Published December 02, 2013
The question: To lose weight, should I spend my gym time doing more cardio or more strength training?
The expert: Personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., C.P.T.
The answer: It depends what you mean by "lose weight." If you are in an epic battle with your scale, cardio is the way to go. If you want to look steamy under those fall sweaters, though, it's time to cozy up to strength training.
Minute per minute, cardio indisputably burns more calories than strength training, which could explain why compared to strength trainers, aerobic exercisers lose more weight in less time, according to a recent Duke University study.
Still, cardio doesn't do much for your muscles. Case in point: In one Penn State study, dieters lost 21 pounds whether they performed cardio or strength training. But for the cardio group, six of those pounds came from muscle, while the lifters lost almost pure fat—and probably fit into their skinny jeans better because of it.
Why? Strength training is the number-one way to build more muscle. And for every three pounds of muscle you gain, you can expect to burn an extra 120 calories a day without moving a single one of those muscles, says Donavanik.
That doesn't mean that you should retire your running shoes, though—especially if you're a stress eater. Cardio is one of the best ways to slash stress, which is a waistline-wrecker all by itself. The best solution? A fitness plan that includes both cardio and strength training. So check out how to your improve your strength-training routine and your learn how to fix your cardio workout mistakes.