Strength versus Cardio

As a man in my mid 40’s it’s about training smarter.

Gone are the days of training out of ego and pig headedness, these days I train with a degree of bodily intellect. What I mean by this is tuning into my body and gauging whether or not I should train and if I should to what intensity. The question I intuitively ask myself is…

Will training be of benefit to me today?

To answer this honestly requires an acute awareness of my state of mind and my central nervous system.

For years I flogged myself in the pursuit of fitness elitism. I clocked up countless kilometres on the road at the highest possible intensity in order to become fitter. However, this approach didn’t serve me – and in fact, caused my body to shut down in 2005. I’ve since developed a training protocol that promotes fitness without your health being compromised. 

This smarter way of training embraces strength training and priorities this modality over cardio. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to go for a brisk walk, swim or bike ride but pounding the pavement or treadmill won’t deliver the result you ultimately desire. 

It’s simple economics – when you’re training you want the greatest bang for your buck. 

What’s the least amount of output which will deliver the greatest return?

I had fallen victim to the notion that cardio training was the solution to fitness – a popular paradigm through the ’80s, 90’s and 00’s – and one that still echoes today.  

However, through years of experience and education, the wisdom suggests that incidence exercise (day-to-day activities) should form the foundation of your exercise, whilst layering on some heavy (it’s all relative) lifting 2-3 times a week and a HIIT session once a week such as sprints.  

What are some of the issues with chronic repetitious cardio training?

  1. The first cab off the rank is that it’s boring – not many of us are geared to enjoy long bouts of repetitive cardio such as long runs – Some people love this but for the vast majority running 10+kms is arduous. Prescribing long runs for the general population is likely to lead to poor adherence.
  1. It will promote elevated levels of cortisol – Cortisol is our natural stress hormone and elevated levels promote fat storage. This is counter-intuitive if the desired effect is to lower body fat. Having your body bathed in cortisol in far from optimal.
  1. For decades the conventional wisdom was carbohydrates were required for exercise generally but especially for prolonged bouts – Carb loading was the rage and whilst carbs certainly do have their place in fuelling for performance understanding the nuances with fuel provision is key. Excessive and chronic carbohydrate consumption can lead to poor health outcomes.
  1. Increases free-radical production and systemic inflammation. This is the antithesis of the desired goal which is usually to be healthy and lose weight – Some oxidative stress is part and parcel of training and all very normal and necessary for progression but excessive amounts of cardio training can promote excessive free radicals and inflammation. Systemic inflammation is the cornerstone for ill-health and disease.

 So what are some of the myths associated with strength training? As a fitness professional I’ve probably heard most of them over the years but two spring to mind from females:

”I don’t want to bulk-up!”

“I don’t want to get big legs”

Let’s quench this notion immediately – in order to get “bulky” you’d first have to be eating a calorie surplus constantly, whilst strength training 6-7 days a week. In addition to these conditions, you’d need to be genetically gifted and have elevated (above normal population) levels of testosterone.

Bottom line – the level of exercise prescription that we are talking about for the broad population won’t result in getting bulky – you’ll just be enjoying all the other benefits of strength training. 

 So what are some of the benefits of strength training?

  1. Strength training is the best lever for changing body composition – lowering fat mass and increasing energetic (lean) tissue 
  2. Strength training leads to lowered fasting insulin levels and improved blood lipid profile.
  3. Strength training and nutrition is the most effective lever to alter body composition and reduce fat mass 
  4. Sessions need to be challenging, but not overly-stress your nervous system or cause the production of free radicals leading to systemic inflammation
  5. Building lean tissue is the solution to long-term weight management.

I’ve personally gone through the hardship of flogging myself on the pavements of London and Sydney so you don’t have to. I want you to have the biggest bang for your buck and your sessions reflect that. Training smart far outweighs training harder or more often.  

In unison with good nutrition training will help to auto-regulate hormones, reducing the desire to snack. It’ll improve mood, self-confidence and generally promote health, cognitive function, sleep patterns and longevity.

Looking for some insight or guidance, why not book a one on one personalised health coaching session today?



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