Lisa, although relatively new to strength training, has been bitten hard by the weight lifting bug. She lifts heavy, takes appropriate rest days, pays attention to nutrition and has completely re-shaped her body over the past year or so. Yay Lisa!
Recently, she asked me a question via my Facebook group (not a member? It’s as easy as clicking on this link and ‘liking’ the page);
Do I really, really need to do cardio on off-lifting days?
By the tone of the question, I’m assuming that Lisa doesn’t really like cardio. That she’d prefer to be lifting weights and would be happy if I told her it that cardio was unnecessary 😉
While I’d love it if that were the truth (not a huge cardio fan myself…), there are several compelling reasons to incorporate cardiovascular training into your weekly strength training schedule. Note that by ‘cardio’, I don’t necessarily mean long, slow distance training on a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike. Different types of cardio can help you achieve different health and fitness goals.
5 reasons you may need to do cardio even if you’re lifting heavy
- accelerated fat loss. Although there are certainly many body builders and fitness models who maintain their athletic physiques with little to cardio, for those of us still seeking fat loss, strength training and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio are a winning combo. For best results, HIIT should be performed either at the end of your strength training session (so as not to tire out the muscles you’re trying to build) or on alternate days (especially on days where you’re training primarily lower body). The best thing about HIIT? It takes very little time, getting you out of the gym much more quickly than long, slow distance cardio.
- active recovery. Did you know that low to moderate-intensity cardio is great for active recovery? While it’s true that your body needs time to recover and regenerate after a heavy lifting session, movement can reduce the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as well as help to maintain joint range of motion. Examples of great active recovery activities? Walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and dancing. Think of your ‘off-lifting’ day as an opportunity to be active outside the gym.
- stress release. Many people enjoy the therapeutic effects of a trail run or a leisurely outdoor cycle. The repetitive nature of the movements can help reduce tension, release stress and quiet that pesky little voice in your head. Don’t think of it as cardio, but rather, really cheap therapy 🙂
- increased movement. North Americans don’t move enough. Even those of us who get to the gym to the gym daily, often spend our remaining waking hours seated. Wearing a pedometer has made me acutely aware of how sedentary I am on non-workout days. A 45-minute walk around the block rewards me with approximately 4000 steps; almost half-way to my daily goal of 10 000.
- habit creation. For many people, the easiest way to create a new habit is to make it a part of their daily schedule. Going to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while the perfect frequency of exercise for beginners, may not be enough to create the new routine that’s crucial to longterm success. Use those ‘rest’ days to solidify your new routine, opting for low intensity cardio options including walking (either on the treadmill or out of doors), swimming or a cardio dance class.
Which do you prefer? Cardio or strength training?
If you answered ‘strength training’, tell me ‘what’ you do for cardio and ‘why’?
Ultimate Booty Workouts, while primarily a strength training book, does include cardiovascular training in it’s 12-week program. Want to strengthen and define your derriere? Make sure you’re lifting heavy and including muscle-revealing cardio intervals!