Strength training or cardio: what’s better for me?

8 Feb 2023 10:17AM by David McDermott, Strength and Conditioning Activist

Virgin Active fitness classes

Ever wondered whether strength training or cardio was better for your goals? For the best overall health, you should aim to include both strength training and cardio in your fitness routine. But if you have more specific goals in mind, such as weight loss or building muscle, it might help to focus more on a specific type of workout. Ultimately, it’s up to you how you choose to stay active – what matters most is that you keep moving. Read on to find out how strength training and cardio can benefit you…

The benefits of strength training 

Strength training is great for when you want to build more muscle or become stronger (hence the name). You’ll improve your muscular endurance, tone your muscles, increase bone density as well as prevent injury, improve cognitive function and boost your mood. Some examples of strength training workouts are lifting weights, using resistance machines bodyweight training and Reformer Pilates.

The benefits of cardio

Cardio improves aerobic endurance – meaning you can exercise for longer. It’s great to burn body fat or if your goal is to lose a bit of weight because you burn more calories during the workout. Cardio will also improve your resting heart rate, help control your breathing better, improve your recovery rate. And as an added bonus, it also reduces visceral fat which is the fat accumulated around your organs! Some examples of cardio workouts are Cycle and swimming.

So which is better for me?

This all depends on your goals. If you want to become stronger, strength training is naturally more important as it helps develop muscle tissue to get you there. But cardio can also help as it increases blood flow to the muscles and helps with recovery. This means that you can endure more when you lift weights and bounce back quicker from your workouts. Cardio also conditions the muscles to be able to lift weights, by improving muscular endurance and aerobic capacity.

If you want to lose body fat, cardio has more benefits than strength training as it helps increase your activity levels, and the higher your activity levels, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day. However, you can still add a bit of strength training into your routine – it’s key to maintaining your muscle mass. This will also help your muscles look more defined when you lose weight.

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to both strength training and cardio but neither can do everything on its own. At Virgin Active, we’re here to help with both strength training and cardio – from Lift Club to Boxing or Cycle classes, or even just using the gym floor at your own pace, head down to your club and see which is best for you. If you’re not sure where to start, book into a free Activate session with one of our PTs - they’ll give you the lowdown and set you up moving forward.

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