Striking the right balance between cardio and weight training for muscle-building

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Many people join a gym with great expectations, knowing exactly what they’re striving for, how long it will take to meet their goals, and what they’re going to do outside of the gym to make sure they do.

However, the moment they step inside for the first time, the number of machines and pieces of equipment can seem daunting. How do we know this? As insurance experts, primarily; when it comes to exceptional physical health, we’re not blessed with a job that requires us to stay in peak condition!

Like many people, we’re blessed with good intentions, but not overwhelmed by industry-leading knowledge – not to say that we don’t try. In fact, when we put our heads together and discussed what we all do, in order to stay fit, we found that we have many different methods for maintaining our own physique. Most of these can be categorised in two distinct boxes: cardio and weight training.

Therefore, in order to uncover the perfect combination of the two, we did a little research and came up with the following.

Weights or cardio? That is the question

While exploring this topic, we were glad to learn that it’s not only us who have struggled to strike the perfect balance. In fact, Bodybuilding.com describes balancing weight and cardio training as “one of the most challenging aspects of putting together your training program.” It’s definitely not just us, then!

However, that word “balance” appears to be crucial here. A complete exercise program, the same article goes on to say, needs not only weight training but also cardiovascular activity.

The balance depends on the ‘end goal’ a person hopes to achieve – which, if you are reading this article, is likely to be muscle-building. While there is a plethora of information available on the best way to achieve this (and we read quite a few!), the following simple, three-step process, published in the Lifestyle section of The Telegraph, can be broken down in three easy-to-follow steps…

By lifting heavy weights, consuming a surplus of calories and getting sufficient rest, a gym user can expect to push their body into reacting well to their efforts, with increased muscle growth. During this process, the body ‘learns’ that it is going to be put under more and more strain, as time goes on, and so responds by creating more muscle to handle the load. Extra calories are required for the new muscle tissue, and rest is essential, for the body to repair itself with all this extra flesh.

But what about the cardio?

While we learned that building muscle itself is a relatively simple process (the lifting of many heavy weights aside) and were delighted to find that we’d get to sleep and eat more, we wondered where cardio would fit into this routine. Given its importance for good cardiovascular health, we didn’t want to lose sight of this while planning to build muscle.

Initially, we thought that cardio wasn’t as effective at building muscle because it burned more calories than weight lifting, but even this was difficult to establish. Healthline.com confirmed that while, at least typically, a cardio workout burns more calories than a weight training workout, a weights workout would burn more calories not only during the workout itself but also for some time afterwards.

However, a more intense workout of any kind will also lead to prolonged calorie-burning, both while working out and for hours or days afterwards. Then there’s the additional muscle factor to build into the calculation, too – as, while it’s in the body, muscle itself burns more calories than fat.

In order to build even more muscle, a person needs to consume even more calories to both build more muscle and compensate for fat loss. At this point, we realised that it’s no surprise that people struggle with finding the right balance between the weight lifting and cardio!

Finding the right balance

Keen not to lose sight of our goal, we did find some research suggesting that the perfect balance is achievable. Fitness blogger Jillian Michaels writes that “you can only train your muscles so many times in a week without overtraining them, which is counterproductive” – and this is where cardio comes in. Described as ‘extra credit’ for ongoing weight loss, cardio is the activity to do when you’ve been working hard enough on weights training.

The muscles that you’re growing can get sufficient recovery time in the form of sleep and different types of exercise, and the cardiovascular system gets the sort of workout it will love, too. However, what’s the right balance exactly? We found a staggering five days of weight training, with one day of rest and one of cardio as an option, but there’s a much more palatable option on lifestyle website SELF.

With three days of weights training, two days of cardio and two of active rest (plus seven days of sleeping and eating well, on the side), it seems that the right balance between the two is possible – without compromising too much on the work/life balance, either.

Three days of weights training gives the individual the chance to work out their legs and abs, chest and back, and arms and shoulders on different days, while doing any mix of cardiovascular activity alongside these workouts.

Of course, this is all easier said than done, and putting it into practice probably won’t be anywhere near as easy as sifting through all this research. However, we really enjoy looking into the information that our own clients work with every day.

After all, this researching helps us to develop a better understanding of how we can help you in your day to day work. This way, we can ensure that, when we put together our personal trainer insurance policies, we’re giving you the cover you need to excel in your work.

To find out more about our tailor-made policies, give us a call today on 020 8655 0444, and you can maybe teach us a little more about finding the right balance in our exercise regimes.

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