Workout Tips

Beginner's Training Tips: Cardio or Weights

Sort through your training and nutrition conundrums with M&F’s top-rated experts.

Beginner's Training Tips: Cardio or Weights

Question: "I put on some weight around my midsection for the holidays and I'm ready to work it off. But isn't it a good idea to start off the year just doing a bunch of cardio to sweat it out and start getting my conditioning back a bit?--Anonymous via e-mail

Answer: Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who start the New Year desperate to lose their holiday weight that they just run…and run and run and run. The logic is that cardio will help you get lean faster. Well, here’s the reality.

Weight training can yield very similar results to cardio. Additionally, weight training has the added benefit of improving insulin sensitivity. This means that calories are partitioned favorably and are utilized by muscle instead of going to fat cells. Lastly, studies have shown that high intensity interval training (HIIT), which has protocols similar to weight training, improves VO2 max at a faster rate than conventional cardio so weight training can give you your conditioning back at a faster rate than conventional cardio alone.

This is, of course, dependent on your intensity, volume, rest time between sets in addition to type of exercise for your weight training program. For example, a weight training program that uses compound movements instead of isolation movements, short rest periods (30-60 seconds) and a focus on an upper body and lower body training would be very conducive to your goal.  

Your best bet? Start a challenging, progressive weight training routine that includes cardio. A good way for beginners to go is to weight train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then perform cardio on Tuesday, Thursday and optionally on Saturday. But don’t ditch the weights in favor of cardio to lose weight or you can substantially slow your rate of fat loss.

Kelechi Opara is a lifetime natural athlete with over 15 years experience in the fitness field. He's the creator of the iPhone/Android app Nutritionist, the revolutionary app that's transforming lives around the world. He's also an Optimum Nutrition athlete where he helps in the formulation of their supplements. In addition, he's an internationally published cover model and a former United States Marine.