Do Cardio and Strength Training actually compliment each other?

Working out can be intimidating, stressful and possibly confusing. At the same time, working out can be rewarding, inspiring, and get you the results you are looking for in your body and mind. Results depend on how you perform during a workout and if the exercises are optimized towards your goals. Whether you’re new to working out, or having been working out for a while and not getting the results you want, there is a training program out there for everyone.



What is Cardio?


Some people have a perception that cardio consists of only running or jogging, this is not correct. Cardio is any exercise or activity that increases your heart rate. Just like your biceps, your heart is a muscle, and it gets stronger the more it gets worked. Some examples of cardio exercises are walking, the elliptical machine, stair climber, jump rope, running, swimming and many others. When engaging in a cardio workout, it is important to keep your heart rate up to receive all of the calorie burning benefits. Everyone’s target heart rate is different because it depends on factors such as weight and height. There are ways that you can calculate what your target heart rate is online.


What is Strength Training?


Just like with cardio, some people have a skewed perception of what strength training is. Some people think strength training is working to get huge muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger or any other person with huge muscles you see at the gym. This is not the case. Strength training is at the center of any great fitness routine. Strength is the ability to exert force. By lifting weights, you are improving how much force you can exert over time. Without strong muscles, our bodies rely on our skeletal system to do the lifting which can be damaging. Strength training builds and teaches the body to get its strength from your muscles and not on your skeletal system. Strength training can help develop big muscles if you want, but it's mainly for getting toned.




Some people that are looking to lose weight and focus entirely on cardio exercises think that strength training is counter-intuitive to losing weight. Similarly, some people that want to gain muscle mass believe that devoting time on cardio won’t help them reach their goals. Believe it or not, cardio and strength training can complement each other. Cardio will help you build up your heart rate, making it stronger to withstand a more heavy workout. Also, strength training helps you burn calories and keeps the weight off.



Our trainers answers some questions about strength and cardio workouts: 


1. What is the best balance of strength to cardio?


This depends fitness level, etc. Weight training can be more than enough to make up for skipping traditional cardio. It can maintain and, in some cases, increase V02 (maximal volume of oxygen that the body can deliver to the working muscles per minute). It also increases metabolism for longer than cardio. There really is no need to do tons of long duration cardio, if it isn’t directly tied into your performance goal.


Another option is 3-5 days a week of moderate intensity(40% to 60% of Heart Rate Reserve) for cardio. For strength, the American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM] wants 2-3 days of strength training doing 8-10 major muscle group exercises each time at 60-80% of their 1RM (repetition maximum).


2. Do you have a preferred method regarding this? 


Weight train 3-4 times a week, while trying to keep a steady heart rate throughout the session. For cardio, it’s pretty much high intensity intervals and then one, long recovery interval during the week.


Another one of our trainers prefers breaking it up and doing two different workouts. One workout is cardio and the other is strength. This gives time for the body and the brain to recover. They will do 4 days a week of 2 workouts and then take 3 days off. If there isn’t time to do both, do the one that has the greatest priority. For example, if you are training for a race then prioritize cardio. 


3. Is there a such thing as too much cardio?


There can be if it’s contradictory to your goal. If you want to lose fat and add some muscle, you will have a hard time doing that if you’re still doing a ton of traditional cardio. Otherwise, it’s not that it can be too much cardio, but too much of the wrong cardio. Vary the intensities and duration of your cardio, otherwise you could be heading down a path to perceived failure or injury.


Another one of our trainers says: Yes! If you start to notice things like injuries arise, feeling too tired throughout the day, no longer seeing progress, trouble sleeping, or getting sick more often. Rest days are just as important as training days. 


4. Anything else you want to add? 


Cardio is not the only way to lose weight. It’s a part of it, but that part depends on your fitness level, experience, goals. Cardio shouldn’t be a straight line, it should be varied in both duration and intensity. 


If you do do cardio, try to make your cardio sessions fun like participating in a recreational sport.




Your workout and other fitness related goals will shape how you mix cardio and strength training into your workout. Everyone’s goals are different and how much or how little strength training or cardio depends on that goal. If your goal is to gain muscle your workout routine will look different than that of somebody else whose goal is to lose weight. Define your goals and be specific about what you want.


A typical workout schedule for someone that wants to build muscle is lifting at least three times a week, with two cardio workouts on your rest day. You don’t want to overwork yourself, so it's best to have cardio and strength training on separate days. A typical workout schedule for someone that wants to lose weight is doing a cardio workout three times a week and two strength training workouts on your off days. These workouts can be personalized to your individual goals and are just an example of what is possible.

Christian Collins1 Comment