Yesterday i asked you guys/gals, what is better for healthy sustainable fat loss? Lifting weights or traditional cardio?

So, whats the answer?

Well, a bit of a trick question this if i’m totally answer, as there is no single “right answer”. It totally depends on the person and their current situation in their fat loss journey.

In their SIMPLEST comparisons: –

LIFTING WEIGHTS helps increase your metabolic rate by building more muscle and as a result burns more calories during and AFTER the exercise than cardio. It is less stressful on the joints when performed correctly and helps stimulate many positive hormonal reactions in the body. Lifting weights helps stimulate fat burning as well as increasing/improving your cardio vascular system.

TRADITIONAL CARDIO helps increase/improve your cardio vascular system. Helps burn fat, however at the expense of muscle tissue in many circumstances. Burns a good amount of calories in the act of exercise, however doesn’t increase the metabolism as much as weight lifting. Cardio is very stressful on the joints, particularly running and recent studies have shown that in some examples it can actually lower your metabolism over time.

So, comparing the two on the face of it, i would say that lifting weights is my general preferable choice!

Having said that, its not as simple as saying “well weight lifting wins then!” – why? Well, as i stated at the start, it depends on the person.

Let me give you 3 examples of some typical clients and how i would approach the cardio/weight lifting split: –


Male 1 – Mid 40’s, about 6foot and weights 180kg. Typically obese. Lets call him John

John has no experience in exercise, his diet is poor and has a desk job working stressful hours.

Obviously, Job #1 is to fix his diet and assuming this is already done then we need to get him active. Would i suggest that he does nothing but weight lifting and zero cardio? No! Would i suggest he does nothing but cardio and no weight lifting? No! Would I suggest he does a combination of the two but more focused towards traditional cardio…. yes! Why?

For the first few months, i just need John to burn energy. He is too overweight to be doing ANY running and his joints are likely to be very weak. Due to his job, his cortisol levels are going to be high anyway, so i don’t want to cause any further stress on his body. Therefore, i just need him to work, but workout without any stress… or limiting the stress to a minimum.

What cardio would i advise? Swimming! Why? Because its extremely stressless, easy on the joints and is mildly resistant due to the water. His joints are going to get stronger, faster, as the water will help lift the body weight off them and lets face it, swimming is fun. If he doesn’t like water, then it would probably be cycling… again, less stressful.

What weightlifting would i get him to do in the onset? Very little… maybe start to work on some bodyweight exercises to build up some strength. I’d start him off with 1 or 2 sessions a week until we really reduce his body mass. Then the scales would slowly shift to more weights over time…


Male 2 – Late teens, about 6foot and weights 80kg. Muscular and athletic – lets call him Ben

Ben is fit, healthy and plays some form of sport daily. Ben is very strong and is sitting at about 15% body fat. Ben burns a lot of energy each week playing football, rugby and athletics. Bens goal is to get a nice set of abs and look lean.

Would i suggest he does nothing but cardio and no weight lifting? No! Would I suggest he does a combination of the two but more focused towards traditional cardio or weight lifting? No!

Would i suggest that he does nothing but weight lifting and zero cardio? YES!

Why? Ben does enough cardio already… the last thing i need him to do is sit on a bike or go for a run for another 1 or 2 hours a week. Ben wants abs! To get Ben down to a sub 10% body fat percentage, I can do this with just diet and weight lifting in less than 10 weeks quite easily – depending on bens work ethic. Even if Ben didn’t do any sports during the week, I still wouldn’t need him to do any cardio… the diet and lifting weights is enough at this stage.


Female 3 – Early 30’s, about 5foot 2″ and weights 70kg. Curvy with a bit of body fat, but not overweight. Lets call her Alice.

Alice is active, a recent mum, motivated and just wants to “tone up” – her words not mine  What Alice really wants is to lose a bit of body fat and look/feel better.

Would i suggest she does nothing but cardio and no weight lifting? No! Would i suggest that she does nothing but weight lifting and zero cardio? No!

Would I suggest she does a combination of the two but more focused towards weight lifting than cardio? YES!

Alice is fit and active – she knows her way around the gym, however she also likes to get outside in the fresh country hills with her family. In order for Alice to drop a few KGs of body fat, in this scenario given her lifestyle i would mix cardio and weights, however focus mainly on weights and get her to lift HEAVY! I would want to keep her workouts short and simple during the gym and then i’d like her to go for some long morning walks with the family, or some hikes or even some bike rides. Get Alice working without her even really realising it. I would suggest maybe 3 or 4 weighted sessions a week and 2 active cardio sessions.

The key with Alice is LIFESTYLE! Alice can’t spend 6 hours a week in the gym, nor would she probably want to with a young child at home. With this combination or training, Alice will start to stimulate some muscle growth and keep her cardio up with the weekend active family sessions. Lets not forget that Alice is female, so her ability to put on muscle with be limited…her muscle building journey is going to be very slow, but she will still get all the benefits of weight training – strength, conditioning and cardio vascular improvements in the short term. The big booty may take a few months to develop though 


In all 3 cases, diet is important. I always state that 80% of a fat loss journey is DIET, DIET and more DIET. Get the diet right and the whole puzzle falls into place. However, we all need to be active and burn calories to really see the health and fat burning benefits.

So, depending on where you would place yourself on the above scale – make a decision on what type of training is best for you.
Know it, Feel it, Live it

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