For the next few weeks I’m going to take a look at a few subjects that have opposing views. I will call it “Vs Month”. It’s my hope that I will put some of the myths to bed and you will be all the better for it. This post will look at Weights Vs Cardio.
This is a subject that I get asked a lot about.
All of the time.
I also get subjected to conflicting opinions from vicars to nannies to bus-drivers about how they see the argument. It’s as if there is only one side of the fence you could be on and it’s “them or us”.
I know that it’s a lot more complex than that and can’t be broken down into terms of cardio or weights as there is a lot about both you probably aren’t aware of.
And just to give a little spoiler before we start. I personally think that……
You really thought I would tell you before the end?
Shame on you!!
There are always a shed load of myths or bro-science (google it) surrounding any fitness debate. It’s normally something that Dave from down the gym once dropped into conversation to try and look like he knew what he was talking about. And yes, Dave could be Davina before you ask.
They probably read it on the Instagram page of some celebrity turned fitness addict. So, it’s got to be true!
Some myths are:
- You only need cardio in your life to lose weight
- You only need weight training in your life to lose weight
- Cardio burns off more calories
- Weight training will make me look too bulky
- Weight training will turn my metabolism into calories burning furnace for days
- And a million more
So, as you can see there are a lot of pre-conceived ideas about what each type of exercise can do to your body.
We Are All Different
Before I kick off into this subject, it is really important to talk about differences.
We are all different. Especially our bodies and how they react to the same things.
I may burn off more calories than you in the same workout but your metabolism may be higher and you burn off more calories than me at rest.
There are vast differences between us, so as I start throwing stats at you, it’s important to remember this.
What Causes These Differences?
Well there are lots of causes for this including the size of your organs, how tall you are, your hormone balance, how much fat you are carrying, how much lean muscle you have or even if you regularly exercise, or not.
The crux of what causes the differences is – how many cells are you made up of?
The more of the basic building blocks called cells that you have within the body will determine how many calories you will burn off during the day. And that’s all types of cells, including fat.
Fat cells still require energy to survive and so the more of those you have, the more calories you burn.
Now I’m not advocating that you put on lots of fat to fire your metabolism. Oh no.
One fact that is banded around a lot is that muscle cells burn off way more than fat cells.
This is partially true.
It is true that muscle does burn off more calories. But not as much as you would think. A pound of fat will burn off around 2 calories per day whilst a pound of muscle will burn around 6 calories.
If you were to lose 10 pounds of fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle, you would burn an extra 40 calories per day. Not that much if you think about it.
I also want to mention perception when we are talking about how we look at ourselves and others. The myth that I quoted about becoming bulky is often levelled at me by female clients and I can understand their thinking.
What I consider “bulky” is probably very different from what they mean “bulky” to mean. I’m not going to bang the drum too hard on this as I think it should be explored another time but it is definitely worth a mention.
EPOC – Excess. Post-exercise. Oxygen. Consumption
The benefits of a cardio should not be knocked and when training at a steady state you can probably burn off between 500 and 800 calories per hour. That’s a whole hour of cardio and when you climb off that treadmill you pretty much stop burning off calories straight away.
In fact, you would have burned off more calories during your cardio than you would have if you had done a standard weight training hour.
So, the myth that cardio burns off more calories is true…to a certain extent.
But there is also truth to the myth that weight training will make you burn off extra calories after training…also to a certain extent.
Let me explain.
Not All Lifts Are Created Equal
Broadly speaking there are two types of lifts in weight training. They are:
- Isolation (involve 1 joint)
- Compound (involve 2 or more joints)
For me, the best lifts are compound and so will involve 2 or more body joints. Things like:
Using compound lifts during your sessions will ensure that you will enter EPOC after your session has finished.
This means you will take in more oxygen afterwards and you will therefore burn off more calories. This is sometimes called the “afterburn effect”.
Steady state cardio won’t normally take you into EPOC but a good compound weight session will.
EPOC can last up to 38 hours after you have exercised.
Don’t let this fool you into thinking you won’t have to exercise as much though.
The effect gives you about an increase in burn of about 13% and quickly diminishes so again, it’s probably not as much as you thought.
What Will I Look Like?
So, the greatest myth that I hear all the time is that weight training will make too bulky. For most men and a growing proportion of women this is great. They want to add muscle to their body and don’t care if their shoulders become a little broader in the process.
But for a lot of clients this can be a real concern.
Let me say this now.
As a woman, if you train with weights you will not get bulky.
Sure, you will lose fat and gain lean muscle. But that’s great news as Muscle is 20% less in volume than fat. Your measurements will get smaller. And measurements are what we should be basing our perceptions on what it acceptable.
Not the scales.
Women won’t gain large amounts of muscle like Arnie because they don’t have enough testosterone to do so. It can’t be done.
As a man, I have been trying for years to gain muscle and I look nothing like Arnie Schwarzenegger. Just check out the My Story page and you will see!
Don’t be scared, you can and should lift weights.
Other great reasons why you should gain lean muscle are:
- Training for longer and harder
- Getting sick less often
- Buying new clothes when the old ones are too big
- Increased confidence
What Do I Think?
From what I have written, I think you may have probably guessed that I think that everyone should have weight training as part of their training programme.
It’s vital as most of us want to lose a few pounds of fat and gain some muscle.
The way we lift is really important though. We must make sure that we are doing the exercises correctly or they will less effective or, and this is the worst part, they could damage you. And I’m not just talking about a little sprain. Injuries from poor form could hinder you for a lifetime.
Take you time, start with lighter weights and get some advice from a professional if you are unsure.
However, I also think that cardio training has its place and should also be part of a balanced training programme.
Sure, I find it boring and the prospect of going for 10k run fills me with dread but there are other ways to get your cardio in and I use them.
What’s important is that you should have balance in your training programme and never exclude one mode of training for another.
It just isn’t healthy.
If you have any comments about this then please let me know below as I would love to hear from you.
If you need some advice, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. I don’t bite!
Be all you can be