Is It Bad To Only Do Strength Training and No Cardio? We Asked a Cardiologist
e all have a favorite workout modality—and if you’re the type of person who is all about strength training (looking at you, CrossFitters), listen up. If you’re focusing too heavily on strength training, you might be missing out on key cardiovascular fitness to ensure a healthy heart—and well-rounded workout. So needless to say, it’s time to check in on your routine and diversify it with heart health in mind.
According to Sidney Glasofer, MD, FACC, and a board-certified cardiologist with New Jersey-based Atlantic Medical Group, while strength training has fantastic overall health benefits, he says that it’s essential to ensure you have cardio in your fitness regimen to support your heart.
That super impressive deadlift isn’t anything to balk at, of course. Weight training is key for improving muscle mass, reducing your risk of injury, increasing your balance and stability, and improving overall mental and physical health. But weightlifting is an anaerobic activity that doesn’t typically allow your heart rate to elevate for an extended period of time.
“It has been proven that for heart and the blood vessel health, it is important to get the heart rate up for a certain amount of time during your exercise,” says Dr. Glasofer. “With heavy lifting, which is typically done in short spurts, it doesn’t get the heart rate elevated.”
Exercise at a moderate level for at least 150 minutes a week, or two to five times a week for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes at a time. His heart rate rule is an activity where you reach 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. At this level, you shouldn’t be able to easily carry on a comfortable conversation with your workout buddy. “It is great to throw in strength training with your cardio,” he says. “That way you are focusing on your whole-body health, including heart health and overall muscle and bone strength.”
Strength training, however, can move into the cardio lane when done a certain way. Think more reps with lower weights. “I tend to favor strength training that uses lower weights done throughout a higher number of reps,” he says. “Strength training this way will give you a cardio workout. This also allows you to vary your workout so you don’t get bored, while keeping your heart rate up.”