Resistance Training Vs. Cardio - Which One Is Better?

Resistance training or cardio? Read on to find out which one works better for you?

Cardio and resistance training are both important parts of a fitness routine. However, some people prefer one over the other. For example, someone could enjoy running every morning while someone else enjoys going to the gym and lifting weights instead. While they’re both beneficial for your health, they serve completely different purposes, so there’s no definitive answer to the question about which one is better. 

Ultimately, there’s no single fitness plan out there that’s a one size fits all solution. Whether cardio or resistance training is better for you depends on your health goals. Let’s discuss the benefits of both to help you determine which is right for you and when you should choose one over the other. 


Cardio is the go-to exercise for when you want to burn calories quickly and support heart health while increasing your energy. Cardio burns more calories than strength training, and you can work up a sweat much faster. If you’re trying to lose weight, cardio is your best bet because you can burn hundreds of calories in a short workout as long as it’s vigorous enough. 

Cardio is also known for being a great way to boost endorphins and improve your mood. Runners experience a runner’s high because cardio releases endorphins in the brain that can help relieve stress while making you feel happier and more confident. You can experience the same great feeling runners feel after a morning jog through other various forms of cardio like cross training, using the elliptical machine, or even going for a hike with your dog. Additionally, heart health experts and nurses recommend some light cardio for those who are trying to improve the strength of their heart.  

Benefits of Resistance Training

Even though cardio burns more calories, resistance training can improve the way you burn calories, helping you burn calories when you’re not working out at all because it promotes muscle growth. With resistance training, you spend less time performing more difficult exercises, which requires your body to continue to burn calories long after you’ve stopped working out. 

Resistance training is also great for individuals with a specific goal in mind. While cardio also supports health goals like weight loss, resistance training allows you to effectively target your workout with different goals in mind. For example, if you want to build your biceps, you can focus on just that area of your body. Additionally, strength training can help treat various medical conditions like essential tremor by working out targeted muscle groups to support muscle health. 

Which is Better?

Ultimately, neither is better because you need both. While cardio can help you manage your weight and supply your entire body with the oxygen it needs, resistance training can help you build muscle. However, if you’re pressed for time, focus on resistance training because you can find ways to add a little bit of cardio to those workouts.

 For example, yoga is considered both cardio and strength training because even though you’re moving slowly into different positions, you can still increase your heart rate while using the resistance or weight from your body to build muscle. In terms of losing weight and keeping it off, you need a good balance of both cardio and strength training. 

Cardio can help you burn calories quickly, allowing you to lose weight quickly. However, resistance training can help you burn fat and keep it off because muscles burn more calories than fat while your body is at rest. Ultimately, with more muscle in your body, you can burn more calories no matter what you’re doing. However, if you want to lose weight fast, you’ll need to spend some time getting your heart rate up., which is why your daily workout should include both strength training and cardio. 

Combining Cardio and Resistance Training

If you truly want to experience gains while maintaining a healthy weight, you should combine strength training and cardio to help you lose fat while gaining muscle. Of course, this might not be your ideal routine every day since it takes longer to get in both types of exercise, but it’s well worth it if you’re trying to improve your health. 

During this time, you can’t completely trust a scale to track weight loss because you’ll be gaining muscle, so while your waist size and how you feel will change, your weight could stay the same or may even go up. Muscle has a greater density than fat, so don’t think you’re not losing weight just because your scale tells you you’ve gained weight. In that case, you’ve gained weight from muscle, not fat, which is a completely different type of weight gain. 

Should You Do Cardio or Resistance Training First?

There are many exercises that combine cardio and resistance training, including yoga and pilates, that use your own weight to help you build muscle. However, you can also split these two exercises up if you want to spend more time focusing on your workouts. 

If you’re trying to burn calories, you can do cardio after your strength training to help warm up before jumping on a machine or going for a run. However, if you want to have better endurance, you can do cardio before weights because cardio can start to tire your body out, making you endure a different type of workout. The truth is it really doesn’t matter when you do which workout because they’re both effective ways to burn fat to help you reach your health goals. 

The good news is that you don’t have to do cardio and resistance training every day of the week. Instead, you can do thirty minutes of cardio every day and work on strength training two or three times a week to maximize your efforts. 

Final Thoughts

When looking for the right workout program for you, look for one that combines cardio and resistance training to help you maximize your fat burn while gaining muscle. Always consider your goals and current fitness level and health before starting a new fitness regimen to ensure it’s healthy for you and can help you achieve your health goals. 

Ashley Nielsen

Ashley Nielsen earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration Marketing at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is a freelance writer where she shares knowledge about general business, marketing, lifestyle, wellness or financial tips. During her free time she enjoys being outside, staying active, reading a book, or diving deep into her favorite music. 

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