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Cardio vs strength training: The ultimate fitness faceoff

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When it comes to being the greatest version of yourself, is it cardio or strength training that will help you get there? Many athletes swear that strength training is where it‘s at, but does that mean you should ditch cardio altogether? Whether you want to get buff, drop a few pounds, or run your fastest kilometer ever, we‘ve outlined which discipline you should devote your sweat to.

To get there faster

Cardio‘s benefit: While the logic behind “the more kilometres I log, the better shape I‘ll be in” may seem reasonable, most people forget that their body is a master adaptor. That means that it becomes more efficient the more it gets used to a certain routine. In order to continuously see results, you need to push your body outside it‘s comfort zone with speed training cardio workouts. These can jump-start your metabolism, help burn fat, and increase endurance.

Strength‘s benefit: If you want to be fast you need to be strong, which is why strength training is essential to give you that extra boost. Strength training will make your core better able to support your body‘s weight, maintain ideal form during other exercises (especially running) and result in more powerful arms and legs. Stronger muscles mean better performance – period.

To torch calories

Cardio‘s benefit: When it comes to calorie burning, cardio has the slight upper hand. You can burn 8-10 calories per minute doing strength training, compared with 10-12 calories per minute running or cycling.

Strength‘s benefit: If you want to change your body you have to challenge your body. Strength training promotes the development of muscle mass, which requires more fuel for everyday functioning than fat does. This  boosts your resting metabolism, causing your body to burn more calories over time. It also takes energy to repair the muscles you break down while training, which translates to even more calories burned.

To live longer

Cardio‘s benefit: Nothing compares with cardio for optimizing longevity. From reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and even certain types of cancers, the benefits are endless.

Strength‘s benefit: Okay, so the benefits here aren‘t quite as extensive as for cardio, but studies have shown that doing strength training just twice per week can prevent you from gaining intra-abdominal fat, which contributes to the development of many deadly diseases.

To combat stress

Cardio‘s benefit: Everyone‘s heard of a runner‘s high, the overwhelming  sense of joy when you finish a hard run. Cardio works wonders on elevating our serotonin levels in the brain, a key neurotransmitter involved in improving symptoms of depression and anxiety. The effects of aerobic activity often show up before we‘ve even finished our workout, and just 15 minutes of exercise a day can significantly boost your mood.

Strength‘s benefit: Feeling a little down? Regular strength training can help your brain produce more endorphins, which help you deal with pain or extreme exertion and generally make you feel amazing. Really amazing.

To boost your confidence

Cardio‘s benefit: According to a number of sports psychologists, athletes such as runners and swimmers tend to have high levels of confidence because of the sense of accomplishment they feel each time they cross the finish line. The rush of endorphins you get from a cardio workout will leave you with a greater sense of self-esteem, so you‘re ready to crush any challenge that comes your way.

Strength‘s benefit: Have you ever noticed that you seem to look better after exercising? Well, it‘s not your imagination. Following a moderate to intense workout, blood rushes to your muscles, which makes them swell and appear more toned. Plus there‘s that sense of strength and empowerment you get from resistance training. Pushing yourself physically shows what you‘re made of mentally.

To avoid injury

Cardio‘s benefit: Regular cardio exercise can keep your body in tip top shape and help it perform it‘s very best. However, the repetitive nature of doing cardio alone (that is, without combining any strength training) can put serious pressure on your joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons, and eventually result in injury.

Strength‘s benefit: Functional strength training teaches your brain how to handle muscle contractions that are quick enough to prevent or minimize injuries. If you choose exercises that work your core, improve your balance, and force you to bend at multiple joints, you  are actually protecting your body. Think lunges, rows, squats and pull ups!

So what‘s the verdict? While cardio is considered more fun than other types of exercise and give you loads of health benefits, doing cardio-only exercises means you will be abandoning your body‘s other muscular needs. Strength training is the best way to build more muscle, keep fat off, and increase flexibility. The ideal solution? A fitness plan that incorporates both cardio and strength training will have you #SummerBody ready before you know it.