When it comes to exercise, the question about which is better for weight loss has been debated amongst fitness enthusiasts time and time again. The truth is, there is no real right or wrong answer because BOTH are excellent for weight loss, and here’s why.
Cardio, also referred to as endurance or aerobic training, is any exercise that gets your heart and lungs pumping at a steady rate for an extended period of time. So we are talking exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing, etc.
During your cardio workout, you will burn a lot of calories. If the debate was about which style of exercise burns more calories during exercise, then cardio wins over resistance training (assuming you are giving it 100%).
However the question we want to answer is which type of exercise is better for overall weight loss. This is where is gets interesting. Resistance training also burns calories, but it has an added benefit of an increased afterburn effect… But we will talk about that further down.
Weight loss (or maintaining a healthy weight) is just one of the reasons why cardio should be incorporated into your weekly workout schedule. Cardio works your cardiovascular system and keeps it healthy and strong. So whilst cardio training will help you look amazing on the outside, it will also keep you healthy and amazing on the inside as well!
So if endurance training is excellent for burning calories and helps keep you healthy on the inside, then why bother with resistance training? After all, resistance training will probably not burn quite as many calories whilst you are training. But the calorie burning effect continues on long after you have taken your trainers off and sat down to recover.
Strength training, also referred to as resistance training, involves exercise that strengthens your muscles by working against the resistance of weight or force. Though it is sometimes referred to as ‘weights training’, I have intentionally avoided this label here. You don’t actually have to lift weights to perform ‘resistance training’.
Resistance training also includes working against the resistance of bands (for example; Pilates) or the resistance of your own bodyweight (for example; when performing the plank, or a sit-up).
I also consider HIIT to be a form of resistance training, but HIIT has the benefit of burning lots of calories (like cardio) and also the after burn effect. So it is very effective.
Though pumping heavy iron is most certainly classed as resistance training, it has the added side effect of bulking up your muscles, which can be great! But it isn’t everyone’s preference.
That is why I encourage the use of light weights (with more reps and sets), bodyweight exercises or the use of resistance of bands or equipment, such as those used in Pilates. These types of resistance exercises give the strengthening and toning effect of lifting heavy weights, without the muscle bulking effect. Have a read of this blog post on the female guide to how to get lean (and not bulky!).
So, if resistance training doesn’t burn as many calories as endurance training, then why is it equally as useful in weight loss?
The answer comes down to your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is how many calories your body burns just keeping your body functioning internally.
Most women’s BMR’s burn somewhere between 1200-1500 calories in a day. And most workouts will only burn around 300-500 calories. So your BMR makes a big difference as to how many calories you burn, how much you can eat (without gaining weight) and your body’s ability to lose weight.
By participating in resistance training you are working to increase your lean muscle mass and raise your BMR, so that your body becomes more efficient at burning calories, even when you’re not exercising!
This is why resistance training is just as important if your goals are to burn fat and trim down!
But this isn’t the only reason you should incorporate some resistance training into your fitness plan.
Resistance training has numerous health benefits, such as:
To sum it all up, both cardio and resistance training are excellent ways to lose weight and burn fat! You can get great results doing cardio only, and you can get great results doing resistance training only. But I think you will get better results by combining the two.
Cardio training is more effective at burning calories during training. But resistance training will increase your BMR and help make your body more efficient at burning fat long after you have stopped training.
So if your fitness goals involve burning fat, trimming down and improving your overall health, then try to incorporate both cardio and resistance training into your weekly workout schedule. Together they will help improve your health and have you looking and feeling fantastic!
I have developed my own well-balanced workout program that incorporates resistance training and cardio (both high and low intensity). The program is designed to give women the lean and toned look that they are after, and understand how to do resistance training without getting unwanted bulk.
Find out more about my program here.