Difference Between Cardio Training and Weight Training

The endless war between cardio training and weight training to win the title as the ultimate weigh loss exercise is comparable to the war between salt and sugar as the ultimate spice. It seems like it will never end.

Generally, people favor cardio training when they try to lose weight. This is because cardio training burns more calories during the same period compared to weight training.

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On the other hand, people prefer weight training when they try to build their body. This is because weight training promotes the formation of lean muscle mass.

However, are these people right at their assumptions? Can people really pick between cardio training and weight training? Are they substitute exercise for each other or are they complementary to each other instead?

Cardio Training

Cardio training is any exercise that can increase heart beat. The name implies the main organ it uses in the training, which is heart and blood vessels.

Increasing heart beat means more oxygen being delivered to muscles cell, which resulted in healthier organs. More oxygen also enables the cell to burn more calories during and after the workout, which will benefit people who want to lose weight.

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Any exercise that can keep the heart rate to at least 50% of its maximum level for a certain period of time is cardio training. The recommended period is 30 minutes for five days a week, according to American College of Sports Medicine.

The most common exercises are aerobic, running, walking, bicycling, and swimming. Other more specific kind of cardio exercises are soccer, basketball, tennis, and canoeing.

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Benefits of Cardio Training

The benefit of cardio training is more than weight loss. Overall, cardio training strengthens vital body organs, including heart, lungs, and bones. It prevents fatal and serious illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2-diabetes, and osteoporosis etc.

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Hormonally, cardio training increases the level of Cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a hormone responsible for raising one’s mood. So, not only cardio training improves the physical well being, it is psychologically beneficial too. Other benefits of cardio training are it reduces stress, promotes quality sleep, and reduces mood swing.

Disadvantage of Cardio Training

However, cardio training has its risk too. Performing intense cardio training in the long term can result in muscle mass loss, which can be counterproductive because muscle mass burn calories as well. Having less of them means there is less ways to burn calories.

Weight Training

Weight training is any exercise that develops the strength and size of skeletal muscles – or the most common type of muscles in the body. Weight training takes advantage of gravity forces and weighted object such as dumb bell, weighted stacks, or weighted bars.

By lifting those weighted object against the gravity, the muscles will strain and contract, strengthen them and give them volume as well.

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Weight training uses a combination of repetition, tempo, and weight moved to change the muscle state. Combining different amount of these factors can give different result. For example, lifting heavier weight in fewer repetition will increase lean muscle mass.

Whereas, lifting lighter weight in more repetition will increase the muscle endurance. Examples of weight training exercises are weightlifting, pilates, yoga, push-up, pull-up, and sit-up.

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Benefits of Weight Training

Weight training’s most core benefit is that it increases lean muscle mass. For someone with weight loss goal, this may not make sense. Why should they increase body mass when they want to lose weight? This is because lean muscle mass burns calories better than fat.

Calories are needed to sustain lean muscle. So, the more muscle someone has, the more calories can be burned. This is why men usually eat more than women; but they don’t gain weight easily. Their body naturally has more muscle than women, so their body burns more calories as well.

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The other benefit of weight training is that, it is not just decreasing body weight, but it also shapes the muscles. Doing cardio training exclusively can reduce body weight, but it just means one gets a smaller body.While on the contrary, weight training not only reduces body weight, but also enhances the natural curve of the body.

Which one burns more calories?

Cardio training burns more calories during exercise as compared to weight training. The difference between the two can range from 40-80 calories. This result can be obtained after an intense and long duration of cardio training.

However, weight training has a unique advantage compared to cardio training. While it burns fewer calories than cardio training during exercise, weight training keeps burning calories even after exercise – particularly till 36 hours.

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It means, after finishing a weight training, someone can still burn more calories even when he or she does nothing else. Usually, the calories burned during these 36 hours can be amounted as much as 25% of the calories burned during the workout, which is quite a bargain. In total sum, weight training can be more beneficial in losing weight.

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Are They Substitute or Complimentary?

The characteristics between the two kinds of exercises are different; one shouldn’t choose only one type of exercise. They are not substitute for each other. Instead, they are complementary to each other. Each one has unique set of benefit that the other does not.

A right mix between the two can be achieved by doing weight training slightly more than cardio training. For example, during a week, spend 2-3 days for cardio training and 3-4 days for weight training.

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The reason why weight training should be more than cardio training is because in the cardio training the muscles are often used to repeat the same motion, such as in running, swimming, or canoeing.

This repeat motion can cause muscles imbalances, which in the long term can even transform into joint problem. Weight training, on the other hand, will restrain the muscle and counter the resulted imbalance from cardio training.

Doing this combination will give the benefits of both exercises. It can maintain the overall health of body organs, lose weight, and shape the body as well.

In conclusion, weight loss exercise is more than the simple notion of “go for cardio training to lose weight and go for weight training to build muscle”. The two exercises affect different body parts and have different benefits as well.

To get the best of both worlds, mix the two exercises with weight training performed slightly more often than cardio training.

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   2 Comments


  1. James Wilkins
      February 11, 2017

    I’ve also learned that it is very important to do weight training before cardio on days when doing both. Similar to your last point many of the same muscles are working during cardio, and if weight training , particularly shorter, heavier, intense workouts are not done before cardio, many of those common muscles have lost/used up their maximum ability to lift.

    • Mardistas
        February 11, 2017

      Thanks James. Yes!They should complement each other. May be in a week 3 days weight, 2 days cardio and and 2 days off. Thanks for your time.

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