Understanding Cardio vs. Weights

Everyone wants to have a healthy lifestyle. For most, that means a good diet and a regular exercise routine. But how do you know what exercise type is best? Is cardio your best bet, or do you need to start pumping some serious iron with weights? Cardio vs. weights has been a debate for a while, especially when it comes to fitness and weight loss. Let’s check out the facts.

Cardio vs. Weights: The Basics

Cardio is any exercise that improves your cardiovascular system as its primary function. That is your heart and lungs, which keeps your blood flow and breathing in good order. Regular cardio makes your resting heart rate lower, meaning your body can work better and harder under pressure.

Weights are a form of strength training. At its most basic, it’s about picking up something heavy over and over until the muscles in use start to grow. Different types of weights work for different muscle groups. There’s also usually a big focus on proper form to protect the back and the joints.

Examples of Cardio Exercises

A simple cardio routine could comprise of:

  • Warm-up with stretches
  • Skipping
  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics
  • Dance
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Examples of Weights Exercises

Weights are all about strength training and focusing on different muscle groups.

  • Squats while holding a weight
  • Pullups (literally, lifting your own weight using a bar)
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench press
  • Ankle or wrist weights to improve arm or leg strength
  • Bicep curls with smaller weights

There are any number of weights and weight machines to explore, but always get someone experienced to show you the ropes first. Going into a deadlift, for example, without knowing the proper form, could cause you a serious injury.

Weights: Pros and Cons

So, what’s good and what’s bad about lifting weights? What should you be aware of? Is it suitable for anybody?


  • Highly measurable results as muscle growth is often evident after only a few sessions, plus being able to lift heavier and heavier weights is a clear indicator of progress.
  • In addition to building muscles, lifting weights improves bone mass and may reduce the risk of certain conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Overall strength improves
  • Improved confidence
  • Increased metabolism


  • Increased metabolism can lead to unhealthy snacking
  • Steep learning curve; users must learn correct form and how to use all equipment safely
  • Weights don’t boost heart health as effectively as cardio.
  • Feeling stiff and sore after early lifting sessions can be demotivating.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Lifting Weights?

Weight lifting for weight loss might seem like an oxymoron, but as most lifters know, you burn a whole lot of calories when deadlifting those dumbbells. When it comes to calories burned, strength training is a surprising fat burner.

To know approximately how many calories does lifting weights burn, just think that every pound of muscle on your body needs about eight calories a day to maintain itself, plus even more when it’s working hard pumping iron.

Cardio: Pros and Cons

Cardio can often seem like a more accessible form of exercise. But does it tick all the boxes for a great work out?


  • Helps curb the appetite
  • Excellent for fat loss, especially at low intensity but extended duration
  • Most people who do regular cardio sleep better
  • No equipment required to get started for most people
  • Running and walking are easy and need very little training


  • Easy to over-train, particularly if training solo, which risks pulled muscles
  • Risk of muscle loss if your diet is not protein-rich
  • High-intensity cardio may cause you to store fat

Can You Still Bulk Up Doing Cardio?

Many people worry that if they don’t have the time or equipment to do weights, they won’t ever put any muscle tone on. There is some truth to this, as only doing cardio, especially low-intensity cardio, can lead to muscle loss. The best fitness routine is a careful combo of heart-healthy cardio and muscle-toning strength training.

Cardio vs. Weights FAQ

These are some of the most common questions regarding cardio weight loss or strength training for weight loss.

Does Muscle Burn Fat?

Yes, it does. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you need to burn to maintain it. It’s as simple as that.

Does Cardio Burn Fat?

Yes, all cardio exercises use calories, but the best fat burning cardio workout is one that is low intensity and for an extended duration, like a long swim or a gentle yet lengthy run.

Does Lifting Weights Burn Fat?

As mentioned above, the number of calories burned lifting weights varies from person to person. However, all bodies need to recover and heal muscles after weightlifting, and the body burns a whole lot of fat doing that.

When thinking about weight lifting, calories burned isn’t always a primary concern. Many weight lifters are more interested in muscle tone. However, if you’re one of the thousands googling “how many calories are burned weight lifting,” then rest easy, all strength training is a great fat burner as long as you manage your diet well.

I’m Doing Strength Training for Fat Loss as Well as Muscle Growth. How Much Should I Eat?

It is possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, though it can be tricky for the novice. Body recomposition techniques focus on changing the amount of muscle and fat in your body. These techniques include cutting calories (but not too heavily) in the diet, ensuring the diet is rich in protein, and combining a great routine of strength and cardio exercises.

Other tips include reducing your carb intake, cutting out processed foods and ready meals, and considering protein supplements.


Cardio and weights are both excellent forms of exercise. Weights improve strength and muscle tone, while cardio helps keep the heart and lungs in great condition. A combination of both helps keep you happy and healthy.

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