What’s better: cardio or weights for fat loss?

It really depends on what you're after and your current fitness goals. Not to mention where are you starting.  This goes without saying in most fitness queries unfortunately; however, that’s not to say you can’t pinpoint some of the better points of one over the other.

Beginners Should Lift

For beginners, weight training is a better option simply because it’s safer and a bit slower paced than cardiovascular efforts.  Cardio is actually a bit of a problem for people beginning an exercise plan, unless you’re starting very slow like with a good pace walking program, which is always acceptable or some form of non-impact cardio.

The counter point being if you think you’re going to run or job yourself in shape.  It’s pretty common procedure to want to start off with this, as it takes virtually no equipment other than running shoes and some spandex running shorts to get yourself going, but for a lot of individuals that are out of shape to begin with this ends in disaster.

One should actually focus on getting more mobile and stronger first in order to get in shape for running or jogging type activities.  It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.  The amounts of injuries from running injuries alone every year is staggering.  And yes, you can still hurt yourself lifting weights, but it’s far less frequent, especially if you have a coach mentoring you along the way.

Start The Burn

Back to the question at hand though, is cardio great for fat loss.  Yes, it is definitely a good way to start burning a good amount of fat.  Notice I said start burning fat.

Take Sarah for example.  Sarah started off doing her little bouts of walking and jogging intermittently for an hour every other day.  She managed to get about 5 miles worth of walking-jogging each week for about a month and the pounds just started falling off.  At the end of the month she managed to lose about 4lbs of mass off the scale.  Success?

At first Sarah was sore and tired from doing her little cardio bouts, but after the month had passed she no longer was sore and felt energized after her morning stroll.  Perfect right?

This is the effect you want initially, but eventually it has to change.

Sarah continued doing her walk-jog routine for another month, stepped on the scale and nothing happened!  “What the heck,” Sarah thought to herself.  How did I go from losing 4lbs to losing nothing?  Did I just waste all that time?

This is an all too common scenario most people fall into with cardiovascular training.  It simply has limiting returns.  You have to constantly push the body to adapt with a higher threshold of intensity.  Now you can do that with cardio, but what do you have to do?

You have to do more, run faster, run farther, spend more time doing that activity.  I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty hard once you’ve managed to run for an hour to keep on pushing that threshold of speed and volume.  You can do it, but do you have the time?

Bring On The Weights

That’s where weight training is key!  Not only can you change the intensity of an exercise on the fly, but you’re doing more work in the same amount of time.  You can change the load, the number of reps you perform, the number of sets, shift the exercise around to a more challenging exercise, the variations are endless in the same amount of time it takes you to run for an hour, you can get a much more effective workout overall.

Not to mention you can actually get stronger, become more mobile and train your muscles versus training your heart and lungs.  It’s simply a better method for managing your weight than doing endless amounts of cardio.

So to wrap things up in a nice little bow for you, cardio is awesome for burning extra calories, clearing your head and getting your heart and lungs in great shape.  Do a little of that!

Then focus a good portion of your time on getting stronger and more mobile through some strength training movements that challenge the body to keep on adapting, burning fat and calories and be awesome forever!  After all being strong and mobile is freedom.

Need some help getting in shape?  Click the link and send me a message so we can setup a time and get you started off on your journey: http://smashstrengthlab.com/

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Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.