Strength training is something that I personally enjoy so I thought I would point out some of the reasons I think strength training is awesome (or at lease mostly better than cardio).
I may just be re-presenting the wheel to civilization all over again only painted a different colour (bright pink with tiger stripes and polka dots!) with my post, but *shrugs* it makes me happy.
The main point I want to make is cardio and strength training are not mutually exclusive.
When I completed my presonal trainers course, the instructor at the time pushed cardio and strength training together. We were taught that one without the other meant an incomplete package that would never allow you to fully reach your fitness goals. When people asked “if you strength train/body build do you also have to do cardio?” the response was “No, you don’t have to do cardio, but if you don’t it just means you will look great in your coffin when you die of a heart attack.” At the time I bought into this no questions asked and did steady state cardio for nothing less than 50-60min per session 5-6 days per week with strength training because I didn’t want to die of heart attack and I was also told that if I wanted to change my body composition the only way to do it was with lots of cardio.
Thinking back on this I don’t understand how it is the instructor could say this or why the hell I fell for it. The evidence and reasoning for why this statement was ass backwards was even being delivered within the course. We were taught that cardiovascular exercise is an endurance exercise in which a repeative motion is done for a sustained period of time resulting in an increased heart rate. We were also taught that gains in endurance can translate into some gains in strength, and that gains in strength also translate into some gains in endurance. The two are not mutually exclusive. Also anyone that lifts has probably noticed that their heart rate elevates when they lift. That combined with muscle fatique are the reasons we have rest periods beteween sets when lifting. That is why shortening rest periods is a simple but effective way (one of many ways) to increase the intensity of a workout. Any strength exercise (espeically the big compound lifts) will get the heart rate up very effectively especially if the lifter is pushing for their personal best. The above statment suggests that strength training will not exercise the heart muscle and people must therefore do special excerise just for the heart or else! But really anything that elevates the heart rate exercises/trains the heart muscle/cardiovascular system. And studies are showing there are plenty of benefits to be had from short bursts of high intensity exercise.
Cardio can easily become repetitive and boring, especially if you are using standard equipment like ellipticals, treadmills, and spin bikes. With strength training the variations are endless with all the mixing and matching of motions, equipement, weights, reps, sets, and rest periods. It is relatively easy with all these options to keep the body adapting to new things. You can also add more of a “cardio” element to your workout while maintaining a strength and power focus by adding plyometrics and dynamic moves, such as kettlebell excercises.
Strength training can be much more time efficient. If you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to training or you don’t want to dedicate a lot of time to training focusing on strength training can be the more efficient way to spend your time. Strength training burns more calories over the long haul in terms of the afterburn following your training. Also, focusing your strength training on compound multi-joint excerises means you can get in and effective full-body workout in a relatively short time window.
So . . . cardio good or bad?
I say some dedicated cardio is ok, if you want to do it. And if you do choose to do some cardio, you don’t need tons of it (unless you are training for an endurance event-those are entirely different beasts). I suggest shorter, less frequent, higher quality/intensity sessions in the form of interval training intead of long steady pace sessions. I am not saying long steady pace cardio is bad, just that not doing dedicated cardio sessions for an hour 5-6 days per week is probably not going to leave you dead of a heart attack but looking great in your coffin.