How should you spend your time in the gym?
Do you find yourself focusing on cardio or strength training? Many people head straight for the cardio machines while ignoring the second half of the gym. Others completely bypass the treadmills and zero in on free weights and weight machines. For some it’s a matter of preference or fitness goals, but for others it’s merely habit. Regardless of your perspective, one type of workout is not better than another. Both cardio and strength training are a part of a balanced workout routine. Rather than an either/or approach, you should go for both styles of exercise every week.
While it’s easy to get in a workout rut and do the same thing every time, it’s important to branch out and try something new. Read on to learn why you need to do both cardio and strength training.
Cardio: Do It for Your Heart
Cardio is short for cardiovascular. Exercise known as cardio is good for your heart and circulatory system. It gets your heart rate elevated to give your heart a workout and uses large muscle groups to give your muscles a workout. Cardio exercise strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles; pumps oxygen-rich blood to your body; helps manage stress; increases bone density; boosts your mood; and burns calories for weight loss or weight maintenance.
There are high-impact or low-impact cardio exercises. High-impact exercises are those that involve running or jumping. Classic examples of high-impact cardio exercises include jogging, basketball, and tennis. Low-impact cardio exercises are easier on your joints and include workouts like walking, swimming, or cycling. Because you’re moving your body weight against gravity, cardio exercises are weight-bearing and help support healthy bones.
Current recommendations are that healthy adults get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, five days a week.
Weights: Bulk and Protect
While cardio is good for your heart and lungs, weight training is good for your bones and muscles. As you age, your bone density and muscle mass begin to diminish. Lifting weights is the best way to slow or reverse this process. Working against some form of resistance builds bone density and protects against osteoporosis. Strength training is also an effective way to burn calories and lose weight. A good workout boosts your metabolism so you continue burning calories the rest of the day. With strong muscles and bones, everyday activities become easier and you’re at less risk for injury.
Weight training means you’re working against some form of resistance. This could be your own bodyweight, free weights like dumbbells and barbells, weight machines, or resistance tubing. The majority of your exercises should focus on compound exercises like squats, dead lifts, pushups, pull-ups, and lunges that use more than one muscle group at a time.
Because your muscles need to rest between workouts, many people choose to lift weights every other day. Others lift daily but focus on different muscle groups each day, alternating between upper and lower body exercises.
Combination: Best of Both Worlds
It’s possible to design a workout that combines both cardio and weight training into one. With a circuit-training routine, you move quickly between weight-lifting exercises, leaving little time for rest. Without long rest periods, your heart rate remains elevated throughout your time in the gym. You may need to lighten your weight load to ensure you can move between sets without needing long rests. This type of workout is best for compound exercises and bodyweight exercises (burpees, pushups, or planks).
Plyometrics is another type of workout that includes both cardio and weight training. Explosive movements that incorporate jumps, squats, and lunges work your muscle while maximizing your heart rate.