A great training program involves working out the entire body. That means you not only are working your muscles but also training your cardiovascular system. Really getting into peak physical condition cannot occur unless you do them both.
But where is the balance?
Well…it depends. If you view weights and cardio as being in a perfect 50-50 ratio then you would conclude that you are looking to equally maintain or equally gain in both aspects of strength/tone/size as well as cardiovascular fitness/fat loss. But if your goal skews to one side or the other, then you need to adjust your training appropriately.
Looking at Body Types
Part of the balance between weights and cardio will be based on your basic body type. Fundamentally there are 3 types of bodies people naturally have:
- Ectomorph – Naturally thin with a smaller bone structure. They typically have a higher natural metabolism, leaner muscles, and add weight/fat very slowly. Cardio is never a high priority for this body type.
- Endomorph – On the opposite side of the scale the endomorph has a bigger bone structure and larger muscles. But there is also a slower metabolism and naturally larger fat deposit areas.
- Mesomorph – This is what everyone wants to be. The naturally athletic mesomorph has a great bone structure, big muscle bellies, a good metabolism, gains muscle easily, and loses fat even easier.
- Hybrids – You can also end up somewhere in between the two extremes and the middle. Often people who start working out will transform their bodies away from the outer edges of this scale and more towards the mesomorph look.
How Body Types Affect Training
The different body styles will react to training in separate manners. So by that token you need to tailor your workouts to meet your goals as well as fitting in with your body’s capabilities. The ectomorph will do little cardio each week and what they will do can be lower intensity such as walking. Because all the recovery period will be needed for muscle gain, the ectomorph does not want to do higher intensity cardio and drain the body’s reserves. Low intensity work can easily be done 2-4 times per week in 30 to 60 minute sessions.
An endomorph, on the other hand, will need to perform medium to high intensity cardio 4 to 5 times per week for 40 to 60 minutes per session. They will need that extra kick to really help shed fat. But, since they already have muscles it will be more toning and strengthening work they get from the program until the extra weight is lost. Then the focus can switch to adding more muscle if it is desired.
The mesomorph can handle a nice balance of both and will gain easily doing medium intensity cardio 3-4 times per week at 30 to 45 minutes per session to compliment the weight workout.
So How Much Cardio?
Basically after you figure out your body type it gets pretty easy to see the pattern for mixing cardio and weights:
Endomorphs and People trying to lose fat should be doing 3 to 6 sessions of cardio per week. Ideally you want 2 to 3 sessions of that to be high-intensity cardio. That will combine with 3 sessions of weight training (preferably 3 full body workouts on a split like M/W/F).
Ectomorphs and people trying to gain muscle should be doing 1 to 3 sessions of cardio per week and it should all be low-intensity. Ideally you are working out with weights 4 times per week on a body split doing something like Upper Body on Monday and Thursday and Lower Body on Tuesday and Friday.
Mesomorphs and people trying to maintain or gain evenly will end up right in the middle. They should incorporate a workout split like an ectomorph but should do 3-4 sessions of cardio per week mixing in low, medium, or high-intensity because the body can handle it.