One of my clients recently asked me as they’re huffing and puffing after finishing their routine for the day:
“How come we don’t do that much cardio here?”
and I thought to myself “That’s an excellent question. I better make a blog post out of it!” I was actually so excited about having something to write about that I don’t think I ever answered their question.
But it’s fairly true, I typically don’t have clients doing much cardio other than airdyne, sleds, battle ropes, etc. Typically any cardio that they do tends to be more interval training; bouts of hard work or all out sprints with long rest periods in between. But this typically lasts about 5-10 minutes for most clients while a bulk of their time at the gym is spent lifting weights.
Why is this?
Well there are a few reasons. First of all, weight training pays you back in dividends both immediately and over time. When you finish a weight training session, your body has to recover from the damage you caused to your muscles; your metabolism will be elevated anywhere from 24-48 hours after a workout. On top of that, weight training helps the body build muscle while simultaneously burning fat, meaning that you begin to achieve the more toned look over time.
But even more importantly, you can lift weights and still get the benefits of cardiovascular exercise at the same time! Most weight training regimens will typically have you do something like
A Bench Press 3×8
B Reverse Lunge 3×8
C Plank 3×45 seconds
where do you do all 3 sets of bench press, then move onto lunges and do all 3 sets before finishing with 3 sets of planks. If you instead made a small change:
A1 Bench Press 3×8
A2 Reverse Lunge 3×8
A3 Plank 3×45 seconds
where now you do a set of bench press, move right into the lunges, and finally doing your plank and repeating this three times through. This simple change makes a world of difference and is called circuit training. If your goals involve looking good while becoming healthier, you should probably be circuit training to some extent.
The reason this works so well is traditionally when you finish with your set of bench press, you have to wait 2, 3, 4 or more minutes between sets before your body is ready to go again. If you instead move from bench press to lunges, well, your legs aren’t tired from benching and you’re ready to go much more quickly, meaning you only have to rest maybe 30-60 seconds, if at all. What this means for you as well as what it means for my clients is you can get a lot more work done in a shorter amount of time which means there is a much larger disruption to the body’s metabolism.
On top of that, to finally answer my client’s question, weight training elevates the heart rate. The problem with traditional weight training methods is the heart rate is only elevated for a short period of time before it comes back down while you rest for your next set. But if you switch to a circuit based style of training, your heart rate will stay much more elevated throughout the workout meaning you get both a cardiovascular training effect as well as a muscle building training effect!
Granted, you won’t be running any marathons if you simply trained like this, but I’m willing to wager that most people running right now are doing so “to be healthy” rather than any actual love of running. If you’re in it to simply look, move and feel good, circuit style weight training is infinitely better than any traditional form of cardio.