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Hey, my name is Erin and I’m a former U.S. Junior Olympic certified swim coach and personal trainer and fitness is my passion. So, I cannot wait to share it with you guys.
A question that I often get is what is the difference between cardio and strength training, which is better and how do I incorporate both? There’s no easy way to answer that question, but the difference between cardio and strength training is that one is aerobic, which is cardio and one is anaerobic. During aerobic exercise, the body draws on glycogen and/or fat for energy. During anaerobic exercise, the body cannot draw easily on fat stores. The mistake that people often make is that they’ll do their cardio workout before their strength training workout. If you think about it, from a common sense perspective, why is that bad? Well, if you exhaust your legs by running or on the elliptical or whatever, then you try and go lift heavy weights or do squats or any other weight bearing activity, you’re already going to be fatigued from doing your cardio first.
That said, you should always warm up, but you only need five to ten minutes. Now, if you do your cardio after your strength training workout, the body is depleting its glycogen source. So, it’s drawing on glycogen because it can’t draw on fat. Okay, great, you power through your strength-training anaerobic workout. Now you move on to your cardio. But what’s going to happen is because you’ve, hopefully, depleted your glycogen stores when you were doing your anaerobic workout, when you go to do your aerobic workout, the body goes, “Hmm, let me go to the fat stores for energy.” Ideally, in the best case scenario, that’s what’s going to happen.
During your anaerobic strength-training routine, if you’re working on a specific muscle group or a specific body area, let’s say you’re working on your lower body, you’re doing some heavier leg work and there’s weights involved, and your legs are tired after that strength-training workout, for your cardio following that, if you’re going to do cardio following that, you don’t want to go do high intensity interval sprints. Because your legs are already tired and that can increase your risk of injury. Ideally, you want to separate. The cardio that you do, you don’t want it to be focused on the same body parts that you just worked during your strength-training workout, if you’re going to do those two things back to back. If you’re working on your upper body, don’t go sit on the rowing machine afterwards because your upper body is already tired. So, just use common sense. That’s a little tip.
Aerobic activity isn’t just for burning fat. There are different types of cardio that you can do. You can do high intensity intervals. For fat burning, you can do long lengths of running. If you’re a marathoner, half-marathoner, a lot of people who do that. That’s not something that’s necessarily for fat burning, or muscle toning, but that’s more to increase your endurance and stamina exercise. There’s different types of cardio that you can do. There’s high impact cardio, which would be running, and there’s low impact cardio, which would be something like swimming, which is safe for anyone and great if you’re rehabbing or you have an injury.
So, lots of different types of cardio to do. Obviously, you saw on our other videos, lots of different types of strength training that you can do to increase muscle mass, you can do strength training to burn fat, you can do strength training just to get stronger and more fit. So, there’s no one reason to do any of those things and that’s the beauty of it. You need both cardio and strength training to round out your fitness routine. One is not better than the other. They’re just different. Your body responds differently and you need them both. So, get to work.