- Aerobic or cardio exercise is important for physical fitness and overall health.
- You don’t have to do hours of running; strength training also works if it increases your heart rate.
- Shorter rests, longer workouts, and explosive movements can improve your cardio with weights.
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It’s a myth that you need to focus on running or lifting weights in your workout routine. Cardio and strength training complement each other. and incorporating both can make you healthier overall, experts have previously told Insider.
There’s good news if you hate running: you can reap the benefits of cardio and build aerobic capacity without it.
According to Stan Efferding, a world record weightlifter, professional bodybuilder and trainer. Hitting the weights can also be less tedious than more traditional cardio workouts.
“When I say working on cardio, I don’t mean jogging,” he told Insider. “If I prescribe a 40-minute session on the treadmill to people, the likelihood of them doing it regularly is not high and it’s not pleasant.”
Added some cardio-focused strength training in your routine is useful even if you are a runner or an aerobic athlete, because building muscle can also improve your speed and endurance.
Shorten your rest periods between sets
Strength training is generally anaerobic, which means that you generate intense effort in a short period of time. Since your body doesn’t have time to absorb enough oxygen for fuel, it instead relies on glucose (stored sugar in your blood). As a result, you can only sustain anaerobic exertion for a short time.
Athletes often rest for several minutes between sets of anaerobic exercises to give muscles time to recover and build as much strength as possible for sports like weightlifting.
However, rest also lowers your heart rate. Exercise becomes aerobic when your heart rate is elevated and maintained at a higher rate long enough for oxygen to become the fuel for the movement. In aerobic work, you breathe harder, but are able to sustain the effort longer (depending on your VO2 max or ability to use oxygen efficiently).
One strategy for making strength training an aerobic exercise is to shorten rest, so your body works more steadily over time, rather than alternating between intensity and recovery.
“It’s about training hard enough to keep your heart rate up,” Efferding said.
Less rest means you won’t be able to lift as much weight, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Incorporating a variety of training styles can help you build your overall fitness, which Efferding calls “general physical preparation“, so a mix of heavy days with rest and lighter days with more speed can be beneficial.
The evidence suggests that combining strength and cardio offers the best health benefitsalso helping you live longer and reducing the risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Try longer workouts with lower weight
Another way to do aerobic weight training is to lift lighter weights for an extended period of time, as in a AMRAP-style workout.
One of the main benefits of long workouts for any athlete is learning to pace themselves, maintaining a high intensity without burning out too quickly.
Boosting workouts not only helps build stamina and endurance, but also helps you better understand what your body is capable of so you can get the most out of your workout.
However, it’s important to make sure you’re lifting the right weight to achieve your goals, aiming for something challenging that you can sustain for the duration of the workout. Train too light on some exercisesespecially with large muscle groups like your legs, won’t reap the benefits of strength training and will just waste time, personal trainer Miriam Fried previously told Insider.
Incorporate explosive drills
Specific weight exercises can also quickly increase your heart rate for cardio benefits. Fast, full-body movements like power cleans, kettlebell swings, medicine ball tosses, or thrusters are great options.
Plyometric movements such as squat jumps, burpees, box jumps, or tuck jumps are unweighted, but can build strength and increase your heart rate simultaneously. Mixing them into a weightlifting workout can work your heart and lungs, helping to supplement your training to improve endurance and overall fitness.
Finally, activities like the rowing machine and continuous kettlebell exercises can help you improve your endurance while being more effective for strength training than running since they also offer resistance, personal trainer Noam Tamir told Insider.