Not all exercises are created equal and you should know that by know. Regardless of your personal preferences, there are objectively lousy exercises and highly effective exercises; while the majority of moves belongs somewhere in the middle. But can the same be said for training regimes?
Today we’re going to take up the rather challenging task of comparing resistance training against running and cycling and finally deciding who rules them all. Why is that necessary, when both weightlifting and cardio training seem to offer unique health, fat loss and muscle-building benefits? Because first, it will help us debunk some ugly myths about both lifting and cardio routines and set the record straight, and second, we’ll get to describe in detail why resistance training is the second greatest idea in the world after the invention of the wheel.
Yeah, we’re pretty confident about the winner because we’ve done our research – to resolve the strength training vs. cardio conundrum, we’ve dig out tons of scientific evidence and consulted many experts on the subject. In fact, some athletes and training gurus have been recently arguing that the fitness world is ready to ditch cardio altogether. Ouch!
We hope that won’t really happen, though. You can’t get everything from one type of training and running and cycling have an integral place in a well-rounded fitness program. That’s a solid fact and this article is based on utmost respect for these forms of exercise.
However, whenever any truth-lover attempts isolate the benefits from both strength training and running/cycling and stack them up against each other, strength training emerges as the superior choice. And if you don’t have time to have that well-rounded fitness program we mentioned, it’s much better to grab a barbell than hit the pavement.
Here are 10 bullet-proof reasons why.
#1. Running Only Builds Muscle in the Lower Legs
We all know that runners have amazing calves and quads, but that’s usually the end of the story with the exception of runners with freakish genetics. There’s really no surprise here – running primarily stresses the ankle joints and the cardiovascular system and it doesn’t require a big enough range of motion to stimulate significant muscle growth elsewhere. On a side note, have you noticed that sprinters often rely on strength training to increase their speed and power?
That’s because running by itself doesn’t allow them to apply the greatest training stimulus required for maximizing their results – after the beginner phase, the main benefits come in the form of cardiovascular conditioning. But do you know which form of training will help you build (and keep on building!) whole-body muscle strength and mass? That’s right.
#2. Cycling Promotes Bad Posture
Here’s the problem: cycling does nothing to develop the hips or the upper body, which is why many cyclists who have the bragging rights for monster quads suffer from an embarrassing absence of gluteal development. Also, the cycling position is not natural, since our spine is designed to have three balanced curves that make up its S-shape. When you’re on a bike, your spine rounds forward from the tailbone to the shoulders and your spine loses its natural shape. Over time, this can easily lead to a network of health issues and dysfunctionalities, such as lower back disorders, terrible posture and a “pancake butt” comprised of mostly inactive glutes.
#3. It’s All About Strength – and Strength Training Does It Better
Regardless of which physical attribute you worship the most – agility, speed, size, strength, balance, etc. – you have to admit that strength is the quality to rule them all. Stronger muscles can do everything better! Orchestrating more powerful jumps? Check. Protecting your joints and connective tissues? Yep. Lifting ridiculous amounts of weight? Absolutely. And as you may already know, nothing builds muscle strength like the progressive overload implemented in strength training.
#4. Strength Training Boosts Metabolism More Powerfully
When you increase your muscle mass, you boost your resting metabolism, which makes your body burn more calories. Lean muscle mass requires more fuel for everyday functioning than fat, so the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you can burn just by living and breathing.
Then, weightlifting creates a lot of muscle damage that increases post-workout metabolism because it takes energy to repair the muscle fibers you’ve destroyed while training, which equals to even more calories burned. Of course, intensive periods of running or cycling also create muscle damage (mostly to the legs!) and spark up your metabolism, but this is dramatically less than what you’d get from a regular resistance training routine.
One recent study from North Dakota State University found that you can burn 346 calories in just 13 minutes of performing a 6-exercise resistance circuit, while running at a 10-minute mile pace for the same amount of time will only burn 146 calories. Another study showed that 12 minutes of kettlebell swings had the same metabolic impact as running for 12 minutes, but with the added benefits of strengthening many muscles that are neglected when running.
To burn more calories, you need to up both your anaerobic and aerobic energy expenditures, which is best done with high-intensity total-body resistance training (according to science, it’s even better than HIIT cardio). So if you want to rev up your metabolism and lean out as fast as possible, resistance training should be the cornerstone of your program, period.
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