Most experts recommend you do a combination of cardio and strength training as part of your exercise program. However, some caution that doing cardio can affect your strength training gains. So, which is it?
Should You Do Cardio and Weights?
One meta analysis set out to discover the impact of cardio on strength. The meta analysis compiled the results of 21 studies analyzing the impact of doing strength training and cardio (known as concurrent training) in the same program on a number of variables. Here are the main takeaways:
- No effect on upper body strength was found from doing cardio (presumably because most cardio acts predominantly on the lower body).
- Participants who only did strength training had greater lower body hypertrophy (muscle size) than the concurrent group (but the effect was not statistically significant).
- Participants who only did strength training had greater lower body strength gains than the concurrent group (but the effect was not statistically significant).
- The strength training only group had greater lower body power gains than the concurrent group. This result was statistically significant.
- The endurance and concurrent group improved their VOxmax numbers significantly more than the strength only group.
- The concurrent group lost the most body fat (but the effect was not statistically significant).
How to Structure a Program:
- Concurrent running (but not cycling), led to significantly less strength and power (but the running group lost more body fat).
- High intensity sprinting though, led to no detriment to strength or power.
- Long duration endurance exercise (<20–30 minutes) led to greater detriments in strength.
- Higher frequency (<3 days per week) also lead to greater declines in strength.
- Body fat was reduced as exercise intensity increased.
Adding cardio to a strength training program will improve cardiovascular fitness and could decrease body fat. It also greatly improves your overall health. To minimize the overall negative impact of cardio on strength training, you should (1) cycle (2) or do high intensity interval training (3) for 20- 30 minutes a day (4) for 3 days a week or less. Good luck!
Wilson, Jacob M., et al. “Concurrent training: a meta-analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 26.8 (2012): 2293-2307.