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Does Weightlifting Improve Cardiovascular Health?

Many people talk about how much they don’t like cardio. But what if you just haven’t found the right type of cardio that fits your interest? Here at Made 2 Move Summerville we are passionate about finding what you enjoy and tailoring your physical therapy, exercise, and training to match your interests; otherwise your exercise routine will not be sustainable.

Weightlifting is one of Made 2 Moves favorite ways to MOVE, and we love it so much we even have our own strength club! Many people interested in joining the Made 2 Move Strength Club often follow up with the question, “But what about cardio?”

Great question! We find it is very important to hone in on your goals when determining what exercise plan to choose. If improving your cardiovascular health is the only priority, then you'll probably be best off with finding a plan that is in line with that goal. However, that does not mean that weightlifting cannot yield some benefit to cardiovascular fitness.

In a previous blog on cardio, we highlighted that, “The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously and is rhythmic in nature” (Patel et. al 2017). So how can we make weightlifting fulfill this definition? Below are some training strategies to help kill two birds: cardio and weightlifting, with one stone.

How can Weightlifting also be Cardio?

  • Limit rest time

    • When trying to blend weightlifting and cardio, it's important to limit the rest time in between sets so that you can keep your heart rate and breathing elevated. Try using lower weight + higher reps + less rest time, and your strength sessions will double as cardio.

  • Circuit style training

    • An example circuit could look like 3-5 rounds of 10 reps each of cleans, goblet squats, and push presses. Effective circuits should utilize compound exercises (those that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously), short rest breaks, and high reps so that you can move the weight quickly.

  • EMOMs

    • At Made 2 Move Summerville, nothing beats a solid EMOM. EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute” and is a great way to keep your heart rate elevated. You can alternate exercises every minute or keep the movement the same.

  • Stamina Squats

    • Stamina squats are a way to turn squatting into cardio, and should utilize lighter weights with shorter rest times. An example of a workout with stamina squats could be done utilizing a 10 minute EMOM. For example, you could do 5 front squats the first minute and 10 back squats the second minute and repeat until the 10 minutes are up. The weight should light (50-70% of your 1 RM).

  • Olympic weightlifting

    • If you’ve ever done snatches, cleans, or jerks you know how taxing they can be. This is because olympic weightlifting requires a high power output, which expends considerable energy, thus quickly elevating your breathing and heart rate. Dumbbells or barbells can be used for these movements, and adequate rest time should be taken in between sets.

Benefits of Combining Cardio and Weightlifting

  • Afterburn effect

    • The afterburn effect refers to the increased calories burned after exercise as your body works to return to homeostasis and send oxygen to your recovering muscles. This is a major benefit of weightlifting that isn't seen with traditional cardio. Thus, combining cardio with weightlifting allows for the incredible afterburn effect to take action.

  • Cardiovascular health

    • Your heart is a muscle, and is worked through resistance training just like the rest of your muscles. Improving your aerobic capacity while simultaneously growing big muscles: what could be better? Recent studies have linked resistance training to improved cardiac health and function.

  • Efficiency

    • Lots of people shy away from weightlifting because of the time commitment. Cardio style weightlifting is a great solution! EMOMs, circuits, and having minimal rest time between sets can make for a very time efficient workout for those who have limited time in the gym.

Are you looking to vary your training or blend cardio and weight training but don’t know where to start? Here at Made 2 Move, we work to create a rehab or training program specific to your individual wants and needs. Our Made 2 Move Strength Club focuses on “strength made simple” as we don’t believe your workouts need to be complex or confusing to be effective.

Our therapists at Made 2 Move Summerville and Made 2 Move Charleston work with people of all different levels to help them reach their performance fitness goals. Whether you’re a marathon runner, triathlete, collegiate baseball player, or a weightlifter, we can help you reach your goals and stay injury free while doing so. Reach out to today to schedule your initial consultation.


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