Cardio Vs Weight Training

PLN expert coaches explains the differences between cardio and weight training and how to get them both to work for you.

Published May 5, 2023

12 minute read

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Cardio Vs Weight Training

What is the first thing that springs to mind when you think of exercise? 

Are you going for a jog? Are you loading weights at the squat rack? Or perhaps both?  

All of these are forms of exercise, yet they serve various functions. A daily cycling class will not bring you to your goal of increasing your squat 1-repetition maximum by 50 pounds. 

It's obvious that your body adapts to different types of exercise in different ways, but how does this happen and what does it signify for your health? 

This article will discuss the advantages of various fitness routines, including aerobic, resistance, and concurrent training. While reading this article, you will quickly see that with some fundamental exercise physiology knowledge, you may attain your fitness goals!

What exactly is Aerobic Training?

Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and breathing rate, supplying oxygenated blood to your muscles. The energy required for such exercise is created predominantly in muscle cells via an oxidative process, which means oxygen is required. 

Doesn't that explain your heavy breathing when you go for a run? 

That oxygen is given by blood flowing from your heart through your arteries and back to your heart through your veins. 

As a result, it is clear that aerobic exercise predominantly affects two systems: energy synthesis in muscle cells and blood supply in the circulatory system. 

So, how does this benefit you?  

Does Aerobic Exercise Help to Strengthen the Heart?

Aerobic exercise strengthens and improves the heart's ability to circulate blood. Aerobic activity causes the chamber of the heart (left ventricle) that pumps blood to the rest of the body to expand and squeeze out more blood every pump, resulting in an increase in stroke volume. This leads to an increase in cardiac output, which is the amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute. 

If you've heard about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), it may seem counterintuitive that having a large left ventricular muscle is a good adaptation to aerobic exercise. However, significant differences exist between an enlarged left ventricle caused by healthy aerobic exercise training and one caused by illness. 

You want a strong, efficient heart if you want to live a long and healthy life. 

Your heart does not have to beat as quickly if it is larger and stronger, pumping more blood every beat. That's why elite endurance athletes with resting heart rates in the 30s and 40s are so common. This is more essential than it appears: a lower resting heart rate is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 

All of these cardiac adaptations are assisted by the increase in blood volume caused by aerobic exercise training. Without getting too scientific, increased blood volume enhances the contractility and filling capacity of the heart, allowing it to pump more blood per beat. 

Although the heart is a different sort of muscle from those in your arms or legs, it performs a similar function. It contracts to transport blood throughout the body. You may lessen the heart's load by minimizing the resistance it faces, in addition to making it stronger and more efficient. 

How can aerobic exercise help to reduce arterial stiffness?

When the heart beats, the arteries in the body give resistance to the flow of blood. 

However, the resistance given by arteries varies. Aerobic exercise training lessens the stress on the heart by lowering arterial stiffness. 

Aerobic activity raises your heart rate, forcing more blood through your arteries than at rest. The increased blood flow causes the inner wall of your arteries to enlarge through a variety of actions. 

As you exercise and your arteries are subjected to this on a regular basis, they become more effective in expanding. If you do not frequently engage in aerobic activity, your arteries never extend and physically stiffen (it is more difficult for your heart to pump blood through a stiff tube). Furthermore, arterial stiffness is linked to the formation of coronary artery plaque, the substance that causes heart attacks. 

Aerobic exercise also has an effect on your circulatory system by encouraging capillary growth. Capillaries are microscopic capillaries that transport oxygen from red blood cells to muscle (and other) cells. 

Aerobic exercise necessitates higher oxygen delivery to the muscle in order to produce energy, thus your body grows more capillaries to accommodate the increased energy requirement.  

What effect does aerobic exercise have on your metabolism?

Aerobic exercise, like cardiovascular adaptation, has a significant impact on your muscles' energy generation system. Once blood supplies oxygen to muscle cells, they must use it to generate energy, which powers all of your workouts. 

Aerobic exercise also relies heavily on the breakdown of fat molecules for energy, which can only occur within mitochondria. 

As a result, aerobic exercise training significantly boosts the ability of your muscle cells to burn fat by producing more mitochondria and boosting their performance.  

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is raised by high-intensity aerobic exercise, resulting in greater calorie burn after training sessions in addition to what you burnt while exercising.  you sustain EPOC as you develop fitness, however, make sure you progressively increase your workout intensity. 

How Does Aerobic Exercise Affect Body Composition?

People who are overweight or obese have most certainly been taught that aerobic exercise is an essential component of any weight management program. 

The key to aerobic exercise is to keep the heart rate up for an extended period of time. While this will help people burn calories, it has certain effects on body composition that they should be aware of. 

The American Physiological Society published research that looked at the effects of regular exercise in adults. This eight-month study assigned adults to either aerobic exercise regimens, resistance training programs, or a combination of the two. The researchers discovered that those who participated in the aerobic training program lost more weight overall, including greater fat mass, than those who participated in the resistance training program. Those who participated in the resistance training program, on the other hand, gained more fat-free mass, including lean muscle. 

In summary, aerobic exercise causes the cardiorespiratory system to adapt. It keeps your heart healthy and your energy metabolic system working.  

Aerobic exercise is a fitness goldmine and an essential component of health maintenance. But if it doesn't give you large muscles or make your body stronger, what will? 

What Exactly Is Resistance Training?

Resistance exercise is a type of training that gradually overloads your muscles. Traditional weightlifting, bodyweight workouts such as pushups and pullups, and resistance band exercises are all types of resistance training. These workouts are designed to increase the size, strength, power, and functionality of your muscles. 

Resistance training-specific adaptations originate within muscle cells. You will, nevertheless, receive systemic benefits ranging from muscle growth to cardiovascular benefits. 

Read about how resistance exercise impacts muscle at the microscopic level to obtain a better knowledge of its overall performance and health benefits. 

What is the mechanism of muscular adaptation?

The purpose of resistance training is to improve muscle function. It all starts with contractile proteins, which regulate muscle shortening and lengthening. 

Some of those proteins are torn apart during resistance training. This, together with the stress your muscle has been subjected to, is the stimulus for your muscle to rebuild - this time bigger, stronger, or more powerful than before. 

Your muscle synthesizes proteins after resistance exercise (this is assisted by dietary cues such as protein ingestion). Satellite cells are special cells that leap into action to help rebuild the broken-down muscle. They generally lie quietly next to muscle cells, but resistance training informs them it's time to get to work. 

Satellite cells join forces with muscle cells that have been stretched and injured throughout your resistance training session. In doing so, they contribute molecular machinery to protein synthesis, which results in muscle growth. 

Resistance training at loads more than 60% of your 1-rep max causes hypertrophy of predominantly type II fibers ('fast-twitch). These fibers can contract quickly and with great force, but they exhaust more easily.  

These micro-level adaptations are important to both athletes and the general population. You can thank protein synthesis and fiber-specific adaptations within your muscle cells for demonstrable gains in muscle growth, strength, or power. 

What causes muscle hypertrophy? 

All of those microscopic changes add together to produce changes that are more visible. Resistance training at the appropriate intensity results in observable muscle growth. Changes in the neuromuscular system contribute to increased strength. Muscle control is often achieved by balancing opposing brain signals. Some of these impulses instruct the muscle to contract, while others prohibit it from doing so. 

Resistance exercise on a regular basis can lessen neural inhibition, which generally restricts muscle strength and/or endurance. 

Because muscle accounts for around 20% of resting energy expenditure, its influence on calorie burn and body composition is significant. Not only that, but most other organs that account for resting energy expenditure, such as the liver, heart, brain, and kidney, cannot be increased in mass. Muscle, on the other hand, hypertrophies, getting larger and expending more energy.

Not only do you enhance strength, power, and function by putting on muscle, but you also increase your basal metabolic rate. You'll notice a rise in your metabolism and an improvement in your health as a result. 

Is weight lifting considered cardio? 

If you've ever lifted weights or done resistance exercises, you've probably felt your heart rate increase as a result of the effort. 

Does this imply that you will have cardiovascular and metabolic responses similar to aerobic training? 

Perhaps not. 

Resistance training does increase your energy expenditure. However, it does so in a different way and to a smaller extent than aerobic exercise. 

Resistance exercise strengthens your energy production systems while having less of an influence on your aerobic energy systems. 

Is Resistance Training Right For You?

Even if you're not a sportsperson. Functional fitness requires resistance training. 

Functional strength training is defined as "training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities." Unlike more traditional strength training (which focuses on specific muscle groups during each exercise), functional training trains the body for daily demands by focusing on whole muscle groups.  

One widespread myth is that you are too old for resistance exercise. However, clinical research from a variety of sources clearly supports the benefits of increasing one's functional fitness level, especially in older persons. 

Resistance exercises and bodyweight movements, for example, can help you grow stronger, more flexible, nimble, and better suited to tackle day-to-day feats of strength and athleticism that are frequently underestimated. It can also help you become less prone to injuries. 

A study enrolled seniors who were having difficulty with their physical abilities in a resistance-training exercise program. Finally, the researchers noticed an increase in their fat-free mass, muscular mass, gait speed, and total physical capacity. This demonstrates that resistance training not only improved body composition in the elderly but also increased mobility, enhancing their capacity to execute daily activities. 

What Effect Does Resistance Training Have on Body Composition?

According to one study, individuals gained their overall muscle strength regardless of the frequency of their resistance training regimen. Participants improved their lean body composition. 

Resistance training is an excellent approach to building lean muscle mass and improving physical capacity in the elderly, resulting in considerable improvements in their quality of life. This research supports resistance training's beneficial effects on both growing and maintaining lean body mass in older people at risk of muscle loss. 

These resistance workout adaptations have an impact on your health and physical performance. If you're an athlete, your muscles will get you through the day and improve your performance.  

Resistance training, which breaks down and builds muscle, is critical for maintaining function as you age. Muscle loss undermines some people's ability to live independently. 

Muscle mass is not only a vital component to maintain in terms of body composition, but it also adds to your resting metabolism, assisting you in maintaining a good energy balance. 

Resistance training is beneficial to the cardiovascular system, but its primary purpose is to increase muscle mass and function. 

But how can you gain from both aerobic and weight training? Do you simply blend the two in whatever way you want?  

What exactly is Concurrent Training?

Concurrent training involves the simultaneous performance of aerobic and resistance activities during the same training session. Because aerobic and resistance training has different effects on your body, they each produce adaptations through separate pathways. 

What is the best way to schedule my aerobic and resistance workouts?

In practice, aerobic/interval and weight training appear to have little effect on each other's adaptations. However, knowing a few specifics of concurrent training may help you make informed judgments about your workout routine. 

The type of aerobic training influences how resistance exercise adaptations interact. While adding run training to a resistance program can reduce strength and hypertrophy gains, cycling does not have the same effect. 

Why? The researchers are unsure. However, it could be due to two factors: 

  • Cycling ergonomics resemble typical lower-body resistance activities.
  • Eccentric muscular contractions during running cause muscle injury, whereas concentric contractions when cycling do not (to the same extent).

The mode of aerobic exercise (running vs. cycling) is crucial in understanding the effect of concurrent training, but so are the frequency and duration of the sessions. In some circumstances, the more aerobic exercise you incorporate into your program, the greater the influence on muscular adaptation. So, while a running program in conjunction with an upper-body lifting activity may improve overall, a running/leg press routine every day may interfere with one another. 

If you're performing both aerobic and resistance exercises in the same gym session, or even on the same day, you should think about the order in which you do the exercises. It all comes down to prioritizing. 

If your aim is to improve your aerobic fitness and performance in a running race, do your aerobic workout first, followed by resistance exercise.  

If your objective is to gain strength and muscle, you should practice resistance exercise first, followed by aerobic activity.  

 If you're untrained, the sequence probably doesn't matter.  

The takeaway: If you're untrained and haven't established specific fitness goals, don't worry about the order of aerobic or weight training just yet. Do both and begin exercising your way to better health! 

How can you create a Concurrent Training program that is tailored to your needs? 

If you only go to the gym to stay healthy, the benefit of increasing both aerobic and muscular fitness is definitely worth it. 

Make sure to follow these suggestions to get the most out of your gym time: 

  • If muscle development and growth are your top priorities, pick aerobic training like cycling over running to supplement your lifting regimen.
  • Consume sufficient protein and carbohydrates to promote muscle growth and recovery following workouts.
  • If you alternate aerobic and resistance activities, make sure you leave enough time between them (at least 6 hours). 

Concurrent training is probably suitable for you, so get started!  

A Comprehensive Exercise Program

Exercise is more vital than ever as people continue to struggle with weight and functional fitness as they age. It is critical to mix food and exercise in order to not only reduce weight but also have a positive impact on body composition and lifetime. 

Furthermore, a well-rounded exercise plan that includes all sorts of fitness is essential. Aerobic exercise is beneficial in keeping your heart rate raised and losing fat-free mass. Resistance exercise, on the other hand, aids in the development of lean muscle mass. When you don't have much time or need a motivation boost, you can mix the two with concurrent training or leap into an aggressive HIIT workout.  

You will be better equipped with this knowledge to comprehend why exercise is vital for your health (a fantastic incentive), how different types of exercise interact, and which ones are best suited to your needs. 


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