In this royal rumble, I’ll be breaking down the differences between each contender.

The contenders:

Cardio: Pretty much anything with relatively low intensity that you can do for a prolonged period of time that elevates your heart rate. This includes aerobics, running, using the elliptical, cycling, zumba and so on.

Weight Training: Lifting weights and doing body-weight exercises.
Before we get into which is better, it’s important to understand 2 things:

  1.  People talk about weight loss but what they really want is Fat Loss. They don’t want to lose lean muscle, which would slow metabolism and make them look less athletic. They want to lose the blubber. When you work out, ideally you want to lose fat and get lean by maintaining your lean muscle mass.
  2.  If you want to get in shape, the most important thing is to adjust your diet. Even if you spend 10+ hours a week exercising, that still leaves 158 hours for you to mess things up thanks to your food. Keep your total calories under control, cut out the junk and eat a healthy balanced diet. Your diet is responsible for your successes or failures.

So you’re on board with the whole “eating right” thing but you still want to exercise to burn more fat. Let’s break down each contender:


The Good

  • The thing that makes cardio a good fit for many is that it’s easy to learn. For example: it’s easy to learn to run and cycle.
  • Some forms of cardio are fun and you can exercise in a group. Whether it’s dancing, hiking or going for a run. If you enjoy it, keep doing it!
  • Cardio improves cardiovascular health since your heart and lungs are working harder for longer when you do it.

The Bad

  1. Although going for a run or walk can be fun, spending time on a treadmill or elliptical trapped indoors can be boring.
  2. Cardio is not the most efficient form of exercise. There’s very little Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) with cardio, which means you only burn calories when doing the cardio but not much happens afterwards (Schuenke, Mikat, & McBride, 2002).

Weight Training

The Good

  1. If you have a limited amount of time and you’re looking for the most efficient training regime, than weight training gives you the most bang for your buck.
  2. It helps you build the physique you’re looking for, helps keep you injury-free, healthier and happier throughout your life.
  3. Weight training recruits tons of muscle and has a high EPOC which causes you to burn calories during your workout and after your workout. Even after you finish training, your body’s metabolism continues to operate at a heightened pace as you rebuild your muscles. This can continue for upwards of 36 hours after you finish training (Schuenke, Mikat, & McBride, 2002).
  4. This means that rather than burning say 50 calories an hour while sitting and watching TV, you’re burning 60 calories instead. While you may not think that 10 extra calories is a big deal, when you multiply that by 36 hours, you can see the difference it can make in your daily calorie expenditure. When you do the math and figure out the monthly rate, it becomes even clearer how regular weight training will increase your capacity to burn calories, thus leading to Fat Loss. WIN!

The Bad

  1. If you don’t know what you’re doing or have bad form, you can open yourself up to injury as you’re doing more aggressive movements as compared to going for a walk
  2. If you just don’t enjoy weight training, it might keep you from exercising too. The best exercise plan is the one you stick to and follow consistently.

The Verdict

Weight Training: Winner!

Weight training simply offers most of the health benefits of cardio, while most of the fat loss benefits of cardio can be achieved through reducing caloric intake aka dieting. It’s time to break free from the thinking that cardio equates to fat loss and weight training equates to building muscle and weight gain. It’s not as clear cut as that. Lifting weights can help you build muscle mass and improve your athleticism which in turn will help you lose fat. So make weight training your priority and add low intensity cardio work to reap its benefits as well.

As with any program, to get the results you want you have to put in the work. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to hit the Gym!

Schuenke, M., Mikat, R., & McBride, J. (2002). Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 410-420.


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