Cardio vs. Strength Training: You need both!

I get asked this question a lot: “Andrea, I really want to lose weight. Should I start with cardio or should I start with lifting weights?”

The answer is BOTH!

You get the best results when you combine both cardiovascular and strength training exercises. You burn body fat, build lean muscle, and become a calorie burning machine! I was going to write an entire blog about it, but then I remembered I already had written something about it in my online coaching program, Stop Eating Crap! Plus 4 Equally Amazing Strategies to Help You Be the Champion of Your Own Health & Happiness. 

It’s actually one of my favorite sections of the program, and I get the best feedback about it from my clients, so I’m excited to share it with you now. Here it is:

Here is an actual example of a conversation I overheard in the coffee shop while I was waiting for my Friday herbal tea:

“Girl, you need to STOP it with all those weights. You’re going to end up super bulky.”

“It’s a FACT that lifting burns more calories over the course of the day. I’ll end up thinner than you.”

“You will NEVER burn as many calories in a day of lifting as I do in ONE long run.”

The back and forth between these two young women went on and on forever. Had I not already been running late for my morning client, I probably would have sat down and interjected myself into their conversation. I didn’t have time to do that.

So now, instead of sounding like a preachy fitness expert, I decided to speak directly to Strength Training and Cardio, like they’re two bickering siblings.

I present you an Open Letter to Strength Training and Cardio.

Dear Strength Training and Cardio,

First of all, let me start by saying that I’m a huge fan of both of you. You do so much for everyone you work with: You tone muscle, reduce blood pressure, burn fat, build endurance, and let’s not forget the boat loads of endorphins that you boost us with. You’re both so amazing and so incredible and I respect you both so much…

…but we need to talk about the fissure you’re creating in workout culture.

Cardio. You come in so many different forms! You have so much variety and are so easily accessible to so many of us. Running, walking, biking, hiking, kickboxing, swimming, you name it! You are always there for me and I take comfort in knowing that no matter how crazy my day is, all I need to do is strap on my shoes and you’re there. And aside from keeping us looking trim, you’re well known for increasing life expectancy! I mean, in just 2012, a study from the Copenhagen City Heart organization showed that slow to moderate jogging increases the life expectancy of men by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years. And don’t even get me started on all those glorious endorphins you fill us with. Seriously. We love you. But you need to knock it off with all of the strength training bashing. Stop telling women that strength training will make them bulky, that overuse or improper weight selection can cause major damage, or that strength training costs too much over the long run in expensive machines or gym memberships. Just. Stop.

And Strength Training, I absolutely love the way you shape my body. There is nothing out there that can transform my body faster than spending quality time with you. I love how you are so great at burning fat and I love how you not only strengthen my muscles, but also strengthen the tendons and joints in my body. I really appreciate how you’re helping me prevent osteoporosis later on in life by building strong muscles that increase bone cell production in my body. Actually, you often get a bad rep from Cardio for being a major cause of injury, but in reality, you help PREVENT injury from happening in the first place by creating a stronger base for daily activities. Plus, you are the absolute best when it comes to increasing metabolism. No one will argue that point. You’re fabulous, but you need to lay off Cardio. Stop blabbering on and on about how running will ruin my knees and how Cardio will cause me cellular damage in my lungs and heart. You and I both know that type of damage happens in circumstances where the individual is doing extreme and repetitive training.

Here is the deal, you two: I am sick of your bickering. Yes, you are both great at what you do, but neither of you are without flaws. The reality is that the flaws that each of you have can be almost perfectly balanced out if you just work together.

All of the knee pain, tendinitis, and shin splints that Cardio can cause? Strength Training can help build up the muscles and tissues to prevent and rehabilitate those types of Cardio injuries. Cardio can help build endurance and allow for better oxygen flow in the body, which allows for faster recovery for the muscles after Strength Training.

Whether you want to admit it or not, you need each other.

Plus, you have a lot in common. You both help reduce disease, improve mental health, strengthen the immune system, and give us a great boost in confidence. With your powers combined, you burn more calories, trim more fat, and create a stronger body than either of you can do on your own. You offset each other’s weaknesses and enhance each other’s strengths. This is a win-win, honestly.

So, what do you say? Can you work together? You’re both so important to me and my daily health, and I think you need to know how great you are together. No one has to choose between the two of you, you’re both invaluable. Plus, there are so many ways to share the spotlight. Take Metabolic or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts for instance. These workouts allow us to get all the fabulous heart pounding that we’ve come to expect from Cardio and all of the muscle building lifting that we get from Strength Training. You guys are wonderful on your own, but you’re at your best when you work together.

Most sincerely yours,


I hope you enjoyed that letter! But most of all I hope you realize that strength training and cardio go hand in hand. When combined, they provide amazing benefits and get you results.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below. If you’re ready to be the champion of your own health and happiness and would like to learn more about my online coaching program, just click here.

Have a happy and healthy day!

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