June 16, 2024

Ask a Pro By Erin A. McGill, MA, NASM CPT, CES, PES

If I’m short of time, should I do weight training or cardio?  – Barbara from San Diego

By Erin A. McGill, MA, NASM CPT, CES, PES. Erin is the Training Manager for National Academy of Sports Medicine.

If you are short on time, you can maximize your minutes in the gym by doing a circuit training workout. Circuit training is a type of resistance (weight) training where you perform sets of exercises one right after another with little to no rest. You will perform one set of each exercise until all exercises have been completed and then you begin your second round.  If you have the time, performing three full cycles of the circuit will be most helpful. An example of a circuit could be 12 – 20 repetitions of each exercise and a total of three circuits.

This type of workout is helpful because it allows you to capture two important benefits. If weight loss is your goal, weight training is very effective because you burn calories while you are performing the exercises but also for the next 24 – 48 hours after the workout. Additionally, performing resistance training will allow you to increase your lean body mass which will result in an increased caloric burn 24 hours per day.

Because circuit training involves performing the sets in rapid succession, one right after another, cardio respiratory benefits exist as well. Working out with no rest in between sets will tax both the cardiovascular and respiratory systems in a fashion that is very similar to traditional cardio training sessions. With that being said, your caloric burn is maximized in the workout.

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