In the health and fitness industry, this is the million dollar question. Should I do more cardio or weights based training if I want to lose fat? The most common answer is ‘oh, do a balance of both’. Well, I'm not going to give you that answer but what I will do is give you some information and let you make up your own mind.
The definition of cardiovascular is simply ‘a system in your body which is made up of your heart, blood, and the blood vessels’. Through the blood vessels, your heart pumps blood around your body carrying oxygen and nutrients. On its way back to the heart, your blood carries carbon dioxide and other waste.

Now we have what's called a cardiac cycle, which is the sequence of events that occurs in one complete heartbeat. This happens about 60 to 80 times per minute depending on how conditioned you are. Still with me?

As your body moves (which is largely driven by the muscles) your cardiac cycle increases, meaning your 'heart rate goes up'. Again, depending on how conditioned your muscles are, this will determine how fast, how high, and how long each cardiac cycle will be.

This brings me to my next point. If you were to pick up a 10kg bag of potatoes from the ground and lift it over your head for about a minute, or 10 repetitions, what do you think happens to your cardiac cycle? Keep thinking about this. How many muscle groups are you engaging? How many muscles are forced to chip in to lift the bag of potatoes? Quite a few I'd say.

During this potato-lifting process you'd be burning calories, developing strength, increasing endurance, and creating 'tone' - which is another way of saying you’d be noticing muscles you never thought you had. Tone can signify that your body composition is changing, and can help you start to look more proportional.

Of course you’d need to be lifting bag of potatoes (hypothetically) over and over again for a number of months to notice some significant gains but, suffice to say, you'd be feeling pretty good about yourself after just a week (once the soreness wears off).

Now let's have a look at the 'real cardio' - the jargon you read about in magazines and hear on TV. The type of thing you get asked when you go to the gym – ‘Are you doing weights or cardio today?’ Usually this means are you going to jump on a treadmill for 45 minutes or are you going to throw around some iron.

Of course running and cycling will increase your heart rate and burn calories while clocking up endurance in your legs, which is a great benefit if this is what you're trying to achieve. But what you must ask yourself is exactly that - What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to be a better runner, cyclist, rower, or do you want a kick-ass looking body? Both weight training and cardio will help if your goal is a killer body, but what I'm trying to do is make the process more efficient.

One of the most interesting things I hear is when someone says they've eaten a muffin and are planning to go for a long run to burn it off. Wow. Really? By the time that person gets to their run, that muffin has long gone, deep inside their body, so perhaps it's best to just forget about it. What's done is done. If you’re going to eat a muffin, my advice would be to simply enjoy the muffin -  don't punish yourself for it.

The truth of the matter is that you can't outrun fast food. And if you’re tempted to go down the path of overtraining to ‘cancel out’ a poor food choice, you need to know this - your muscles do not recognise time. What they do recognise is intensity, resistance, and how much output they need to give.

Not only do your muscles require energy in their ‘work time’, they also tend to do a lot of overtime while you rest. That’s right – your muscles burn calories while they are repairing, recovering from training and wondering WTF happened? Think about your body at rest like a car that is sitting idle. Do you want your body to be a V8 or a lawn mower?
I think it's a fair bet to say that, to make your muscles work to their maximum ability, you'd want to be lifting as much iron as possible - as many times as you can, and as safely as you can. Your body will tell you when it's had enough by a simple mechanism called fatigue.

You've probably guessed by now that, yes, I am a fan of weight training.  But don't get me wrong - I do throw in some 'cardio' from time to time, just to mix things up, especially if it forms part of a circuit.

My favourite machine would have to be the rower. I think it is the most underrated piece of 'cardio' equipment in the gym. Why? Because it reminds me of that sack of potatoes I spoke about earlier. The different is, instead of picking it up off the ground and lifting it over my head, I'm grabbing it from in front and pulling it back and forth - which again engages multiple muscle groups while giving me that 'cardio effect'.

So you get my point, right? Next time someone asks you at the gym if you're doing cardio or weights your answer should be ‘What's the difference? I sure hope I am using cardio while I weight train, otherwise I'd be dead!’.

Have you made up your mind yet? If you’re not convinced, feel free to just keep doing what you're doing - as long as you are enjoying it and seeing results. But, if not, perhaps it's time for a change. My recommendation would be to add in some high intensity and high volume work into your training... and a sack of potatoes.
I'm Christian M and that's The Final Word.

P.S – Just so you know, I'm not a fan of the 'build more muscle to increase your metabolism' theory. Although this is a true statement, it will require you to stack on quite a bit of muscle before there is any real significant change. The reason I'm not a fan of this is because most people will tend to do a lot of weights, and then feel like they can eat anything they want because their metabolism is now ‘faster’. The difference in metabolism increase is not enough to warrant this type of thinking.

For more information on Christian M and High Intensity Resistance Training, including upcoming course dates, visit www.hirt.com.au

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