Be Well Boot Camp Preview: Which Is More Important, Cardio or Weights?

Local experts will hash out the debate over cardio versus weight training at Be Well Boot Camp. For now, here's a teaser!

The debate surrounding cardio-training versus weight-training is a tale as old as time: Which is more important for overall health? What about weight loss? Which should go first? Will weight training turn you into a She-Hulk? Like any great debate, there’s evidence supporting both claims. Luckily, we’ve got Brian Maher, certified personal trainer and owner of Philly Personal Training, and Penn cardiologist Raymond Rodriguez scheduled to settle the score with us at this year’s Be Well Boot Camp.

In the hopes of getting you ladies pumped up (pun intended) for Boot Camp, I asked Maher to elaborate on the basics of the cardio-versus-weights battle, and to dish on which gets the worse rap. Check out the Q&A below—and be sure to register for Be Well Boot Camp while you still can!

For the newbies: what are the primary differences between cardio  training and weight training?

Cardio training is primarily focused on strengthening the heart and lungs, usually for endurance purposes. Weight training is primarily used to increase strength and muscle proportion.

What’s the coolest perk of cardio, and what’s the greatest part about weight training?

Cardio can easily be done with no equipment—and you don’t have to be in a formal setting like a gym to do it. For example, going for a walk or bike ride is great cardio that can be done on your way to work, instead of driving a car or taking a cab. On the other hand, weight training’s great because it can increase muscle proportion and increase cardio at the same time, if you work out the right way.

Can you hit cardio and weights on the same day? If you’re going to lift and do cardio on the same day, which should you complete first?

You can certainly hit cardio and weights on the same day. There are numerous studies that show that doing cardio before weights will actually decrease your weight-training performance, thus decreasing the effectiveness of your lift; these same studies show that doing weights before cardio has very little, if any, negative impact on the performance of your cardio workout.

What’s the most common mistake you see people make when doing cardio or weights?

During cardio, it’s keeping the intensity way too low and the duration way too long. This creates a boring and time-consuming workout. Cardio workouts can be more fun—and more effective—if done for a shorter amount of time at a higher intensity.

With weight training, I see a lot of people doing too many lightweight, isolated exercises. For example, instead of just doing bicep curls with dumbbells, try using the lat pulldown machine which works the upper back, back of the shoulder and biceps at the same time. It’s always better to work more muscles as opposed to just one to save time and see bigger increases in strength.

In your experience, does cardio or weight training walk away with the worse rap?

Definitely weight training, especially among women. Women seem to have it in their mind that lifting weights is going to make them bulky and masculine-looking, when in reality, lifting weights is the best way to lose inches and form the lean, sculpted muscle that women desire.

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I Really, Really Want to Start Running—But Where Do I Begin?


See our full, jam-packed Boot Camp lineup here. And get your tickets while you’re at it, too. We’re expecting a sell-out, so get ‘em while you can!

Be Well Boot Camp is Philadelphia magazine’s and Be Well Philly’s annual girls’ day out for health and wellness. Boot Camp is on June 8th at the Drexel Recreation Center in University City. Tickets are $25 (or you can buy three and get one free!), and include all fitness classes, panel discussions, demos and more, as well as breakfast and lunch. Get tickets here.

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