Written by Khaya Msikinya
Which is better for my goals - weightlifting or cardio?! It’s a question that will never cease to be asked and debated. The real answer to this question is another question. What’s your reason for working out? Why are you considering incorporating either of these into your lifestyle? I imagine running for miles or lifting heavy weights aren’t simply items on your bucket list, among skydiving and seeing the Eiffel Tower, so it’s really important to articulate your “why.” In an effort not to lead you too far down the anatomy rabbit hole, I’ll keep it simple and break this down into 3 sections:
Strength and Power
Aesthetic Muscle Tone (i.e. to look like a Greek God, or Greek Goddess… or an Avenger)
If dropping a few pounds is your reason for working out, caloric deficit is the true way that you’ll achieve this. The same old song about calories in versus calories out applies in this case. A mix of cardio and strength training is the way to go here, but definitely with a focus on cardio. Cardio is certainly your best friend when it comes to increasing your caloric burn in your workout. BUT this doesn’t have to mean steady-state cardio (i.e. boring hours on the treadmill). This can mean a lot of high intensity interval training (HIIT) to really torch fat, and particularly with incorporation of weights. Ultimately, a cardio workout burns more calories than a weightlifting workout. However, your metabolism may stay elevated for longer after weights than cardio. So, our recommendation for weight loss is to combine the two, but definitely make sure you’re getting your cardio in.
When looking to lose weight, achieving a caloric deficit of 3,500 kcal a week from your recommended maintenance caloric goal is the objective (about 500 per day). Sticking to the deficit allows you to burn 1 pound a week. Workout sessions that average anywhere between 350-600 calories burned can go a long way in helping you achieve your goal.
Strength and Power
This one may be a bit self-explanatory…
Client: “How do I get stronger?”
Khaya: “By picking up heavy things.”
There are a few categories when it comes to weightlifting that can be categorized by repetition ranges (the amount of times you perform a move in a set - i.e. if you’re doing a set of squats, how many times you do those squats).
Power: 1-5 reps
Strength and Hypertrophy (muscle growth): 6-8 reps
Hypertrophy: 10 reps
Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance: 12-15 reps
Aesthetic Muscle Tone
When it comes to building lean muscle mass and shedding body fat, marrying both weightlifting and cardio is imperative. You could do this by splitting your workout week into weightlifting days and cardio days, or by performing the majority of your workouts in a HIIT style - meaning you’re basically turning everything into cardio. This is recommended because it often also means you’re spending less time in the gym - which our clients love to hear.
Choosing how to construct your HIIT workout also determines how much muscle you’ll put on. Focusing on heavier lifts with added cardio between sets or post-lift session will ultimately help you build more muscle while shedding fat. Focusing on using lighter weights and performing more repetitions with very minimal rest time will help you burn more calories throughout the workout, resulting in more fat loss but less muscle gain.
Here’s a great high-intensity workout that doesn’t require you to use too much of your brain since your timer helps you out a ton.
EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute): Grab one medium-to-heavy kettlebell and a set of medium dumbbells. Set a timer for 10 minutes. At the top of each minute, perform the prescribed amount of repetitions of the move. Rest for the duration of the minute, and then start with the next move at the top of the next minute. If you’d like to have more rest time, it just means you need to work faster! (Our trick to get you to burn more calories).
Burpees - 10 repetitions
Kettlebell Swings - 12 repetitions
Pushups - 10 repetitions
Sit-Ups - 15 repetitions
Squat to Press - 10 repetitions
If you’ve set the clock for 10 minutes, this means you’ll get through these 5 exercises 2x each. Go through all 5, then go back and start at the top with the Burpees.