Is Strength Training > Cardio? It Depends...


Let me begin by saying I am in NO WAY demonizing cardio. The health benefits are unmatched. Personally, I target enough daily steps that some planned walking is required - and I am good with that because I have every intention of keeping this as part of my lifestyle long term.⠀

But if you are someone who spends hours running or on the elliptical because you think you NEED to in order to see fat loss, I have news. This is not the case. Further, it may be hindering your progress.⠀

Cardio’s biggest limiting factor is that it does not send a muscle building signal to your body. Rather it yells - I need to be super efficient at this activity, burning as few calories as possible. So that sweaty group fitness class that once burned 500 calories and got you initial results is probably very much now woven into what is required for you to maintain your current physique...not change it. ⠀

Now if you’re an ultra marathoner or savor the joy spinning brings you each day, then that response is a good thing! It’s going to allow your body to do this repetitive movement and maintain in the name of survival. But generally, this is not the kind of adaptation those with fat loss goals are seeking.⠀

If you’re in pursuit of a more sculpted physique, you need to send that signal to your body by prioritizing resistance training. Not ‘cardio with weights’ where you are bouncing around from one plyo move to the next holding a dumbbell you can barely feel...but rather controlled, intentional, feeling-like-you’re-moving-through-mud type of effort.⠀

What about the calorie deficit?⠀

Here is where you can strategically apply few HIIT sessions (your body won’t adapt if you’re doing them right) or a metabolic conditioning workout each week and still preserve or even build muscle, particularly if you are new to strength training or are at maintenance cals.⠀

But by and large, you should rely on your food intake to create that deficit, not your training.⠀

I’ve come full circle, trying all forms of cardio since the 90s (remember Tae bo?!) Nothing has shifted my physique like just picking up heavy things, while consciously managing my intake and stress-free movement (walking).⠀


P.S. I didn’t begin this strength training journey until the ripe age of 39. I can only wonder how I would feel today if I realized this in my 20s. It is not to late to shift gears, I promise!

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