What is the difference between cardio and strength training?

What is the difference between cardio and strength training?

What is the difference between cardio and strength training?

By now you should know that cardio does not mean that you have to spend hours on a treadmill or cycling until your knees give in, but it is simply exercising to a point where your heart and metabolic rate is increased. We will now look into the difference between cardio and strength training.

Cardio decreases your inflammatory signalling in the fatty tissue, while also preventing your body from storing too much fat, as long as you are sticking to healthy doses of cardio. Cardio also builds endurance as it strengthens your body’s circulatory system.

On the other hand, strength training uses resistance exercises that contract your muscles in order to build muscle. While cardio may burn more calories during a workout, strength training in itself results in a metabolic spike after a workout, this means that calories are burned even after the workout.

Through balancing your cardio and strength training, you will be able to burn calories, lose excess fat and gain muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day.

So, cardio and strength training ultimately go together like salt and pepper, mac and cheese, bread and butter (although probably not the food pairings you should be thinking of while reading an article on working out 😉) – they are a classic combination for building a lean, toned physique.

What do cardio and strength training have to do with weight loss?

When comparing strength training and cardio with respect to weight loss, many people say that cardio is the way to lose weight and strength training is the way to gain muscle. However, the reality is not so simple. There are a number of schools of thought on this subject, in order to properly unpack these, we will first look at what kind of exercise is likely to burn more calories.


In reality, cardio and strength training burn equal amounts of calories, but what it all comes down to, is how each one is performed. When you are performing high-intensity training (HIIT), such as sprinting on a treadmill, you are running for half of the time and resting for the other half – depending on your work to rest ratio. To explain this simply, if you are sprinting for one minute and then walking for two, your ratio is 1:2. The same thinking goes for when you are lifting weights. You burn the calories when you lift the weight, but then you have resting periods in between.

However, many people spend more time resting during a heavy weight training session than they do when walking or running on a treadmill which often results in fewer calories being burned after a strength training workout as opposed to a cardio workout.

Earlier we mentioned how your body continues to burn calories after you have lifted weights, this is known as EPOC – Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. This also impacts the number of calories burned from a single workout. So, if you opt for a weight training workout, it needs to be one that is intense in lifting, with just short periods of rest between sets.

Both cardio and strength training have the potential to burn large numbers of calories and yield great results, depending on how they are performed. However, cardio tends to rack in the higher numbers when it comes to calorie burn due to the fact that most people have fewer rest periods in between intervals.

Weight loss

When you are looking to lose weight, personal trainers and studies have found that through combining cardio which helps shed fat with weight training, which helps build muscle (also, remember that muscle weighs more than fat), you are likely to achieve the best results. However, the biggest finding after these studies were conducted was that what people ate impacted their fitness levels and body goals more than the type of exercise performed.

To help you to remember this concept, “food before fitness” should be a saying you keep in mind before embarking on any sort of health journey. This means, get your eating healthy and portions correct first, as unhealthy and excessive eating habits can quickly unravel all of the hard work you put in during those gym sessions.

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