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Enhance Your Workout Productivity By Blending Cardio and Strength Training


Enhance Your Workout Productivity By Blending Cardio and Strength Training

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Enhance Your Workout Productivity By Blending Cardio and Strength Training

If the thought of a “cardio day” fills you with dread, you’re not alone. While many individuals embrace aerobic activities (shoutout to all the marathoners!), there are others who feel the need to include it in their routine to enjoy its heart-healthy advantages.

A recent study published in the European Heart Journal in 2024, focusing on individuals with excess weight or obesity and high blood pressure, revealed that replacing half of your cardio session with strength training can provide similar cardiovascular benefits.

The study group that combined resistance and aerobic exercises witnessed a 6% reduction in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Similarly, the group that solely engaged in aerobic exercises saw a 5% decrease in LDL cholesterol. Both groups experienced a 1-inch decrease in waist circumference.

These positive outcomes were not observed in groups that only did resistance training or no exercise at all, highlighting the importance of incorporating cardio. Nevertheless, the study indicates that splitting your workout between aerobic and resistance training can still offer some benefits akin to solely focusing on cardio.

An added bonus was that solely the combined exercise group showed enhancements in both cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength.

All exercise groups in the study worked out for an hour, with the combined group dividing their session into 30-minute blocks for aerobic and resistance exercises.

Dr. Duck-chul Lee, the study author and a physical activity epidemiology professor at Iowa State University, noted that the combined exercise approach led to better adherence rates during the year-long trial.

“This suggests that incorporating weight training may be more sustainable than just doing aerobic exercise for individuals with excess weight or obesity,” Dr. Lee suggests.

Here are effective ways to blend cardio and strength training in your workout—along with approaches if you prefer one over the other.

Integrating Cardio and Strength Training

By merging your workouts, you are likely to see improvements in both your cardiovascular and resistance training performance. Aerobic exercises can ramp up your muscle endurance, making weightlifting more manageable for longer periods.

Ellen Thompson, CPT, head personal trainer at Blink Fitness in NYC, explains, “Combining different exercises in one session helps maintain a balanced workout by targeting varied muscle groups.”

Here are Thompson’s recommendations for combining cardio and weightlifting for 30-minute, 40-minute, and 60-minute workout sessions.

30-minute workout

Warm-up: Start with five minutes of light cardio like jogging, brisk walking, or cycling to elevate your heart rate.

Circuit training: Alternate between strength and cardio exercises. Complete each strength exercise for 45 to 60 seconds followed by 30 seconds of cardio. Repeat this circuit three times.

Sample circuit:

  • Push-ups (strength) for 45 seconds
  • High knees (cardio) for 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell rows (strength) for 45 seconds
  • Mountain climbers (cardio) for 30 seconds
  • Squats (strength) for 45 seconds
  • Jumping jacks (cardio) for 30 seconds

Cool down: Finish with five minutes of stretching to enhance flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.

40-minute workout

Warm-up: Begin with five minutes of dynamic stretching or light cardio to prepare your body for the workout.

Strength training: Focus on compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Complete three sets of each exercise with 10 to 12 repetitions per set. Rest for 60 seconds between sets.

Sample compound exercises:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Chest presses
  • Bent-over rows
  • Lunges

Cardio: Perform 30 seconds of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) followed by 30 seconds of low-intensity recovery for 15 minutes.

Sample cardio exercises:

  • Sprinting
  • Jump squats
  • Burpees
  • Jumping lunges
  • Speed skaters

Cool down: Conclude with five minutes of static stretching to improve flexibility.

60-minute workout

Warm-up: Start with 10 minutes of light cardio combined with dynamic stretches to boost blood flow and loosen your muscles.

Strength training: Split your routine into upper- and lower-body workouts. Complete three sets of each exercise, with 10 to 12 reps per set, and rest for 60 seconds between sets.

Sample upper-body exercises:

  • Bench press
  • Pull-ups or lat pulldowns
  • Shoulder press
  • Biceps curls
  • Triceps dips

Sample lower-body exercises:

  • Squats
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Leg press
  • Step-ups
  • Leg curls

Cardio: Engage in 20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio like jogging, cycling, or using the elliptical machine to sustain your heart rate.

Cool down: Finish off with 10 minutes of static stretching to boost flexibility and reduce muscle tension.

“Combining different exercises in one session helps maintain a balanced workout by targeting varied muscle groups.” —Ellen Thompson, CPT

Overcoming Challenges in Combined Workouts

If you find it challenging to incorporate variety into your workout schedule, it could be due to longstanding habits, uncertainty about techniques, or issues with convenience.

Sarah Pope, CPT, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Life Time Westchester, explains, “Our bodies and minds tend to stick to what’s familiar and comfortable. It’s when we push past those mental barriers that we discover our true strengths and capabilities.”

When integrating cardio into your routine, consider it as a fun method to add diversity to your workout regimen. Similarly, continuing the same routine might increase the risk of injury, as per Pope.

If you’re unsure about how to execute certain cardio exercises, this uncertainty can impede your progress. If possible, seek guidance from a personal trainer to grasp the correct form, at least initially.

Incorporating both cardio and strength training into your routine helps prevent plateaus.

“Over time, your body can adapt to specific exercises,” Thompson points out. “This adaptation can lead to a plateau in progress. By incorporating a range of exercises, you challenge your body, prevent plateaus, and encourage growth.”

Remember, you don’t necessarily need a gym for both cardio and strength training. While visiting a fitness center to utilize treadmills, stationary bikes, weight machines, and dumbbells may be convenient, you can also opt for outdoor workouts.

“People can run outdoors and incorporate resistance exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, and bodyweight squats before or after running,” Dr. Lee suggests.

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