Cardiovascular Versus Strength Training? By Troy Siler PT, DPT, ATC
A common question I get is should an individual perform cardiovascular training or strength training. The answer is both. Your body will perform at its best with a mixed training program. Strength training not only strengthens your muscles, but your ligaments, tendons, and bones as well. Your body reacts to stress. With strength training, the stress of weights or your own body weight causes your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones to grow stronger to counteract the additional stresses. Cardiovascular training is good for your heart and lungs. When you perform “cardio” your heart rate increases, your heart beats stronger, and your breathing rate increases. All of these additional stresses cause both your heart and lungs to become more efficient. The heart is a muscle and the lungs rely on surrounding muscles in the chest and abdomen to increase and decrease their volume, thus inhaling and exhaling in the process. As the muscles of the heart and lungs grow stronger, you become more efficient at your daily activities without being fatigued or short of breath. As you already know, these systems are vital organs necessary for life and the more fit these systems are, the better quality of life you will have.
The benefits of performing both cardiovascular and strength training is becoming well balanced with strong and efficient muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, lungs, and heart. In fact, performing one, helps you perform better at the other. Performing only cardiovascular training, for example running or walking, can result in muscle imbalances due to only certain muscles being activated. Muscle imbalances can increase your chances of injury. Strength training can be coupled with cardiovascular training to not only prevent these muscle imbalances, but increase the strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones which makes your body more injury resistant in case of a mis-step or fall during cardiovascular training. In addition, performing weight bearing cardiovascular training (e.g. walking or running) increases bone strength as they counteract the stresses gravity is placing on your body.
So, how do you get started with this training? Start small, you don’t want to do too much too soon. Use soreness as you guide, start with realistic weights, repetitions, and duration of training. If you get really sore, keep training as this will help you get through the soreness, but don’t increase your weight, repetitions, or duration of training. Once you can complete your workout with minimal soreness, increase your workout intensity in baby steps. In the end, a more balanced workout routine including both cardiovascular and strength training will keep all of your body’s systems working at optimal levels.