penny barnshaw garage fitness girl

Cardio or Strength Training for Weight Loss: Why You Need Both


One of the questions I get asked a lot when it comes to weight loss is whether to concentrate on cardio or strength training in order to burn stubborn fat. 

I always tell them that muscle is your friend, and increasing lean tissue is going to improve your overall body composition, and provide metabolic benefits, too (remember that more muscle mass means you burn more calories at the same weight than if you had less muscle mass). 

But that doesn’t mean you should avoid cardio. To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit, which means you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, and cardio definitely helps you do that. 

The scales aren’t the best measure of your progress

Here’s where things get challenging if you’re relying on the scale to monitor your progress. While muscle burns more calories, meaning that strength training is really going to help you lose stubborn fat, muscle also weighs more than fat. 

Another example of how the scales can be deceiving is that you could lose 2kg of body fat and gain 2kg of muscle, and then look at the scale and feel as though you’ve made no progress at all – when in fact, you’ve made excellent progress. 

There are scales that use sensors to estimate your body fat percentage, but please remember these scales aren’t very precise. It’s much better to stay consistent and pay attention to how you feel (do you feel energetic and strong? Do you feel satiated?) when fat loss is your goal. You can also pay attention to how your non-stretchy clothing is fitting. 

Remember that the ups and downs of women’s hormones can cause water retention, so if you’re feeling great but nothing seems to be changing, be gentle with yourself and keep that in mind, and stay on track.  

Don’t forget about diet

Of course, diet plays an important part in fat loss. So in addition to your strength training and cardio, you’re going to want to make sure you’re eating well. 

Some people like to calorie count to lose weight, while others find that stressful (especially people with a history of disordered eating). There’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple; a good place to start can be by focusing on increasing your non-starchy veggies so that you feel fuller for longer with the extra fibre intake. 

Of course, including adequate lean protein is also important for muscle recovery and satiety, so don’t forget to include moderate amounts of good quality protein like fish, chicken, and eggs (or a vegetarian equivalent). And drink your water, guys! Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon can make it so much more palatable. 

Trust your body, pay attention to what works for you, and don’t let yourself go into starvation mode. When we undereat we slow down our metabolism, which makes our efforts unsustainable. 

Incidental movement also counts

While your best plan for fat loss is by increasing your strength training and cardio while eating a healthy high-fibre diet with adequate protein, remember that overall daily activity is also important. 

So even when you’re not working out, staying active in simple ways like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking the dog, or using a standing desk at work. These small changes really make a big difference. 

Remember that you still deserve to relax and don’t need to be “on the go” all the time. But do sneak in little opportunities to move just a little more, it will be worth it. 

Cardio and Resistance Training Workout

Try this cardio and resistance training working to raise your heart rate, build muscle and burn fat with just a set of dumbbells. 

Equipment: You’ll need a variety of dumbbells to complete this workout. I used 1 x 3kg/6.5Lbs, 2 x 8kg/17.5Lbs, 1 x 12.5kg/27.5Lbs dumbbells, but you may want to use something lighter or heavier depending on your fitness and strength level

Workout outline: Complete each nonstop block for 2 rounds of 30 seconds work/no rest.

Calories burned: I burned 395 calories in this workout. Note that total calories burned will vary depending on your body composition, workout intensity and fitness level. 

Remember, both weight training and cardiovascular exercise provide benefits when it comes to weight loss. Your goal should be to increase your muscle mass to improve body composition and metabolism, while creating a calorie deficit with cardio for fat loss. For that reason, combining cardiovascular exercise and weight training while paying attention to your diet makes the most sense for maximum weight loss. Not only that, it will also help you to stay fit, healthy, and strong. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel so that you never miss a new workout.

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