How to Balance Weight Lifting and Cardio

Cardio and weight lifting accomplish two different things, although the two are not mutually exclusive. Weight lifting mainly builds muscle mass, while cardio mainly burns fat. Training balance involves the amount of cardio training done compared to the amount of weight lifting you do.

A cardio and weight lifting routine needs to be in balance to achieve both lean muscle mass and fat burning, although this can depend on the goal. A routine should be tailored uniquely depending on whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle mass, or maintain a balance between both. If balanced fitness is your goal, then spending approximately the same amount of time on cardio and weight lifting should help you to achieve it.

The Goal: Lose Weight

If losing weight and burning fat are the main goal, then perhaps cardio should be focused on. In this case, cardio exercise should be done at least three times a week – up to five or six times a week – for at least 20 or 30 minutes at a time. This can be done through a number of exercises, including walking, bicycling, stair climbing and jogging.

Burning calories and fat is your primary goal if weight loss is desired, which cardio can provide. Combining a diet low in calories will provide additional benefits to losing weight. Weight lifting should still be part of the routine in order to minimize muscle loss that can be experienced through excess cardio and calorie reduction. About two or three weight lifting sessions per week should suffice. It is important to know that muscle has a higher metabolic rate than fat, therefore more muscle on the body means more calories being burned.

The Goal: Building Muscle Mass

If building muscle tissue is your main focus, then lifting weights should be done in higher proportion than cardio. Too much cardio can hamper your muscle building efforts because it can actually reduce muscle tissue. This is because cardio involves expending energy, including that from muscle mass.

Generally, one or two cardio sessions per week should be enough to maintain fat and calorie burning, while focusing on building lean muscle tissue. You should lift weights at least three times a week – as much six times a week if you have the energy.

The Goal: Balanced Fitness

If your goal is to build muscle mass while losing weight, a much more fine-tuned routine is required. Balancing cardio and weight lifting in this situation is important in order to minimize muscle loss during weight loss. In this case, a good idea would be to perform cardio exercise and weight lifting on different days. Studies suggest that doing cardio on the same day as weight lifting can drain your muscle of the energy required to lift. As a result, more muscle can be built if your muscle’s energy isn’t depleted from cardio.

If you cannot afford to dedicate time every day to exercising, then you may need to perform both cardio and weight lifting on the same day. In this case, you may want to consider doing the weight lifting first while your muscles are still fresh and at their energetic peak. Try to dedicate equal amounts of time to both weight lifting and cardio to achieve balanced results.


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