In my last few articles, I’ve focused heavily on cardio and its benefits. But does strength training trump cardio?
In almost every gym you’ll see lots of people working hard on treadmills and elliptical machines, getting sweaty in group exercise classes, or doing some other form of cardio workout.
However, as important as cardio is, the entire exercising population would do well to pause for a breath and venture over to the “dark side” to pump some iron.
Cardio is essential but strength training may be even more important…
Imagine your body is a car in which your heart and lungs are the engine and your muscles are the tyres and wheels. Having a well-tuned engine is essential but if there are no wheels to drive, this becomes redundant.
Doing lots of cardio without developing a decent level of strength is much like revving your engine in neutral…sort of pointless.
Metaphors aside, strength training is often overlooked by many exercisers due to certain misconceptions. Many exercisers believe that lifting weights will make them slow for sport, develop bulky muscles, make women look masculine, are of no benefit to fat loss, will harm their joints, and take up too much time.
The reality is that the absolute opposite is true.
Many people confuse strength training with bodybuilding. Bodybuilding is very specialist type of training and is not what most exercisers need. Bodybuilders lift weights specifically to make their muscles bigger with very little thought to improving function or even strength.
Strength training needn’t result in big muscles or a sudden desire to strip down to your undies and strike a pose so don’t worry about “bulking up” – it’s hard enough to build big muscles on purpose let alone by accident.
Strength training, whether you decide to use free weights, resistance machines, kettle bells, suspension trainers or medicine balls, can help you develop the figure/physique you always wanted and improve your physical performance for sport and for life.
Properly designed strength training programmes will:
– Make strenuous everyday tasks easier and safer. If you can deadlift (pick a weight up off the floor using your legs and back) 60kg, lifting a shopping bag weighing 5kg feels like nothing.
– Strength training can make you a better athlete.
Whatever your sport, you can preferentially target the primary muscles so that you can perform at a higher level. Being stronger will also delay fatigue, improve your speed and power, and can also be used to correct muscle strength imbalances and enhance joint stability thus reducing injury potential.
Whether you are a runner, cyclist, boxer, swimmer, basketball player or even a dancer, strength training will help you improve your game.
– Increase bone mass and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, a degenerative disease characterised by weak, brittle bones that are prone to fracture.
– Increase joint stability and reduce joint pain and injuries. Joints are supported and stabilized by muscles so stronger muscles mean healthier, more stable joints.
– Improve your ability to burn fat. Muscle is metabolically active and needs calories to sustain it. The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be and the more calories you will need to consume day to day. If you are exercising for fat loss, having more muscle means you will burn more fat when you do your cardio and even while you sleep.
Strength training offers so many benefits that it is worthy of a book and not just a brief article. Cardio is important but then so too is strength. It should not be a question of either/or but rather include both in your exercise routine. And if you have to choose, choose strength because while hitting the weights is also good for your heart and lungs, cardio does not strengthen your muscles very much if at all.
Stay tuned, friends.
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