Image Alt

Breakthrough Fitness

Cardio vs. Strength Training

It’s safe to assume that, if you’re working out, it’s because you want to be the healthiest version of “you” that you can be. However, when it comes down to deciding how and what to do to achieve your goals, you might be confused.

It’s easy to look at others in the gym or watch workout videos and try to adopt what they’re doing. It’s important to remember, however, that their goals may be different than yours. Some people will do cardiovascular exercise (such as running on the treadmill) while others might do strength training (such as free weights and weight machines).

But what is right for you?

You may be surprised to learn that both types of exercise are optimal for achieving your fitness goals! Read on to find out a little more about cardio vs. strength training, what they do, and why you need both.


What Is Cardio?

You might be familiar with the heavy breathing, sweating, and rapid heart rate that comes from walking up several flights of steps, but why does this happen?

When you test your endurance through running, dancing, or doing a Zumba class, your muscles are working overtime, converting oxygen to energy. When you feel shortness of breath, that is because your lungs need to take in more oxygen. Your heart then delivers the oxygen to the muscles as quickly as it can, which is why your heart rate increases.

Over time—and with regular cardio—your heart becomes stronger and your muscles become more efficient. In fact, you can even think of cardiovascular exercise as a workout for the inside of your body.

Swimming is a great example of cardio exercise.

What Exercises Are Considered Cardio?

Anything that gets your heart rate up can be considered cardio.

Popular cardio exercises include:

These all pump up your heart rate into the optimal zone to lose weight, strengthen your heart, and increase endurance.


Benefits of Cardio

In addition to weight loss/maintenance, cardio has incredible benefits on heart health (just 30-60 minutes a day can make a difference!), building endurance (yes, you’ll eventually have to do more cardio to keep up with results), increased metabolism, and improved moods (cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins, which is the “feel good” hormone!).

So that all sounds great, right? That’s all you need to do?

Not so fast. There’s another aspect of exercise that people often forget about.


What is Strength Training?

Strength training (or resistance training) means using your body, machines, or weights to build muscles, gain endurance, and tone your body. The science is complicated, but basically, strength training works by slightly damaging your muscles.


That’s right. As the muscle cells are overworked, surrounding cells step to repair the damage. It’s the repair—not the damage—that does so much good. As a result, your muscle cells become bigger, stronger, and more efficient.

Strength training is cool because, like cardio exercise, it also burns calories. Some people are worried that lifting weights will cause them to bulk up like a bodybuilder, but that’s not necessarily true. People can use strength training to increase the size of their muscles, but it takes a focused effort to accomplish that.

Woman lifting barbell with weights

What Methods Are Used For Strength Training?

You can utilize free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or your own body weight to build muscle.

If you’re looking for an on-the-go workout, body weight workouts are a great choice. But for more diversity, use the free weights and machines at the gym.

Alternatively, go to a studio gym and work with a professional to achieve the exact results you want.


Benefits of Strength Training

Like any other fitness, strength training has a lot of benefits.

In addition to increased strength, a more toned physique, and improved endurance, strength training also gives you a higher metabolism. Building more muscle mass means you’ll burn more calories, even at rest!

But it isn’t just your muscles that benefit. One benefit that we find particularly interesting is increased bone density. This is especially important for women with a higher risk of osteoporosis.


Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which One Is Right For You?

No matter what your fitness goals are, the answer is BOTH.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight and tone your body, or become a bodybuilder, both cardio and strength training are the keys to a well-rounded fitness regimen.

It isn’t just one area of your body that can benefit from working out. Your muscles, heart, lungs, and other organs all need to be challenged in order to be truly “fit.”

If you work with a professional, they will be able to come up with a plan to start achieving your goals—whatever they might be!

For example, if you want to lose weight while building lean muscle, you’ll probably need to do more cardio than resistance training. If you’re wanting to build muscle, your schedule may focus more on weight training.

If you opt for a home workout, that works, too! Just be sure to schedule your sessions wisely. Strength train first and do your cardio exercise afterwards. Lifting weights or doing pushups can act as a warmup to get your muscles ready for cardio. Plus, if you do cardio first, you’ll probably be too tired to keep going.

Nutrition is the backbone of a good fitness regime.

Don’t Forget About Nutrition!

We can talk all day about cardio vs. strength training, but exercise isn’t the only piece of a healthy fitness routine. There’s also the very important element of nutrition.

The truth is, you cannot achieve amazing results without eating a properly balanced diet. Even the most kickass workout routine can be completely undone by a single burger with a side of fries.

So what does a “balanced meal” look like?

Aim for 1-2 palm-sized servings of protein, two servings of vegetables (they should take up the bulk of your plate), a thumb-sized serving of healthy fat, and a serving of healthy carbs (roughly a quarter of your plate).

With balanced meals like this, you’ll not only begin seeing results, but you’ll feel better while doing it.



Even though you have particular goals, you should be sure to include cardio and strength training in your workout routine. They both have benefits and you can adjust as your needs change.

Balancing cardio, strength training, and a healthy diet are the keys to success.

For maximum results, a personal trainer or coach can help guide, motivate, and educate you so you can achieve your goals faster. Call Breakthrough Fitness today so we can help you along the way.