When I was first brainstorming about writing this blog, I thought I was going to do a comparative piece about cardio vs weights. I thought I was going to dispel some myths about both, yes, but ultimately it was going to be a battle between the two and one was going to come out on top (weights were probably going to win). But I realized a couple of things in the process… First of all, to say that one is superior to the other distracts from the fact that BOTH are beneficial. And I didn’t want give people the sense that they’re wasting their time or that they have an excuse not to perform ANY type of exercise. Because, let’s face it, you either love or hate cardio (I hate it). And to take the stance that weights are superior to cardio, which, in all honestly, would be a biased statement, is giving the haters an excuse not to do it and taking away from the passion of the cardio lovers. Neither are my intended outcomes. I also realized that simply comparing the two doesn’t provide the overall picture of training and why it’s beneficial for our bodies. The truth is our bodies are meant to be strong, yes, but they’re also meant to have endurance, speed, explosiveness, flexibility, agility, and, also, periods of rest. So, instead of narrowing the focus by proclaiming one better than the other, I hope to broaden your idea of training and movement. Both cardio and weights can be beneficial but it all depends upon HOW they’re performed. Unfortunately, there are a few myths about BOTH out there, and they have led to a lack of understanding and an imbalance of the two. So, my goal for this article is to help you better understand these two popular types of training by putting these myths to bed!
So, let’s go ahead and get down to it. First, let’s cover 6 myths about cardio that seem to be circulating out there and could be hindering your results!
Cardio Myth #1: Cardio is the Key to Fat Loss
The truth is balanced hormones are the key to fat loss. And your hormone balance depends on A LOT of factors. Movement, including cardio, can help. BUT, in addition to, and I would argue more importantly than, you must also have a well maintained diet with adequate nutrients, a fair amount of lean body mass, a healthy gut, strategies for stress management, adequate sleep and rest, etc… In fact, TOO much cardio and TOO much of a calorie deficit can disrupt hormone balance leading to the OPPOSITE desired result. Your body might actually hold onto extra fat because of an overproduction of cortisol, the stress hormone. So while cardio may help aid in fat loss, if done correctly, it is important to make sure ALL of these other factors are addressed as well, if not BEFORE starting a cardio regimen.
Cardio Myth #2: Cardio is Most Effective in the “Fat Burning Zone”
A lot of people will argue that you must maintain a certain heart rate during cardio training aka the “Fat Burning Zone”, and stay there for a prolonged period of time, in order to tap into body fat. Not only is this not true, but it actually can produce the opposite result, as stated above. TOO much cardio or prolonged cardio can actually place undo stress on the body causing it to store fat. And yes, while steady state cardio does burn more calories than most other types of exercise, the calorie burn typically stops as soon as the session is over. However, with other types of training like high intensity interval training or HIIT, or circuit training, and even heavy lifting, your body continues to burn calories and fat long after the session has ended because of excess post oxygen consumption or EPOC. So, sprinting, interval training and polymeric exercises are actually more effective for fat burning because they can help preserve and even build muscle and also continue to burn body fat even after the workout is over. Now, this is not to say that low impact and steady state cardio has no place in a fitness regimen. It can help warm the body up and prepare it for more intense exercises, or help remove the lactic acid from muscles and help them recover from an intense weight lifting session which would, in turn, help the muscles grow. BUT, it is not the only or the most effective type of cardio for fat burning.
Cardio Myth #3: Cardio Eats Away at Muscle
Let’s call this one a half myth. Because, yes, TOO much cardio can disrupt hormone balance leading to, at least, a difficulty building muscle, and at worst, a catabolism of existing lean mass. BUT this can be said about over training of ANY kind. But let’s focus on the part of this myth that is completely false. I already mentioned how cardio can help you recover from weight training, which will help muscle grow FASTER. But certain types of cardio can also help preserve and grow new muscle. I already mentioned HIIT, plyos and sprinting, but also tabata style training can get your heart pumping, blood flowing and build muscle, simultaneously.
Cardio Myth #4:You Must Perform Cardio for More Than 30 Minutes to Burn Fat
This myth is closely related to the “fat burning zone” myth, so I won’t repeat the same information, but it’s important to realize that you don’t have to carve out a huge chunk of your day or workout to enjoy the benefits of cardio. Obviously, I’ve already touched on how TOO much cardio for TOO long can be a hindrance, but science is actually showing that shorter bursts of cardio can be just as, if not more, effective for fat loss. The key is intensity and effort. You can’t expect to hop on a treadmill and watch TV or talk to your bestie on the phone for 10 minutes and see results. Make the most of your 10, 15, or 20 minute sessions. But don’t think that because you only have a short amount of time that you won’t see results.
Cardio Myth #5: Fasted Cardio is Best
So not only do you not need a ton of time to feel the benefits of cardio, you also don’t need to schedule it in at a certain time of day. Get it in where you can fit it in. You see, the premise to fasted cardio is that you’re able to tap into stored body fat quicker because your body isn’t burning off the sugars from a previous meal. BUT whether or not you burn sugar or fat has more to do with your diet and hormones than whether or not you ate before cardio and studies about fasted cardio seem to be confusing and inconclusive. So eat well, sleep well, lift, and do cardio whenever it works for you!
Cardio Myth #6: Running is Superior to Walking
The truth is our bodies aren’t necessarily designed to run. Yes, some of us are more genetically inclined, but most of us would do a lot better walking than running because it’s a more natural movement. Improper running can lead to injury and you’re at a higher risk of overtraining and disrupting hormonal balance. Now, if you’re like me and you enjoy the occasional challenge and also want to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, it’s nice to know that you can run a few miles without stopping. It’s not that you should NEVER run, but it should not be your ONLY form of cardio and should not overshadow the benefits of walking. So mix it up. Run, do sprint intervals, and sometimes, just walk it out.
All right, now we’ve got a better understanding of cardio. Let’s talk about these 6 myths about weight training…
Weight Training Myth #1: Lifting Weights Will Make You Bulky
So this myth is more directed more toward the ladies but I think it’s important for both sexes to understand this… Lifting weights will change your body. It will change how it looks and how it performs. But it will NOT cause massive size increase in ANYONE without a drastic change in diet and hormone production. Ladies, we have literally 1/10 the amount of natural testosterone production as men. Therefore, it is next to IMPOSSIBLE to ever look “like a man” simply by lifting weights. You will not get “bulky” UNLESS you’re eating WAY too much and ONLY lifting VERY HEAVY weights. Even then, you will likely end up looking more “soft” than “bulky” or “manly”. Now, for men, you do have to hormonal advantage when it comes to gaining lean mass. Congratulations you lucky b@$+ards. BUT even a 150 pound male will likely not become a 250 pound male simply by lifting weights. Weights are meant to help you gain strength, preserve or build lean mass, balance hormones and increase performance in all areas. So make that your focus as opposed to gaining size or not. Ladies, if you want to look “toned” lift weights. Fellas, if you want definition and strength, lift weights. But do not fear or even expect to gain MASSIVE amounts of size. It’s just not how it works.
Weight Training Myth #2: It’s Bad for Your Joints
This is another half myth. Lifting weights WITH BAD FORM can be bad for the joints and can lead to injury. However, lifting weights with proper form can lead to improved joint function and reduce joint pain. By strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints, they become better supported and are able to function more optimally. The key is to lift correctly, so hire a well renowned trainer if you’re brand new to lifting. Be realistic with how much weight you can lift properly. Don’t go too heavy too quickly. Listen to your body, and DEFINITELY follow a diet that is anti-inflammatory if joints are a concern for you.
Weight Training Myth #3: You Can Spot Reduce Fat With Weight Training
Aw man, I WISH!! I would do so many crunches and life would just be swell. Unfortunately, your body prioritizes where it stores and sheds fat. It’ll burn off the fat it deems unnecessary first and will hold onto it where it feels it’s most easily accessed “in case of an emergency” aka a famine. This is why you will often notice a difference in people’s faces when they first begin to lose weight. You don’t really need the fat in your face. The fat on your belly, on the other hand, comes in mighty handy when food is scarce. That’s why those last few inches on the middle never seem to budge, am I right? The only way to truly reduce fat in these unwanted areas, as I’ve mentioned about 300 times so far, is to change your diet and lifestyle in order to bring your hormones into balance. So, if you’re performing certain exercises in order to lose fat in that specific area, STOP! Instead, train the entire body so that you build up lean mass all over and become a better fat-burning machine.
Weight Training Myth #4: Women Should Train Differently than Men
I don’t know where this myth came from exactly but I think I have an idea. First, I believe that women are typically aiming to achieve a different look than men. You know more toned, curvy, feminine… So, I suppose it’s logical to think that if you want a different look then different types of training are in order. But I’ve already explained that what makes a woman look “womanly” is simply the fact that she is a woman. You can’t “out train” your hormones ladies. It’s just not going to happen. A woman that lifts weights will look like a toned, curvy, feminine woman. Not to mention strong and badass as well. But I also think there’s the whole “intimidation factor” when it comes to the different ways that men and women train. I can’t count how many women have told me they hate going into the weight room at their gym because it’s just a bunch of dudes in there and they don’t know what to do. And, to be fair, men, this is a little bit on you. If a lady comes into the weight room or area, don’t stare or bother her. She just wants to lift. But ladies I’m going to get real with you too. You’ve got to get over it! There are so many benefits to lifting heavy weights that you just can’t get from 3-pound dumbbells or step aerobics. It reduces the risk of osteoporosis, helps decrease stress and elevate your mood, and turns you into a fat burning machine! All things that pretty much every woman I know wants. So get in that weight room or invest in your own weights and learn some lifts. And no, grunting is not necessary.
Weight Training Myth #5: You Need a Gym to Weight Train Effectively
I sure hope not or my clients and I are screwed! If you didn’t already know, I train out of my home garage. Not only is it super convenient and helps me keep my prices low for my clients, but it has proven to be very effective. Now, granted, I probably have more equipment than your average home gym. This is my business after all and I like to be prepared for any client that comes my way. But most of my workouts require very limited equipment and they get the job done! If you prefer to workout at home, you really would only need a couple sets of dumbbells, maybe some resistance bands and possibly a kettle bell or two in order to perform a TON of effective resistance workouts. When it comes down to it, it’s not the amount of equipment you have but how you use it. So, if your equipment is limited then choose exercises that give you the most bang-for-your-buck! Do circuits, tabatas, limit your rest periods, do more reps, throw in body weight exercises and plyos… There are a million different ways to challenge yourself that don’t require a full, state-of-the-art gym. As long as you and your muscles are working it will work! Now, if you belong to a gym and you love it, by all means keep going! But it is NOT necessary for a great workout.
Weight Training Myth #6: You Must Perform Splits for Effective Weight Training
If you’re unfamiliar with what a “split” is, it’s basically breaking up your lifting workouts by training certain muscle groups on certain days. Ever heard someone say “I’m doing back and bis today” or “today is leg day”? They’re referring to a weight lifting split. So, a traditional body builder would typically break up their weekly workouts by doing legs one day, back and biceps the next, maybe shoulders the next, and chest and triceps the next, with rest or cardio days in between. And honestly, I love using splits from time to time. It can be fun to really focus an entire workout on one area of the body and hit it from every angle and exhaust that muscle group entirely…But it can also get boring after a while. Like, really boring. And unless you’re a body builder, you really don’t HAVE to work out this way. In fact, full-body workouts can be just as effective, more fun, and save time. There are a few things to keep in mind though. It is beneficial to incorporate compound, multi-joint movements to get the most bang-for-your-buck. Think squats, dead lifts, lunges, bench press, shoulder press, rows, dips, etc… Don’t waste your time doing a bunch of curls and crunches and call it a full body workout. When I write full body workouts I like to build circuits that touch on every major muscle group. I will pick a dead lift exercise, a pulling exercise, a squat or lunge exercise, a pushing exercise, a core exercise and a full body explosive or plyometric exercise. I will perform each movement back-to-back, rest at the end of the circuit and perform 2-4 rounds. Make sure you stick to a weight that’s challenging but allows you to use good form. Because full body workouts can be higher impact, form is key. And it’s especially important to get plenty of rest between these workouts to allow your muscles to recover and grow.
I hope this has cleared up some of the myths you may have heard about cardio and weight training! I also hope it has inspired you to try BOTH types of exercise in new and more effective ways! Remember, at the end of the day, training should be enjoyed and make you and your body happier and healthier. That’s what it’s all about. As always, if you have questions about this or any other topic on the blog please subscribe and leave a comment! Or you can always email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!