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Cardiovascular Training vs. Resistance Training

Cardiovascular Training vs. Resistance Training:

Weighing the Strengths of Contrasting Training Methods


Dylan Greenblat, Saint Mary’s Fitness Center Health Coach

Cardiovascular training and resistance training are usually done in separate parts of the gym. We all tend to gravitate towards one form of training, seldom giving the other any thought until we find ourselves walking by the treadmills or tripping over a stray dumbbell. Either you’re already running, rowing, and stair-stepping, or you’re already sweating over a barbell every day of the week. Why should you put a speed bump in the middle of your routine by having to change it up? How important is it, really?

Cardiovascular Training:

Simply put, “cardio” is any exercise that increases your heart and respiration rate, allowing more oxygen to circulate throughout the body, while making you feel sweaty. Cardio is what makes your heart happy! The heart is a pump, and it must pump harder during cardiovascular exercises; consequently, it becomes stronger. This increase in heart strength “teaches” the heart how to pump more efficiently, reducing the stress and strain experienced by this vital organ.

In addition to the benefits your heart will reap from cardio, there is also proof that cardiovascular exercise will increase the strength of ligaments and tendons, increase bone density, and reduce anxiety. Running, swimming, and cycling are common forms of cardiovascular exercise. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should aim to get 150 minutes (2.5 hrs) of cardiovascular exercise a week.

Resistance Training:

Resistance training involves the use of body weight and/or some external form of resistance (barbell, dumbbell, weight machine, resistance band, etc.) in order to increase muscular strength and endurance. Resistance training also strengthens the bones by forcing them to hold up to the demand of the muscles that are attached to them. In response to resistance training, muscle tissue breaks down and rebuilds itself; this is a healthy process which leads to increased muscle tone and strength.

Contrary to what many believe, muscle is built while we rest, after we have completed our resistance training exercises for the day. The process by which muscle tissue rebuilds itself requires a lot of calories – we actually burn many more calories than usual while we rest after a resistance work out. In addition to this, lean muscle mass requires additional calories to maintain; therefore, those of us who regularly engage in resistance training will burn more calories rebuilding and maintaining muscle throughout the day than if we only participated in cardiovascular exercise. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should engage in resistance training 2-3 times a week, with at least 48 hours of rest between sessions.

Putting it All Together:

Both forms of exercise sound good, don’t they? One provides a calorie burn while improving your heart health and the other provides a sustained calorie burn while also improving your muscle tone. Let’s talk about how to incorporate both into your routine!

While it may seem that you have to pick one or the other when you go the gym, there are ways to do both at the same time, during the same workout. One way to accomplish this is through circuit training. There are many different forms of circuit training, but the overall concept is this: perform one exercise each for your upper body, lower body, core, and total body; when you have gone through each exercise once, with very minimal rest time in between exercises, start the circuit again from the beginning. Executed correctly, a circuit will improve both your cardiovascular health and your muscular endurance.

There is a large body of research proving that both cardiovascular training and resistance training are imperative to improving overall health and achieving weight loss goals. And, don’t forget that flexibility training, balance training, and myofascial release are also important parts of a balanced exercise program. Take this information and be creative with it – put a program together for yourself, or meet with a Saint Mary’s Fitness Health Coach to get your gears going!