Which is better: cardio or weights?

Which is better: cardio or weights?

Published on 7th September, 2021 at 02:40 pm

For years, cardio was touted as the quickest and most effective way to shed kilos and slim down. Then modern studies revealed the fat-burning brilliance of weight training. So which one wins as the best method?

Meet your experts

Aneeka Buys
Master trainer at Virgin Active, founder of Fit Girl Enterprises, author of The Fit Girl Kitchen.

Calmin Valentino
Ultra-marathon runner, certified yoga instructor, group exercise trainer at Virgin Active.

Pie-x Kalala
Pro trainer, group boxing and dancing fitness instructor at Virgin Active.

Mariella Sawyer
Registered dietician, professional triathlete, coach.

Burn, baby, burn

“Both cardio and resistance training are good forms of training for fat loss,” says Buys. “Resistance training builds muscle, and increases your metabolic rate because of the increase in muscle density, which will result in an overall lower body-fat percentage and easier fat loss over time,” she explains. “Cardiovascular training burns more calories, but mostly during the activity.”

Valentino adds that cardio reaches a higher point of fat burning during exercise than weight training, but weight training can elevate your metabolism for longer, even after training has finished.

“I recommend doing both, but it depends on your goal. If your goal is only to burn fat and get toned, then weight training is good at that. If your goal is to burn fat and muscle and be lean and fit, then cardio is your best bet.”

Kalala reminds us that we are not all the same: “Some people lose weight quickly from cardio and others lose weight quickly from weight training. Both are effective at burning fat.” Like Valentino and Buys, Kalala recommends a combination of cardio and weight training for the best results. “Weight training will also help you get definition.”

Here are tips for staying active during the pandemic.

The dietician’s approach

“Weight training helps to firm up specific areas,” says Sawyer. “With dieting, you can’t target specific areas of your body in terms of where you want to lose weight, whereas with weight training you can target arms or legs or tummy or whatever it may be, and work on toning those up. Weight training also helps you to get stronger and prevent injuries.”

Weight training 101

1. “Get the help of a trainer in the beginning, whether you belong to a gym or not. If you’re not in the position to get a trainer, find a trusted YouTube channel that you can follow.” – Valentino

2. “Practise form without weights first, and check your form in the mirror.” – Buys

3. “Select the right weights. You should be able to complete a round of 10 to 12 reps comfortably in the first round. As you do more rounds it will get harder.” – Valentino

4. “Don’t skip stretching. Stretch before and after you touch any weights or machine.” – Kalala

5. Always start with a warm-up set. “If you are using a set of 10kg dumb-bells to complete 15 squats, do a warm-up with a set of 4kg first.” – Buys

6. “Don’t hold your breath. It makes the exercise harder and less effective. Exhale when lifting.” –Valentino

7. “Use your full range of motion, but try not to push past it. Supplement your weight training with mobility or yoga classes to increase your range of motion.” – Valentino

8. “Make sure that the exercise is targeting the intended muscle. If you’re doing a move and it feels like it’s not targeting the muscle area it’s supposed to, your form or technique could be wrong.” – Valentino

9. “Get a spotter. The staff at gyms are always available to help, and a spotter will guide you through the correct range of motion and will be there should things become too difficult and you lose control.” – Buys

10. “If you don’t have gym access, start with body conditioning. Push-ups, pull-ups, ab exercises, high lunges… they all give great results.” – Kalala

Struggling to stick to your exercise routine? Use these tips to form good habits.

Top 3 fat-burning moves

1. Squats!
“During a squat, the three largest muscles of your body are activated – the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. This means they require more energy to be replenished during recovery, and your body will then convert more fat into energy for this replenishment,” says Buys. Kalala recommends adding weights: “If you’re at home, use a bottle of water or a couple kilograms of flour.”

2. Push-ups!
After the lower limbs, the chest – pectoral muscles – are next in line as the largest muscles, and you activate them during a push-up. Try doing push-ups with dumb-bells.

3. Abs!
Kalala recommends doing sit-ups with weights, while Buys recommends planking, saying: “The time under tension is going to help you burn fat faster.”

Enjoy up to 80% off monthly gym fees at Planet Fitness (Reality Core, Plus and Health members) and up to 60% off at Virgin Active (Reality Health members only). Learn more here.

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