Cardio Vs. Weightlifting: The Pros & Cons
Any time you move your ass you’re doing cardio.
Weightlifting works your heart and lungs too, duh. A better term for what people refer to as “doing cardio” is “aerobic training.” But since I’m not totally anal, I’ll mostly stick with the common vernacular.
This is all about weights vs. cardio, like you only have one choice, and no one has ever decided that maybe they could do both, or something.
Each has its own merits, but a lot of the debate has to do with body composition, so in any analysis that compares the two it is critical to also analyze the effect these two forms of exercise have on diet.
I will link to many of my own articles throughout to reinforce specific points, but first a quick analysis of …
Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise
Anaerobic processes do not require oxygen, and aerobic processes do. Generally speaking, anaerobic activities are the ones that are short in duration and require a lot of power, and aerobic ones are longer duration of a sustained effort. These processes are broken down into three different types of energy systems:
The Phosphagen System (Anaerobic)
This is the short-burst, high-intensity power stuff like weightlifting and sprinting. It is an all-out effort that lasts only seconds. The phosphagen system uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by breaking down creatine phosphate (CP), the latter of which is stored only in very small quantities. When the CP runs out, so does your body’s ability to use this energy system until CP is replenished via a rest interval. As an example, when you sprint you can only go all out for just a few seconds, and then your cells run out of stored CP and you have to slow down and switch over to a slower energy system, such as …
Glycolysis (Still Anaerobic)
Glycolysis is the breakdown of either glycogen stored in the muscle or glucose delivered in the blood as fuel, which serves to resynthesize ATP (instead of CP). It doesn’t do it nearly as quickly as the phosphagen system does but it has a much higher capacity, so this type of exertion can last longer. An example of using the glycolysis system would be something like basketball, hockey or intense downhill skiing.
Oxidative System (Aerobic)
This is the lower-intensity, prolonged exertion energy system that relies primarily on carbohydrates and fat as fuel, although protein can be used as well in sustained efforts that last longer than 90 minutes. Things like sustained running (not sprinting), cycling, swimming and couch rugby all use the oxidative system. These are your traditional “cardio” activities.
Duration and Intensity of Energy Systems
These systems don’t work as though one just shuts off and instantly transitions to the next if you switch from sprinting to fast running. Instead, there can be some overlap.
Here is a breakdown of exercise duration, the respective intensity, and the energy system(s) used: Adapted from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition.
Now that the primer on energy systems is done, let’s compare the pros and cons of weights and cardio.
Lifting heavy shit is cool. Nothing beats it. Were you to say you could only possibly do one exercise, and you asked me what to do, I would recommend weights. And I have objective street cred, because I qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon. This isn’t some cardio-hating meathead telling you this.
Weights give and they give. Here are the …
- Gaining of strength and size, duh.
- Easier for obese people to integrate. They are often quite strong and get positive reinforcement from early success. Also, weights allow for rest breaks for beginners who have a low threshold for sustained exercise. It is especially valuable for obese children.
- Great for improving bone strength, which can be very protective for the elderly.
- Another benefit for the elderly is how it helps them sustain their independence; they can continue to look after themselves because they’ve not become frail.
- This is a big one: From a weight loss perspective, there is a strong argument to be made that regular weight training has a major psychological benefit in terms of making the necessary dietary changes that lead to fat loss.
- Weightlifting is protective; it strengthens / hardens your body against injury in other activities. It also has a low rate of injurywhen done properly.
- Nutrient partitioning: You require approximately 2,500 calories of ingested food to build one pound of muscle. If you’re looking to lose fat while gaining muscle (which is totally possible), this assists by creating a greater overall energy deficit requiring additionally tapping into fat stores.
- It can be done under the guidance of a trainer. This can be a con, but when you find a great trainer they can change your life for the better.
- A gym can become a home away from home, where you embrace the culture and leave the stress of the day behind. Lifting weights is a fun and often a social endeavor. I’ve made many friends in the weight room.
- Caloric burn is not nearly as high for weightlifting as it is for (intense) aerobic activity. What’s more, the story you’ve heard about added muscle mass having a profound effect on resting metabolism is a myth.
- From a physiological perspective, weightlifting does not bestow the same level of benefits for appetite control that cardio does.
- Gym memberships can be expensive, and while travelling it can be difficult to find a place to work out.
- There is a great deal of corruption in personal training, with trainers often being prized at their gyms for their ability to sell training packages over their ability to train clients well. They may also engage in creating learned helplessness, where they teach their clients in such a way that creates dependence upon the trainer. They don’t want their clients to graduate out of not needing them because it cuts into future income.
- There is a lot of bad information about weightlifting permeating the Internet. The basics haven’t changed, but market forces keep creating newfangled bullshit ways to lift weights better, or something, because that’s what sells. It is even worse on the nutrition and supplement side.
- It can be intimidating for some, especially if the gym they choose is full of douchebags.
- There is a limit to how much you can do. If you have the time and inclination, you can’t lift weights for hours at a time, day after day — your body just can’t handle it. While this may sound silly, I get a lot of enjoyment from a four-hour bike ride or a long day of downhill skiing.
- It can lead to obsessive / unhealthy behaviors, such as disordered eating or use of unsafe supplements / pharmaceuticals, especially for those interested in physique competitions.
Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and the cons are quite easily managed or avoided once one accepts and understands them.
Source by askmen