May 16, 2023 5 min read

Should I focus on cardio or weightlifting?"

...on any commonly asked fitness questions list, this one is always near the top.

I've been helping people with nutrition & fitness for over 10 years ... and the age old debate of cardio or weights is still going strong.

So today, we'll break down the benefits of both, discuss what YOU should be doing for your personal goals ... and we'll even talk about what order you should do them in if you're doing both cardio & weightlifting.

The Benefits of Cardio Workouts

So, the term cardio (short for cardiovascular) is referring to any type of workout that relies on oxygen as its main source of energy. This is called aerobic activity. This type of exercise increases breathing & heart rate ... which you've probably noticed if you've done a cardio-style workout.

Running of course comes to mind for many people when they think of cardio ... but swimming, cycling, HIIT workouts, and even walking can be considered cardio. If it gets your heart rate & breathing up ... consider it a cardiovascular workout.

There's multiple benefits to this type of exercise, including:

Improved heart health & endurance - During a cardio workout ... your heart rate goes up & you start breathing faster. This may be difficult in the moment ... but this is what's helping strengthen your heart. It's improving what's called your aerobic capacity ... which is how much oxygen your blood gets & uses. It helps your heart and lungs move oxygen throughout your body more efficiently ... which then leads to improved endurance. This endurance can make tough workouts seem much easier ... and leads to better endurance for daily life tasks, like taking the stairs or running around with your kids.

Cardio helps you burn calories - One of the big benefits of cardio when it comes to your fitness results ... is the increase in calories burned DURING your workout. You'll burn more calories during a cardio workout vs. a weightlifting workout. I want to emphasis the DURING YOUR WORKOUT part ... because that will be important when we discuss the benefits of weightlifting.

Weight loss - If your goal is STRICTLY to drop weight, and you're not concerned with building or holding onto muscle ... cardio can be a huge help. Like we talked about above, cardio burns calories. When you burn more calories than you take in ... you lose weight. Simple as that.

The Benefits of Weightlifting 

Weightlifting, weight training, strength training ... can all be considered what's called resistance workouts. These workouts use weights or any type resistance to help you build muscle & get stronger. This includes free weights & dumbbells, machines, resistance bands ... and even your own body weight.

Resistance training also provides many different benefits, including:

Burning calories all day - Remember how I mentioned that cardio burns calories during your workout? Well, weight training also burns calories during your workout ... and that continues all day long. Because weight training helps you build muscle, and the more muscle you have ... the more calories you naturally burn throughout the day. This means if you're building muscle ... you'll burn more calories even when you're sitting at home on the couch.

Injury prevention - When it comes to preventing injury ... resistance training of any kind is one of the best ways to increase bone density. Denser bones mean stronger bones ... and this helps prevent bone breaks & diseases like Osteoporosis. Stronger muscles due to resistance training can also help strengthen joints, cartilage, connective tissue ... and even lessen your risk of arthritis.

Physical Appearance - If you want that lean, muscular, athletic, or "tone" look ... you should be lifting weights. You may think lifting weights makes you "bulky" ... but that's quite the opposite. Weight training tones your muscles & helps you achieve a lean, athletic ... and very desirable appearance.   

The Benefits of Doing Both Cardio & Weightlifting

Losing fat while building muscle - If you're like me, and you not only want to keep fat off, but also build muscle ... incorporating cardio & weight training is going to be the best way to do so. You'll get the best of both worlds with extra calorie burning with your cardio ... and the long-term benefits of muscle building & strength with your weightlifting. 

Improvements in your overall health - We mentioned many different benefits that come with cardio ... along with the benefits that come with weight training. Guess what happens if you consistently do both? You'll gain all those benefits! Utilizing both types of exercise has been shown to help improve your brain health as well.

Should I lift weights or do cardio first?

Now, let's answer another common question when it comes to weights vs. cardio ... which one should you do first?

There's no clear cut answer to this, it's simply going to depend on your overall goals.

If you want to burn more calories with less effort & build strength/muscle ... most research will say to do weights first, and then cardio.

If you're an endurance athlete or someone training for an endurance event ... then it's recommended to do your cardio first, before you hit the weights.

How much of each per week?

Lastly ... let's look at the recommended amounts of both cardio & weights per week to see the best possible results.

This is also going to vary based on the goals you have, but generally ... 3-5 days of cardio lasting roughly 30 minutes is going to be a great guideline to start with.

With weight training, 3-5 days per week as well ... and each session should also be around 30 minutes.

These are very basic guidelines ... and they will change based on your personal goals & fitness level.

In conclusion...

-Cardio burns calories during your workouts. Weightlifting burns calories during your workouts ... but also leads to burning more calories all day long due to building muscle.

-Cardio is fantastic for improving your heart health & physical endurance.

-Weight training is ideal for building muscle & strength.

-Combining both cardio & weight training shows to be best for improving overall health & wellness.

And if you're not sure what you should be doing personally, need help setting up a cardio or weightlifting program, or have any health & fitness questions at all ... make sure you stop into your local Supplement Superstores location! We will make sure you have the best plan for your goals. 

*This post was written by Andrew Lynn, who has a B.S. in Nutrition & Dietetics. He's also a N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer and N.A.S.M. Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.