If you’re a frequent gym rat, you may have certain workouts you do on certain days (i.e., leg day, arm day, cardio, etc.). You’re probably also familiar with the countless benefits of a good, strong cardio workout, and know that there are only a few things better than a good strength training session. So, why not combine the two? This article delves into the benefits of doing cardio and weight training together when it comes to fat loss, what the most effective workouts are, why this type of physical activity is beneficial to your health and well-being, and more.
How Can Cardio And Weight Training Support Your Overall Fitness And Health?
While it may seem that cardio and strength training are two different types of exercise, they’re actually a powerful combo when it comes to getting rid of body fat. This is because continuous movement at a demanding speed (cardiovascular exercise) paired with the exercise of weight lifting (which builds muscles) targets body fat while still allowing you to simultaneously create muscle.1 Thus, when paired together, these two exercises create a balancing effect of sorts that ultimately results in fat loss.
In fact, as of early 2019, new data suggested that this mixed workout program produced stronger heart health and that the combination of both exercises utilized for workouts had positive benefits on one’s overall health.2However, the information also found that in order to reap the most benefit from cardio and weight training, varying your workouts for maximum results is essential.
Pairing Weight Lifting With Your Cardio Workout
If you’re new to the weight lifting and cardio combo, the easiest way to get started is by focusing on simple, well-rounded weight training/strength training exercises as the base of your workout. The primary thing to avoid when utilizing this combination is overworking your muscles, so if you’re a beginner, there’s nothing wrong with primarily focusing on more cardio exercises rather than trying to go all-out on the weight training.
In fact, you may find that spacing out your cardio and strength training workouts is necessary when you first start out. The most important thing to know before delving into this kind of training is your limits. As the popular personal trainer, Tony Horton once said, “Your limitations may be challenges, but they shouldn’t be excuses… Do your best and forget the rest.”3
Make Sure Your Workouts Are Unique To Your Needs
It’s important to note that mixing cardio and weight training requires an individualized approach based on your workout goals and body composition.4 According to experts, if your goal is to gain muscle, try three weight lifting sessions per week paired with about a 20 to 30-minute HIIT cardio session or aerobic training on your “off” days.
If you have access to a fitness mentor or personal trainer who has insight and knowledge about the correct exercises to pair with your body’s fitness level and abilities, utilize their assistance. They may be able to help you build a workout plan or cardio routine that’s perfect for what you wish to achieve, whether that be building up your muscle strength or lean muscle mass, or getting rid of belly fat.
What’s The Skinny On Resistance Training?
Resistance training (a.k.a. resistance exercise, weight training, or strength training) is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a strength workout that uses weights, or in some cases your own bodyweight, to create resistance on your muscles in order to promote strength gains. The physical benefits of strength training are plenty and oftentimes have a cardio-heavy focus, which can be great for your next combo workout.
In fact, research found that strength training – like lifting weights – helps you lose weight by allowing you to gain muscle and increase your metabolism, thus allowing you to lose fat. In one study, participants considered to be beginners who incorporated strength training into their workout routines yielded positive results by increasing their lean weight by about 3 pounds and decreasing fat levels by approximately 4 pounds.5
If you consider yourself a beginner, here are some great low-impact cardio training and weight training exercises to begin incorporating into your new workout routine:
- High knees
- Butt kicks
- Jumping jacks
- Speed skaters
- Toe taps
- Endurance training or other aerobic activity exercises like running/jogging on the treadmill, swimming, jumping rope, etc.
Weight training/weightlifting that promotes muscle growth for each muscle group:7
- Bench press/chest press
- Lateral raises
- Overhead presses
- Bicep curls/hammer curls
- Triceps dips and extensions
- Lateral pulldowns
- Squats, lunges, calf raises
Additionally, here are some great cardio and strength training workouts to try. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, pick your favorites and try pairing them together the next time you hit the gym or need to change up your at-home workouts:8
- HIIT routine on the treadmill – Ideal for those (both non-athletes and endurance athletes alike) looking to build up their endurance training.
- Warm-up for about five minutes.
- Sprint at a high-intensity speed for one minute.
- Walk for 30 seconds, then sprint again.
- Complete 8-10 sets.
- Kettlebell swings for resistance training – These help you get your heart rate pumping and are great for building leg and arm muscle.
- Complete two-handed kettlebell swings for 20 seconds. Rest for eight seconds.
- Repeat for eight sets.
- Jumping rope – Always a great cardio workout that burns an incredible number of calories.
- Warm-up with about 8-10 jumps.
- Jump without stopping for about a minute and a half.
- Rest for 15-30 seconds.
- Repeat for three sets.
- Pushups – Ideal for those looking to focus on building upper body strength.
- Beginners: Start with about three sets of 10.
- Rest for 60-90 seconds in between each set.
- Build your numbers up from there.
- Deadlifts – A great way to build muscle in the lower and upper body while simultaneously contributing to fat loss.
- Fitness experts suggest lightening the weight load to around 50-70 percent of what you can normally handle.
- Increase your reps and you’ll find that these deadlifts suddenly feel more like cardio rather than weight training.
Remember to always listen to your body and its needs. Only you will know when you’re ready to start trying more challenging exercises or when it’s time to rest. Overexerting your muscles while strength training is a sure-fire way to injure yourself and leave you out of the gym for a while. So, it’s imperative that you’re not only aware of your limits but also treating your muscles and body with the utmost care. And of course, always get approval from your doctor before trying any new exercise regimen.
The Ultimate Combo
Combining aerobic exercise and resistance/weight training together means that you could start seeing your desired results of weight loss or muscle gain faster than usual. Before you start this particular fitness journey, assess your fitness goals and what you’d like to get out of these exercises. Once you set clear intentions, you’ll find that you may get more out of workouts and be more engaged while performing them.
Ultimately, these workouts are designed to help you achieve your preferred body weight goal. Once you find the best routine for you and your body, stay with it and remember: Practice makes perfect.