Cardio, or resistance? That is the question… Or so the traditional world of training would have you believe.
But no, that is not the only question. This either/or mentality is archaic, because another question is entirely possible: Cardio and training?
And the answer? Sure, why not! Here’s how to combine the two for a more effective workout.
For many years, the status quo maintained that combining cardio training and resistance training (aka strength training) would diminish the returns of the latter. This belief was due to research published on the topic. The problem, however, is that the research was carried out on rats.
Surprisingly, humans respond differently to the combination of cardio and resistance training. Recent studies show that it may even be more beneficial than separate cardio and strength workouts, provided that they’re planned correctly, of course.
How do I combine strength and cardio?
By hitting it hard with HIIT! High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short, is your go-to cardio-and-strength combo workout. Not only does HIIT maintain and build muscle, but it’s also the best way to burn calories and shed fat. In fact, a 10-minute HIIT routine can burn as many calories as a 30-minute treadmill session.
So, what does a HIIT workout look like? It’s made up of alternating intervals of more intense activity, where you push yourself to 80% of your max output, and less intense activity, where you recover at 40% of your max output. HIIT’s a versatile blueprint you can apply to running, rowing, cycling, swimming, explosive jump squats, or burpees!
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Resistance, then cardio
This style of combining cardio and strength training is similar to HIIT. First, you perform a standard resistance workout, using weights or simply your body weight. Then you follow that up with a short burst of intense cardio.
For the strength component of the workout, go with a heavy, low-rep set of weighted repetitions, known as powerlifts. Perform squats, deadlifts, bench presses, strict presses, and rows. Aim for 3-5 reps for five sets. Generally, I do deadlifts, bench presses, and rows in one workout; and squats and strict presses in another.
Following your resistance training, smash out a 15-20-minute cardio workout. Or, even better, a HIIT workout! Just listen to your body. Don’t push yourself so hard that you burn out and never want to return to the gym. And never work through pain.
What will work best for me?
Focus on either muscle and strength gain, or fat loss and cardio. If you want to get ripped for that summer six pack, choose an all-out HIIT workout with explosive repetitions. If you want to increase muscle mass and strength, a resistance routine followed by a cardio or HIIT burst will produce better results. This, of course, accounts for the fact that following a resistance routine, your HIIT workout won’t yield peak performance.
Another option is simply to separate cardio and strength routines. But you can still have both in one day. Just perform one in the morning, and the other after work. My ideal routine is a 15-20-minute HIIT workout before work, and then a longer resistance workout after.
Whatever combination you decide on, take it slow to start off. Gradually increase your weights, reps, and intensity — and most of all, listen to your body. Now, go get those abs!
Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.