Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

To sizzle away fat, do this.

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So you’ve dusted off your workout pants, downloaded your gym’s class schedule, and started leaving a gym bag in your car to squeeze in a workout on the way home from the office. Congrats! It’s super satisfying to come up with a workout game plan and actually feel motivated to stick to it.

But once you get to the gym, should you focus on sculpting your muscles or working up a sweat with cardio? This age-old question has stumped many weight-loss hopefuls since the invention of spandex. Your workout time is limited, and you want to make the most of every gym sesh. So, here’s what you need to know.

The best type of exercise for fast fat loss is cardio. Why? Cardio burns more calories per minute than strength training, which helps you shed pounds faster (Zumba lovers, rejoice!). To sizzle even more fat, some research suggests that high-intensity interval training (a.k.a. HIIT or high-intensity intermittent exercise) may be the key. HIIT is a type of exercise where you push yourself as hard as you can for a brief period of time, then recover and repeat (like sprinting then walking, or running up stairs and walking down, for example). The “extra push” in HIIT has shown to help burn more calories in less time and also help reduce subcutaneous abdominal fat (the belly fat you can pinch). Ready to give it a go? Try this 12-minute HIIT workout that you can do from home.

However (you saw this coming, didn’t you), for lasting weight loss, a combination of both cardio and strength training is best. That’s because pumping iron on the regular builds lean muscle mass, which not only helps you get stronger, but it also helps you look leaner. So logging 45 minutes on the treadmill without carving out any time for bicep curls, squats, or planks isn’t doing your physique any favors.

All in all, the main key to weight loss is burning more calories than you take in. So don’t worry too much about the perfect ratio of strength training to cardio. As long as you’re watching what you eat and making time for exercise, you’re well on your way to a trimmer, fitter you!