When it comes to exercise, almost everything can be grouped into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise, or cardio, primarily targets strengthening your cardiorespiratory system—your lungs and your heart. Anaerobic exercise, or strength training, primarily targets strengthening your musculoskeletal system—your skeletal muscles and your bones.
Both have their place in everyone’s gym routine. But I would make the argument that strength training should be your main focus. Here are the three main reasons I make this case:
- Strength training is primarily responsible for altering your body composition (i.e. building muscle and burning fat)
- Strength training is primarily responsible for fighting our bodies’ natural aging process (muscle atrophy and osteoporosis)
- Through the use of circuit style training methods, you can effectively integrate cardio into your strength training routine
In addition to these reasons, there are numerous other reasons that you should prioritize strength training and limit cardio.
1. You’re trying to bulk up
When you’re trying to bulk up and build muscle, anything more than a little bit of cardio will make it a lot harder to achieve your goal.
You see – you need to maintain a caloric surplus and gain weight to efficiently build muscle mass. And cardio burns a lot of calories. The more calories you burn, the more you need to eat to maintain this positive caloric balance.
So, unless gaining weight is relatively easy for you, then doing anything more than a little bit of cardio to maintain a healthy heart will make it harder for you to build muscle and bulk up.
2. You’re already quite lean
When you’re skinny, your focus should be on adding muscle to your frame, or at least maintaining the muscle that you do have.
By doing lots of cardio when you’re already quite lean, you risk losing weight and shedding the muscle mass that you do have. This will only make you look smaller, and it’s actually unhealthy because we need a certain level of body fat to maintain healthy hormone levels and a proper libido.
Anything below 10% body fat is unhealthy and should be avoided unless you’re a professional bodybuilder or fitness model. So if you’re already quite lean, then skip the cardio man, it will only hurt your health and your physique.
3. Traditional cardio is boring
The fact is that running on a treadmill or spinning away on a studio bicycle is a very repetitive thing… And it’s fucking boring, to be blunt.
If you don’t fit into either of the two above categories, and you want to do cardio, then you should find a hobby or activity that allows you to do cardio without spinning your life away at the gym.
Pickup basketball, martial arts, rock climbing, hiking, and even running outside are superior alternative that allow you to develop a skill or explore the world while you get your cardio in.
4. Traditional cardio can lead to overuse injures
As covered above, traditional is very repetitive. And this repetitive nature can be potentially dangerous to your body.
The most common examples of this are runners with bad form fracturing their feet or ruining the ligaments or cartilage in their knees by repeatedly pounding their feet into the ground. By limiting or cardio—or practicing one of the superior forms of cardio mentioned above—you can avoid these types of injuries.
If you are confined to traditional cardio machines, then at least switch it up. By splitting your time in between the treadmill, the rowing machine, the elliptical, and the spinning bike you can avoid these types of repetitive injuries.
5. Traditional cardio can lead to poor posture
Another negative side effect of repetitive cardio is that it can lead to bad posture.
Leaning forward on a spin bike, for example, will tighten your chest muscles and cause you to hunch forward. It will also tighten your hip flexors and strain your neck as you look ahead and crank your head upwards.
By focusing on strength training, you will strengthen key postural muscles in your abdomen and upper back that will cause you to stand up straighter, appear taller, stronger, and more confident. Make sure you incorporate rowing exercises into your strength training routine to ensure you get these benefits.
Read More: The Top 3 Muscle Building Mistakes Men Make