to burn off a lot of calories. Assuming you are burning off more calories that you are consuming, you will lose weight. However it is important to realise that without weight training, some of that weight will be muscle tissue (tone and shape), as well as fat. This is important to remember as if you truly desire that shapely tone or lean defined physique you will not achieve it without weight training and that goes for women as well as men. Picture a marathon runner. No one could argue they were not superbly fit and lean but many people desire a body that holds more muscle tone and shape. That is because marathon runners avoid weight training and the protein that is required to feed and maintain muscle tissue.

Weight training is defined as the use of resistance exercises using your own bodyweight, dumbbells, barbells or weight machines to perform exercises such as the bench press, deadlifts, squats or barbell curls.. Weight training is the only form of exercise that will cause your muscles to breakdown and grow bigger when left to recover, assuming you feed them with extra protein. As your muscles get bigger they will become stronger. Bigger muscles provide your body with more strength, stability and explosive power. Todays rugby players know the importance of weight training and the key it provides to strength, explosive power and surviving serious impacts. A good example of the benefits of weight training is that it would be impossible to play rugby at today’s international level without a serious focus on weight training.

Weight training is also vital for those looking to shape and tone their physique. Achieving a great set of abs is made a reality by working them hard by doing sit-ups or crunches, sometimes using weights, like any other muscle group. This is also defined as a form of weight training. Many people don’t realise that the more muscle you hold, the more calories your body requires. Picture two physiques, an 18 stone bodybuilder and an 18 stone fat guy. The bodybuilder will probably need 6000 calories a day to maintain his shape, without losing muscle, whilst the 18 stone guy is really a 12 stone guy covered in 6 stones of stored energy (fat). He will therefore only require about 2000 calories a day to maintain his weight and less if he wants to lose weight. The great fact about regular weight training is that it will increase your metabolic rate, whilst toning and sculpting your physique. A more muscular (or toned) body requires more calories to maintain. This means you will be able to achieve your desired goal without having to control your calories so strictly. This is the attraction of adding weight training into your training programme or focusing on it entirely should cardio fitness not be a goal.

Goals are the Key
When choosing the ideal training routine, you need to ask yourself what your goal is. Is it to run the London marathon, get into the first team at rugby or achieve a Mens Health front cover model look? Each will require a different training routine. If you’re training to lose fat or pack on muscle, your training routine is going to be very different. Just doing a bit of cardio work because others in the gym are also doing it and working half heartedly on the weight machines is going to achieve very little in the way of results. Focusing on your exact goal and going after it with total motivation will achieve excellent results more quickly.

Improve cardio fitness
If you are looking to complete the London Marathon, you will need to start running at least 6 months out, preferably a year away if you want to achieve a good time. Research shows that if you want to become a much better runner, you need to run regularly, not cycle. Likewise if you want to win the Tour De France, running is not going to help. This is because even though you will be getting fitter, you will be developing different muscle groups.

Losing weight:
If your goal is to lose weight, then there is no doubt that intense (45mins -2 hours) cycling and running 3-4 times per week will cause your body to burn considerable calories. Assuming you’re watching what calories you consume and not eating pizzas, kebabs and cream cakes on a daily basis, you will be able to burn 2-3 lbs of fat each and every week. If your goal is to lose weight (muscle and fat!) because you want to be a world class long distance runner or cyclist, then this type of training will work well and you will achieve your goals quickly.

However, if you are looking to achieve a toned, defined and shapely physique, it is essential that you cut back on your cardio work to 2-3 times per week maximum, keeping cardio to 30-45 mins and doing weight training 2-3 times per week. To save time this can be done on the same day, ie; 30 mins of weight training, followed by 30 minutes of cardio work. Doing this 3 times per week will achieve excellent results and you’ll lose fat and tone up. Remember to always do weight training first as otherwise you’ll be too tired after cardio work. Some people, myself included, prefer to do quick training sessions nearly every day. A daily 30 min run or cycle or weight training session also helps your mood and keeps your metabolic rate high. This can be achieved by running or cycling to work or by training during your lunchtime.

Adding Muscle
If you want to add muscle, you have to train with weights. A regular weight training routine 3-4 times per week of maximum 45-60 minutes will pack on muscle and size quickly assuming you are regularly increasing your weights and using strict form. Many people I meet are very lean and desperate to put on size. I find these people have very high metabolic rates and therefore they should avoid any additional cardio work or sports. If not, your body will not find the vital recovery time your muscle needs to grow and the extra protein and calories needed to fuel and grow bigger muscles will end up being burnt as energy. If your goal is to pack on size and just get bigger, your total focus needs to be weight training and consuming protein and muscle building supplements like Creatamax and Promax.

Training For Sport
Many sports today require power and cardio fitness. We know that strength and power comes from muscle. You only have to look at today’s top rugby players, mixed martial art champions, and 100m sprinters to know that weight training and cardio fitness will produce a superbly strong, powerful and cardio fit physique that will destroy any opposition that only focuses on cardio fitness. Achieving cardio fitness and holding onto large amounts of muscle is very intense and time consuming. It is no surprise that the best sports men in the industry do it as a full time job. I don’t want to demotivate you, but if you’re a workaholic type that only finds a few hours a week to train this will be a very hard goal to achieve. However, if you have the time and energy to achieve this goal, it can be done but will require weight training 3-4 times per week and the same again for cardio training. I often ask people, “do you really need the cardio fitness you are seeking if you’re not playing competitive sport or entering a race or specific goal?” Regular training will give you more than enough fitness to fulfil most of areas of your life. If you’re not going to run the London marathon in the next few months do you really need to train as if you are? The reason is very simple, you’ll find it far easier to focus on one goal such as getting into shape (losing a bit of fat and toning up), than trying to achieve world class fitness, spending all your time in the gym and burning out after a few months from lack of results and exhaustion. The reality is that if you do choose to enter a cycling or running race, 3 months of training will improve your cardio fitness superbly and allow you to be competitive. However training your body to look great 3 months before the summer holiday is much harder and why I recommend training with weights should be part of your weekly routine throughout the year.

Hopefully this article was thought provoking enough to allow you to adjust your training routine in the right direction to match your real goal. For more information and detailed weight training routines examples, click here

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Virendersingh Berthwal   |.
What is the best exercises to lose weight and gain muscle?
I play cricket
at club level and employed.
My age is 30 years old and weight is 90 kgs and i
wanted to lose fat and gain muscles.

Robert   |.
I have been training for about 4 years in that time I have gained about 1.5Stone

This year I decided to train to lose some weight for a change so far I am down
by half a Stone
I use a combiation of weights and high intensity cardio of no
more than 15mins
I never leave the gym without my vest soaked in sweat it
works for me
my age is 40 weight 80 kg height 5'5"
Phillip   |.
Hey Virender,

lose weight - walking

Walking burns fat at a much higher
weight than running or other intense cardio - which primarily burns
carbohydrates. However, to strengthen muscles one needs at least one intense
cardio activity per week. Try walking for 40 mins at a good clip for a couple
weeks, you may not even lose as much weight as when you did high energy CV
workouts, but you will burn more FAT, as opposed to carbs.

Weight training
is a great place to build the muscle you want. Want to bulk up, focus on a lot
of weight, less reps. Just tone up? then more reps, less weight. Important for
both - do a lot of negatives, and do your lifting very slowly, 5 secs up, 5 secs
down. Negatives = the downward (usually) motion of an exercise. For example,
when you lower the bench press down to your chest after lifting, or letting the
dumbell down after lifting it in a bicep curl.
Charles   |.
Hi I am 53 and a smoker I have put on about 2 stone in the last year, where i
used to play 6 aside football and train children at weekend, i stopped about 18
months ago, I have now started to go to the gym, i have been told that at my age
i wont lose that much weight, and its some thing i will have to live with ie old
well i am not ready for retirement yet thanks for any help you can give
me, most of the extra weight is round the belly
Virendersingh Berthwal   |.
Hi Guys,

Thanks a lot for the advice.

Andrew Picridas   |.
Excellent Article, very intelligent. I've been following cardio and weights for
6 months now, great tone and size, result! Cardio is just as important as
weights for a healthy look, not the hulk look
roy ashman   |.
As a personal trainer i have been telling people about the need to do weights
along with cv to get a well toned and defined body. I lost a stone last year
after doing a 3 day split with extra cardio on days off weights. I am going to
follow the same plan this year for the first 4 months of the year. This plus a
little bit more protein meant my eating habits more or less stayed the same ,
and i look better. ps any vacancies for a 45 yr old fitness instructor and
football coach!!!!!!!!!!
Lynda  - Cardio   |.
I cycle daily in the summer and have quite good muscle toned legs which I would
like to keep through the winter!, I joined the gym and am currently doing 2 -3
spinning classes a week and other nights doing 30mins cardio workout on the
exercise bike and 15mins hill climb work out on bike, from reading the posts
should i also be doing some resistance training to maintain muscle, even though
it built up originally from just cycling?
Becky  - Losing Weight or trying to...   |.
I am a 31 year old female, very unfit, roughtly 4 stone overweight. i have
joined a local gym but i'm not sure exactly what exercises i should be doing
cardio weights or both and in which order!! Help!!
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