Weightlifting Or Cardio: How To Know Which One Is Best For You

About the Author: Ashley Gray

Ashley Gray

In the pursuit of a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing physique, individuals often find themselves at a crossroads when deciding between two primary forms of exercise: cardiovascular (cardio) workouts and weightlifting. The question arises: Which is the superior choice for achieving weight loss and overall health? This article aims to explore this age-old debate by delving into the scientific literature and shedding light on the differences between cardio and weightlifting, their effects on the body, and the importance of incorporating both into a comprehensive fitness routine.

Differences Between Weightlifting And Cardio

Before delving into the specifics of how each type of exercise affects the body, it’s crucial to understand the fundamental differences between weightlifting and cardio.

Cardio and weightlifting are the two types of workouts that differ in intensity, duration, and the sets of muscles that they activate. They also produce energy by burning calories in entirely different ways.


Cardiovascular exercise, commonly referred to as cardio, is an aerobic activity that elevates the heart rate, rapidly burns calories, and enhances overall endurance. Examples of cardio exercises include cycling, jogging, dancing, running, and swimming. These activities primarily engage the cardiovascular system and require oxygen to fuel the body.

Cardio workouts often involve longer duration of activity and result in sustained increases in heart rate and respiration. While they effectively burn calories during the exercise session, their effects on muscle gain and metabolism are typically less pronounced compared to weightlifting.

The number of calories burned during cardio exercises depends on factors like body size and exercise intensity. In general, a cardio workout burns more calories than an equivalent duration of weight training (Tinsley, 2017).


Weightlifting, on the other hand, is an anaerobic activity characterized by intense physical exertion over a short duration. During weightlifting, the body relies on stored glucose for energy production, independent of oxygen.

Weightlifting encompasses exercises that involve resistance against gravity, such as using weight machines and free weights like barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells. These exercises primarily target muscle groups and lead to the development of muscle mass. This increase in muscle mass subsequently elevates metabolism, resulting in the long-term burning of fat.

An essential concept associated with weightlifting is “Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption” (EPOC), often referred to as the afterburn effect. After a weightlifting session, the body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate, contributing to fat loss even after the workout has ended (Tinsley, 2017).

There are ample scientific reports that weightlifting for 15 minutes a day will lead to a better metabolic system, increase in stamina, and muscle flexibility.

The Importance of Stimulation, Adaptation, and Recovery

Regardless of the type of exercise, several fundamental principles apply to both cardio and weightlifting. Understanding these principles is crucial for maximizing the benefits of workouts:

  1. Stimulation of Muscles: Progress in exercise is achieved by consistently challenging the muscles. This can involve increasing the number of repetitions, the weight lifted, or the distance covered in activities like running or jogging.
  2. Adaptation: The human body is remarkably adaptable. It adjusts to the demands placed upon it, which is why it’s essential to vary workouts and intensity levels to continue seeing progress.
  3. Recovery: Adequate recovery is vital for both muscle gain and weight loss. Recovery encompasses factors like sleep, rest, and pre and post-workout nutrition. Muscles need time to repair and grow stronger.
  4. Consistency: Consistency is key to achieving fitness goals. Irregular or sporadic workouts yield minimal results. A well-structured and consistent exercise routine is necessary for success.

Tips for Effective Workouts

To make the most of your workouts, whether cardio or weightlifting, consider the following tips:

  1. Warm-up: Always begin with a proper warm-up routine to prepare the body for exercise. A well-warmed body is less prone to injury.
  2. Progression: Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts over time. Avoid the temptation to push too hard too quickly, as this can lead to injury.
  3. Rest: Incorporate rest periods into your workouts, especially during strenuous activities. Overexertion can lead to illness or injury.
  4. Hydration: Stay hydrated, particularly in hot and humid conditions. Dehydration can impair performance and hinder recovery.
  5. Listening to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body responds during exercise. If you experience dizziness, nausea, or extreme fatigue, it’s crucial to stop and rest.
  6. Proper Attire: Wear comfortable workout attire that allows for a full range of motion. Ill-fitting or excessively tight clothing can hinder your workout.
  7. Cool-down: After your workout, take the time to cool down and stretch. This helps prevent muscle soreness and aids in recovery.

The Verdict: Cardio vs. Weightlifting

In the ongoing debate between cardio and weightlifting, it’s clear that both forms of exercise offer unique benefits. Cardio exercises, with their aerobic nature, excel at burning calories during the activity and have less pronounced after-effects on muscle gain and metabolism. On the other hand, weightlifting, characterized by its anaerobic intensity, burns fewer calories during the workout but has a more significant after-burn effect, contributing to long-term fat loss.

The choice between cardio and weightlifting depends on one’s specific fitness goals. Cardio is more effective at decreasing body fat when performed for more than 150 minutes per week. In contrast, weight training is superior for building muscle. For individuals looking to optimize their body composition and overall health, a combination of both cardio and weightlifting is often the best approach (Tinsley, 2017).


In the quest for improved health and a fitter physique, the debate between cardio and weightlifting rages on. While both forms of exercise offer distinct advantages, they are most effective when used in tandem. Cardiovascular workouts excel at burning calories during activity, while weightlifting provides lasting benefits by boosting metabolism and promoting muscle growth.

Understanding the principles of stimulation, adaptation, and recovery is crucial for achieving fitness goals. Consistency, proper warm-up and cool-down routines, hydration, and listening to one’s body all contribute to the success of any workout regimen.

Ultimately, the choice between cardio and weightlifting should align with an individual’s specific objectives. If you are seeking guidance, come visit our personal training facility in Fort Myers where our physical therapists and personal trainers can help tailor a workout plan to meet your goals effectively. In the end, a balanced fitness routine that incorporates both cardio and weightlifting is often the most successful path to achieving overall health and well-being.


Tinsley, G. (2017, October 24). Cardio vs Weight Lifting: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

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