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Bench Press and Cardio – there’s room for both in your fitness regimen

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.0.47″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.0.47″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.0.47″ parallax=”off” parallax_method=”on”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.47″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”]By Tim Cunningham

When choosing a fitness regimen, people usually have specific goals in mind. To lose weight, workouts tend to be cardio intensive. To add size and strength, many will spend the majority of their time lifting weights. After all, conventional wisdom tells us that weight training will build muscle mass while cardio training helps achieve the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss. As with many conventional beliefs, there is some truth in this logic but also some misunderstandings. In practice, a program designed exclusively around cardio or weight training will not be as efficient or effective at achieving these goals as a more balanced program and may even inhibit your progress.
People looking to slim down often spend endless hours running or cycling, but avoid the weight room at all costs. We’ve all heard the arguments (or excuses) for not lifting. “It will make me look bulky” or “Weightlifting causes too many injuries.” In reality, muscle growth is a slow process. For people who WANT to add muscle mass, it can take years of focused diet and exercise to achieve a “bulky” look. As for injuries, intense or sustained cardiovascular activity can be catabolic, meaning it eats away at your muscles rather than building them up. Consequently, strength training for runners is a key to avoiding injuries, not causing them. When injuries do occur, an athlete that excludes strength training from their regimen may experience rapid weight gain because lower muscle mass also means slower metabolic function. Adding a well-designed weight training component to your routine increases the strength and endurance of your muscles and leads to improved metabolic function and cardiovascular efficiency. As a result, more calories and fat are burned than through cardiovascular exercise alone.
So what about those of us who want to get bigger, not smaller? Why spend the limited training time we have on cardio when we could be getting reps on the bench press or snatching a barbell overhead? The same guiding principle applies regardless of your fitness goal. A well-rounded routine will result in a well-rounded athlete. By adding cardio to your regimen, you will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your weight training routine.
Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow and teaches your body to use oxygen more efficiently. Cardio training increases your rate of breathing, allowing your lungs to transfer more oxygen to your blood and ultimately to the muscles being exercised. By training your body to efficiently deliver oxygen during exercise, you facilitate the muscle contractions necessary to lift heavier weights and complete more repetitions. Also, the prolonged, repetitive movements involved in cardiovascular training build muscular stamina and endurance. To build strength and mass, you need to be able to put your muscles under load for extended periods of time. Muscular endurance allows you to perform more repetitions under heavier loads before exhaustion or failure.
Lifting those heavy loads repeatedly creates muscle growth by breaking down muscle fibers which are then repaired, bigger and stronger than before. By increasing blood flow to your muscles, you are providing oxygen and other nutrients needed for tissue repair while simultaneously carrying away lactic acid and other waste products more quickly than would occur with weight training alone. In a perfect world, all of the nutrients we consume would be turned into muscle or burned off rather than being stored as fat. Everyone’s body is different in this regard and is controlled to some degree by the hormonal levels hardwired in our DNA. However, a significant factor in what your body does with the food you eat is your level of insulin sensitivity. Someone who is highly insulin sensitive will use a surplus of calories to build muscle, while someone who is insulin resistant will store the excess calories as fat. The good news is that we can manipulate this mechanism to some degree. Cardiovascular exercise improves your insulin sensitivity and does so in a dose-dependent manner. In other words, the more you do, the more insulin sensitive your body becomes.

To sum it up: there are benefits to both cardio and strength training. If you want to be the strongest at the bench press, you have to work your cardio. If you want the fastest mile, you have to build strength. If you want to be lean and utilize the food you put in your body instead of storing it as fat, you need BOTH. This is the reason CrossFit has been such a successful fitness program – many would say it is the BEST fitness program. It doesn’t leave anything out – bench press, cardio, light weights, heavy weights, plyometrics – it has it all. If you are interested in giving it a try, we would LOVE to sit down with you and answer any questions or address any concerns you may have. More than anything, we want to hear your goals and help you make a plan for reaching them. We call this little chat a “no sweat” intro – no working out, no sweating, just talking to a trainer. We can’t wait to meet you in the New Year!
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