Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which One is Most Effective?

To Love Standing Naked in Front of the Mirror

Cardio's Edge: Sports psychologists have been studying the effect of aerobic activity on self-confidence for decades. And they keep coming to the same conclusion: Runners, cyclists, swimmers, and other athletes have high confidence levels because of the sense of accomplishment they feel each time they cross the finish line—even when they bring up the rear.

More: Body Image and Athletes

Strength's Edge: Think you look hot immediately after a workout? It's not your imagination. Blood has rushed to your muscles, making them swell and appear more toned. Beyond vanity, you feel confident because you just pressed some major poundage. In 2006, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario tested subjects' body image—how they felt about others checking them out, and how satisfied they were with their own appearance before and after 12 weeks of strength training. The women made significant improvements, and they were particularly influenced by the physical results of increasing the amount lifted. So try this: Keep a log of how many sets and reps you complete and how much weight you're hoisting for each move. Every four weeks, go back and review your first workout. Feel the rush of pride, then strut your stuff.

Winner: Strength

Best Workout for Your Body Type

To Reach the Finish Line Faster

Cardio's Edge: If you want to smoke your rival at your next 5K, put in the miles. "The best way to train for an endurance event is by practicing it," Meyers says. "Swimmers, for example, need to learn how to breathe properly, and cyclists need to hone cadence."

Strength's Edge For a speed boost, strength training is essential—especially for your core and legs. "Plyometrics will improve your stride power, or the force you pedal with," says Diane Vives, C.S.C.S., owner of Vives Training Systems in Austin, Texas. For explosive power, she recommends the standing triple jump: Swing your arms back, then forward as you leap, landing on your right foot. Quickly hop forward onto your left foot, then hop back and land on both feet. Continue for 4 to 6 reps. Do three sets, resting 60 to 90 seconds in between.

Winner: Draw

More: 5 Agility Drills to Boost Speed and Improve Fitness

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