So you’ve just gotten a gym membership with the intention of dropping some weight.
You’re motivated, excited, and confident that this endeavour will lead to the body that
you’ve wanted for some time. You walk into the gym on day 1 and see the cardio
equipment to your left, and free weights to your right. Which one do you choose?
If you’re looking to lose weight, there is no wrong answer. However, the time frame and
manner by which you lose that weight does differ between cardio and weightlifting.
Most individuals will choose cardio when discussing the requirements of losing weight,
and they have a significant reason to do so. For solely dropping weight in the shortest
amount of time possible, cardio will get the job done quicker (along with proper diet, but
that is a conversation for another time).
Typical cardio includes walking, jogging/running, cycling, and/or jumping rope. Cardio
exercises generally last for at least 20 minutes or longer. The idea is to maintain an
extended rhythmic muscular involvement while maintaining 60 to 80% of your heart rate.
Benefits include not only burning calories and fat, but also increasing metabolism,
improving heart and lung function, and improving endurance. Cardio can also help with
depression, stress, and anxiety, making it a very beneficial exercise.
With all of the above in mind, you may be asking yourself “why do I even need to
consider weightlifting?” Well, the reason to consider weightlifting is that there are added
benefits to those types of exercises that may make it worth it to not drop the fat quite as
quickly. Let’s take a look.
General weightlifting includes, over the course of the week, working out the entire body
(all muscle groups). This can be done by doing a few full-body workouts, each muscle
group for one day, or some combination of the two.
The difference between weightlifting and cardio that favour weightlifting is muscles.
Cardio burns fat, burns calories, but doesn’t do much for building overall muscle. In fact,
you will lose muscle as well through cardio. By gaining muscle you will become
stronger, as well as more effective in athletics and other activities that require strength
Penn State actually did two studies on this exact subject*. In the first study they split
adults into 3 groups: cardio only, weightlifting only, and a combination of both. After the
same amount of time passed, the results were that the cardio group lost the most
weight, the combination second, and the weightlifting only third. However, the
combination group, on average, decreased in waist lengths the most,
In the second study, the two groups tested were cardio only and weightlifting only. The
study lasted until both groups lost the same weight. After losing identical weight, the
cardio only group was found to have lost 6 pounds of muscle on average, whereas
weightlifters lost almost purely fat.
So, we can gather from the data above that both methods will help lose fat, albeit on
different scales. So which is the best method?
Every individual is different. If you’re trying to simply lose weight and don’t have time or
concern with a bit of muscular loss, by all means stick to cardio. However, I find that a
well-rounded workout regimen complete with both cardio and weightlifting is the best
approach to have.
Like the first study above, you see that you will still lose weight at a significant rate. The
difference is that you will retain most of your muscle as well. Many find that this leads to
an overall more aesthetic and functional body type at the end of the day. Aesthetic
because your body will look stronger and healthier. Functional because it actually will
be stronger! Those daily activities involving muscular strength will be easier.
Find a good routine that involves both weightlifting and cardio. Be patient and remember
that any type of results take time. But at the end of the day if you stick to a program,
adjust your diet, and stay positive you can expect great results.