There are more myths in the world of physical fitness and personal health than anywhere else.
Myths breed misinformation, which then turn into false truths that people start repeating, and the whole process is just confusing.
You also have to account for ever-evolving scientifically-backed information on personal health and physical fitness, because it’s changing all the time.
That has its own issues with myths like this, but to get right to the point: no, cardio does not kill gains from weightlifting.
Cardio and weightlifting actually go hand-in-hand, or at least they should.
While weightlifting is the number one way to build muscle mass, and it is good for improving your health card, cardio builds on those muscles that weightlifting often doesn’t tap into while providing an even better heart health workout.
They’re two sides of the same coin, but we constantly think that doing one will undo the other.
I’m going to break down the myths and explain the details of how and when you should be performing cardio in accordance with your weightlifting.
Let’s get to work.
- 1 Should You do Cardio Post-Workout?
- 2 Should You do Cardio Pre-Workout?
- 3 Why Should You Do Both Weightlifting and Cardio Workouts?
- 4 What Type of Cardio is Best Combined With Weightlifting?
- 5 Diversify Your Workout
Should You do Cardio Post-Workout?
It’s a bit of a tricky question, but I believe that based on your fitness goals, you’ll be able to figure it out for yourself.
One reason that it’s good to do your cardio after your workout is that it helps to utilize your carbohydrates in the right way.
If you do strength training first, you’re gifting most of that stored energy to what you view in higher regard, which is physical strength.
The way that your muscles and body release carbohydrates is a rather rapid reaction, and it’s difficult to perfectly execute the right timing to designate one area for all that energy to go.
However, if we just look at basic principles of working out, we can find a solution.
If you just did strength training, you’re going to use energy and build muscle.
If you just did cardio, you’re going to use energy and build muscle while trimming fat.
You don’t magically burn energy at the end of an exercise; you burn that energy during an exercise.
It’s safe to assume that you will utilize stored energy doing any form of exercise, but you will use more of what’s been stored for your first exercise.
That means that if you start out with strength training as your primary focus, that’s where your body starts bringing energy.
But then there’s a problem: you’re exhausted.
If you do strength training, the last thing you’re going to want to do afterwards is start running on a treadmill, or hop on an exercise bike in the back of the gym.
It might have looked unappealing before, but now, all you want to do is rest, lie down, and perhaps eat. There’s a balance to be had here.
You can’t avoid the fact that your muscles will release lactic acid in one capacity or another during your workout.
But once it does, that’s when fatigue sets in, because it costs you oxygen in your bloodstream to create that lactic acid.
It’s the lack of oxygen that initiates its release, and once that oxygen is used up, you’re going to be ridiculously tired.
It’s possible to split your workouts right down the middle. 10-15 minutes of strength training, then 10-15 minutes of cardio, and repeat.
Even if you can’t bring yourself to do those last 15 minutes, you still got in a good workout with a blend of strength training and cardio.
Doing this isn’t going to “kill your gains,” as many people believe.
If you balance it properly, and don’t over exert yourself for no reason, you can do a health 50/50 of cardio and strength training, and actually move past any previous bulk plateau that you were at.
This is because cardio affects your body in different ways, which we’ll get into in a minute.
Should You do Cardio Pre-Workout?
Here’s how I view it.
If I start out with strength training, I’m not going to have the energy, or the motivation to go on a mile run or hit the spin bike for a half-hour.
If I start with cardio, I’m going to look at that weight rack and curse it in my private thoughts.
If you did strength training first and then started running, you’re still going to be tired because you’re moving your entire body.
If you start with cardio, you’re then transitioning to a stable position on a bench or under a smith machine, so you won’t have to physically run around anymore.
I don’t know about you, but even when I don’t want to necessarily work out, I can go to the gym and pick up a weight, and immediately feel that vigor running through me.
I can get through my set. Apply that same mindset to cardio, and do it first if you find yourself extremely fatigued at the end of doing your normal strength training.
It’s important to account for your fitness goals in all of this.
If you’re trying to improve your endurance and that’s your main focus right now, then you should absolutely start with cardio and work your way up from there to strength training.
Maybe your goal is to bulk up and beef out those muscles.
That’s okay, too: you can start with strength training, and then do cardio last (if you still have the energy leftover, that is).
Either way, they will both benefit you, and will not kill your gains.
Why Should You Do Both Weightlifting and Cardio Workouts?
Not all of the benefits of cardio and weightlifting are mutually exclusive.
In fact, you can get most of these benefits from both types of exercise, but depending on which type you choose, you can receive up to 3x more of these benefits than with the other training type.
We’re going to go over each benefit you can gain from strength training and cardio workouts, and pore over everything that shows you why these are both very important aspects of your physical fitness and personal health.
Prevents Diabetes and Heart Disease
Diabetes affects over one-hundred million Americans every year, and considering there are only 325+ million of us, that’s nearly a third of everyone.
Cardio exercise majorly aids in weight loss, which can be directly attributed to decreasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Strength training is also excellent for your heart, and because it not only helps with weight control, but burning sugar in a more efficient manner, it may be even better than cardio for diabetes control.
It’s estimated by the CDC that one American dies every 37 seconds in the United States because of heart disease. It’s a very serious problem.
Aids in Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression usually go hand-in-hand. One fuels the other, and neither of them make anyone feel very good.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise in general can help you gain confidence, which can quash some of those less-than-good thoughts, as well as release feel-good endorphins and shifting your focus off of unnecessary worries.
It’s a very powerful coping and grounding tool that’s used by a lot of people worldwide.
Cardio is normally seen as the biggest help here, but weightlifting plays a major role in helping ease these symptoms.
Cardio will give you a bigger rush of endorphins, such as serotonin, and give quicker relief to these symptoms.
Maintains a Healthy Weight for Organ Function
Being overweight is not good for your health. Being obese is even worse.
Strength training can cut calories, though admittedly slower than cardiovascular exercise can.
When you engage in strength training, you strengthen your heart while also shedding calories, which is why both methods should be used in tandem.
Vital systems that are affected by obesity, and hence greatly aided with weightlifting and cardio exercise, are: respiratory organs, endocrine system, digestive system, reproductive system, kidneys, cardiovascular system, immune system, and musculoskeletal system, to name a few.
Lower Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
Once upon a time, we were all told that exercise helps lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, whether it was weightlifting or running.
Not only were those claims true, but now we know why.
You produce something in your blood called LDL, and the more you exercise, the faster you expel it from your blood.
Blood cholesterol levels can be indicated with simple tests because it’s about the consistent levels of LDL that are present in your blood during a normal day, and as we know, high cholesterol leads to heart attacks and potentially to strokes.
The irony in lowering high blood pressure is that you exercise your body through cardio by pumping blood faster.
You do have to become more active to lower it, which will temporarily raise your blood pressure and increased risks, but that paired with a healthy diet can reduce it quickly.
When you have high blood pressure, there’s more strain on your arteries because your heart is requiring more from them to continue to pump blood.
You reduce your blood pressure by using low intensity workouts, and you lower your risks at the same time.
For this, it’s best to stick to cardio at first and leave weightlifting for later.
Reduce the Risks of Cancer
Researchers found that in a 2009 meta-analysis of 52 epidemiologic studies, that you have a 24% lower risk of developing colon cancer if you are physically active.
In 2013, a study revealed that in both pre- and post-menopausal women, there was a 12% decreased risk of breast cancer.
Statistics like these, from sources such as the National Cancer Institute, show time and time again that you can fight the development of cancer cells with exercise.
Reducing Physical Stress on the Body
It sounds very backwards that by increasing your BPM and straining your muscles that you’re putting less stress on your body, but it’s actually true.
Stress can come from being overweight, but it can also just come from having a lack of serotonin, which we talked about earlier.
Stress is directly related to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, lowered sex drive, insomnia, depression, headaches, heartburn, heart attack risks, erectile dysfunction, and a weakened immune system (it doesn’t end there).
Physical stress strangles you, but exercise-induced stress to your body builds muscles and rights any impaired brain chemical production.
It’s imperative to your physical health.
Maintains Your Mood and Sex Life
Being overweight, or at the very least out of shape, can drastically impair your ability to perform sexually.
This can lead to lowered sex drive in women, and erectile dysfunction symptoms in men along with a lowered sex drive.
Exercise in general will help here, because of the complex reaction that your body goes through in a cocktail of weight loss, confidence boosts, serotonin production, and many, many more factors.
It doesn’t matter if you do cardio or strength training for this; just exercise, and it will help.
What Type of Cardio is Best Combined With Weightlifting?
I would say that the best possible cardio you can do to prevent losing gains is rowing.
While cycling is definitely good to do, using rowing in a VIIT environment can actually help build muscle while getting a decent cardio workout going.
If you’re going to combine any cardio exercise with weightlifting, let it be rowing.
If you already have rowing as part of your weightlifting regimen, then this is the part where I inform you that you’ve been doing a good amount of cardio all alone.
Rowing moves your femoral artery in your left leg, as well as your brachial artery in your right arm.
Because you’re using all of your appendages to initiate these exercises, you’re actually pumping more blood through some of your largest arteries in your body (apart from your coronary arteries, which you use when you do any cardio).
Since rowing can also work out about seven to ten different muscles, it only makes sense to use it along with weightlifting for the best possible results.
However, if this is already incorporated into your strength training regimen, it’s a good idea to consider using an exercise bike for your cardio instead.
Since you’re already using a rowing machine and getting those dynamic movements in place, you can use a bike to strictly focus on cardio.
Since weight training already burns a lot of calories (approximately up to 400 per hour), flipping into cardio mode on an exercise bike can cut more calories than you initially intended.
One hour of intense exercise bike usage can burn up to 900 calories, so that means two hours at the gym can cut 1,300 calories out of your daily diet.
Considering that most fully grown men need around 2,500 or less just to sustain their weight each day, that’s an absolute ton.
Some might say you could supplement that with a healthy diet and pack those calories back on, but it’s better to just take the cardio slow at that point.
It is beneficial, but not if you go into overkill mode.
Do a moderate level of intensity for twenty to thirty minutes, and you should get all the exercise in that you need if accompanied by a predominate weight training workout plan.
Diversify Your Workout
It’s important to have some diversity in your workout, otherwise you’re doomed to the same results time and time again.
Cardio should be used to help maintain your weight, shed calories, build leg muscle strength, and keep yourself healthy.
Weightlifting should be used to maintain or bulk your muscle mass, keep yourself lean, strong, and aesthetic while also contributing to your heart health and mental wellbeing.
We need to stop assuming that these two polarizing forms of working out are against each other, when in fact they work in tandem to improve your life.
Find a way to work cardio into your routine.