Cardio vs Weightlifting: How to Decide Which Is Best for Your Weight Loss
You know how it goes.
You try to prepare healthy meals for yourself. Maybe you even count your calories. Sometimes, it just isn’t enough.
For those of us who want to lose weight, we need to add some exercise to our routine to see the best results.
With so many options, it can be hard to choose what’s best for you. Let’s talk about the two most popular types of exercise. Weightlifting and cardio.
Why Diet Doesn’t Always Cut It
This is a tough one to say because a good diet has so much to offer.
Don’t think that we’re saying diet isn’t important! You’ve probably heard the expression: “Abs start in the kitchen.” It’s true. Diet can account for the majority of our weight loss results. The issue is that for some of us, it just isn’t enough.
For some people, the problem is having too many cheat meals. For others, it’s simple genetics.
A proper combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight. Let’s talk about the benefits.
Why Exercise is Important
Let’s start with the basics. To understand which form of exercise is right for you, we need to understand what we’re talking about.
We all know that diet and exercise can lead to a very healthy life, but why?
Here are just a few benefits of regular exercise, in any capacity:
Okay, yes. Sometimes we leave the gym feeling exhausted. There is no denying it.
However, we still benefit from a lot of energy-boosting hormones that develop the more we exercise.
People who work out tend to get better, more effective sleep. This leads to significantly improved levels of energy throughout the day. No more feeling tired at work!
Check out the best times to exercise for better sleep.
Improved Mood and Brain Health
Exercise is known for the benefits to your body. It can go a long way for your overall health, too.
Regular exercise releases hormones and neurotransmitters. These include:
- Serotonin – Known as the “Happy Hormone”. It regulates mood, social behavior, sleep, memory, and digestion.
- Dopamine – Known for pleasurable effects, as well as improved memory and emotions.
- Norepinephrine – Promotes memory and focuses attention.
These neurotransmitters are naturally formed by your body. Keeping a healthy balance of them is believed to have a critical role in preventing conditions. These conditions include depression, anxiety, and even dementia.
If you haven’t heard enough reasons to start hitting the gym, we’re not even done!
This is an issue more and more people are struggling with. Whether we like it or not, we all want to look good.
Nothing helps build confidence like seeing results in the mirror. The best part: the results can keep coming!
Achieve the body you’ve always wanted, and learn to be happy with how you look!
Increased Strength and Endurance
This is the one we hear about the most.
Have you ever been out of breath after walking up a couple flights of stairs? Maybe you’ve had an embarrassing moment trying to lift up something heavy. We’ve all been there.
This is avoidable. Regular exercise can get us in shape, and build our strength!
Clearly, there are a lot of benefits to exercise. Enough to fill up a book. So let’s talk about the most popular types of exercise.
Strength training has been a popular and effective tool for humans since the start of their existence. But everything evolves.
There are so many different forms of strength training, it’s hard to keep track. So let’s only talk about lifting weights, which has a few subcategories of its own.
Let’s discuss the most popular.
Weight machines are a new development and are very popular. You’ll see them in almost every weight room.
There are a lot of benefits to machines, including:
- Ease of use – Machines do not require training for form. There are usually images that will show you the proper movement. You also only need to move a pin to change the weight.
- Availability – Almost every gym now has incorporated machines into their equipment.
- Muscle growth – Varying your machine use is typically used for muscle growth, more than strength.
Let’s flip to the other side of the coin. Here are some of the downsides of machines:
- Isolation movements – Machines tend to focus on one muscle or one muscle group. Compound movements are more effective for gaining strength.
- Limited function – These are unnatural movements and do not translate well into functional strength.
- Can increase the risk of injury – With the unnatural movements involved, and the added weight, it can lead to injury.
Here is a helpful guide to weight machines if you want to learn more.
Using dumbbells and barbells is great for functional strength and muscular endurance.
Free weight exercises have a lot of benefits:
- Control and stability – Gain more balance and coordination by mastering the movements.
- Strength – You will see strength gains in free weight training a lot more than with machines.
- Function – Gain functional strength to help you with your daily activities.
The risks of free weight exercises include:
- Learning the form – This can take time, but it’s absolutely necessary.
- The potential for injury – This is especially true if we don’t learn the form!
These exercises can include a very wide variety. Here are some examples of free weight exercises.
This is the best for pure strength. Powerlifting consists of only three functional movements:
- Squat – Mimics the motion of sitting down and standing up. Improves leg and core strength.
- Bench Press – Uses a pushing motion. Improves chest, tricep and shoulder strength.
- Deadlift – Practices the act of lifting something off of the ground. Works on core, back and leg strength.
The benefits of powerlifting are simple: building strength.
The downsides are just as clear:
- Training – There is lots of practice involved in learning the proper form to limit the risk of injury.
- Limited movements – You also commit yourself to train three specific movements. That’s not to say you can’t incorporate other training with it. Most powerlifters do.
So we’ve learned a bit about the different forms of weightlifting. You can learn more about weightlifting here. We will get into the benefits in a bit. For now, let’s talk about cardio.
Let’s dive into a few popular forms of cardio.
Every gym has some treadmills. This can be an easy way to get started.
We all know about other machines like:
- Elliptical machines – Not a very functional movement, but great for burning some calories!
- Stair climbers – These are excellent for cardio, but they wear you out quickly.
- Stationary bikes – Very popular and easy to use.
These are great. The most obvious downside is that it can get boring. Staying in one place the whole time can make you lose your motivation.
An added bonus is that a lot of these machines will give you feedback. Many will even estimate the number of calories you burn while using them.
There are a lot of different cardio machines out there. Here is a guide to the best and worst cardio machines if you want to learn more.
This is something you can do anywhere.
Whether you’re jogging or sprinting, running can be very beneficial.
Find out which type of running is better for you.
This could be anything. It often involves strength training, but typically with body-weight movements.
Circuit training can apply to pure weight training, as well.
For cardio, it can apply to combinations of running, jumping rope, or anything you can think of.
Check out some ideas on how to develop a circuit training routine.
Weightlifting and Cardio: Which is Better?
We’ve gone over a lot about how weightlifting and cardio differ. So which one is better? Let’s quickly summarize and talk about their benefits and risks.
Benefits of Weightlifting
Let’s discuss the overall benefits of weightlifting that all types share:
- Increased metabolism – This is a big key to weight loss. Your starving muscles become a fat-burning machine. Calories burned lifting weights are not as much as with cardio. That’s during the workout. The “afterburn” more than makes up for it.
- Improved strength – This can help you in your everyday life, in more ways than you would expect.
- Long-term benefits – It is easier to get out of shape than to lose strength. On top of that, the metabolic benefits tend to last longer with weight training.
Let’s also debunk the myth that lifting weights will make women too bulky. It’s not a risk unless you are training for it.
An added bonus with weightlifting is you have more freedom. There is a large variety of movements. On top of that, you can change up your weight and rep scheme with ease.
Also, weightlifting can be fun! A lot of people get bored with cardio and other exercises. Weight training can be new and exciting almost every time you start a session.
There are a lot more benefits that we haven’t discussed. Talk to a personal trainer or click here to learn more.
Risks of Weightlifting
Let’s face it, you can have all of the practice in the world. It can be any type of weightlifting. There is a higher potential for injury.
Luckily, there are skilled personal trainers out there to help you avoid this.
On top of that, you are more likely to feel sore after a strength training workout. While beneficial, this can be a pain. Literally.
Weightlifting can be tough for beginners. The more you train, the more you gain. The risks will take care of themselves with proper training and consistency.
Benefits of Cardio
There are a lot. Cardio is largely associated with the health benefits that we discussed at the beginning. Let’s go over just a few:
- Fewer restrictions – Cardio can be done anywhere, at any time. No need for equipment.
- Heart health – It’s in the name.
- Burning calories – This is cardio’s claim to fame.
- Brain health – Cardio is a big help for releasing the hormones and neurotransmitters we discussed. There is really nothing better for it.
It’s easy to see why cardio can be appealing. You can let your mind wander and perform your tasks without thinking about it too much.
You also have the benefit of a pleasurable feeling the next day. There is less risk of feeling sore.
Obviously, these rewards don’t come without risks.
Risks of Cardio
One possible side effect of cardio is the loss of muscle. This is especially true for distance runners and joggers.
Another issue is exhaustion. Doing extensive amounts of cardio can lead to a hard desire to go to bed.
Last, but not least: fat retention. That’s right. Over-training with cardio can make your body adapt to stress. This can make your body lose muscle, and lower your metabolic rate. Research about the pros and cons of cardio to learn more.
No good thing comes without downsides. There are ways to avoid these. The longer you keep up with your training, the easier it gets.
Check out the 6 crucial facts of cardio to learn more.
The edge has to go to weight lifting. The benefits of the “afterburn” are too hard to pass up. That increase in metabolism is extremely helpful in losing weight.
This is not to say that a combination of the two is a bad idea. There is nothing wrong with running and lifting weights. Cardio and weightlifting can go hand in hand.
Think about it. The stress reduction and other health benefits of cardio? The strength and metabolism boost from weightlifting? They make a great pair.
None of this can be accomplished without getting started. If you’re already doing cardio, and want to change it up, read up on how to start weightlifting now!
What’s Right For You?
Honestly, there is no right answer here.
The best advice we can give is to utilize the best of both worlds. Weightlifting and cardio. Or at least to try them both out and see what is best for you. Sticking to the plan is the most important part.
Either way, we’ve learned the benefits of exercising. There’s no need to wait. Now is the best time to start losing weight!
Check out our 9-week challenge and get started today!