Study Hall: Can cardio and strength training get along?
For Study Hall each week, we sort through the deluge of new medical studies and wordy white papers to bring you one that deserves your attention—in plain, healthy English.
New Yorkers look to examples like Ariane Hundt and Stacy Berman for proof that mixing high-intensity cardio with strength training generally results in a kick-butt cocktail—one that leads to toned, healthy bodies (not hangovers).
Seriously, those women’s muscles don’t lie.
Now, with two new studies published in the last two months, science is finally catching up.
The study: Researchers set out to test the theory of “muscle interference” that’s still circulating in the sports and fitness world—that cardio and strength training mixed together reduce the effectiveness of both. Researchers in Sweden had men pedal on a spin bike with just one leg and then had them do leg extensions with both. They then took muscle biopsies and measured changes in the muscles.
Researchers in Ontario measured muscle changes in a similar way after participants completed three different sessions—cardio for 40 minutes, strength training for 40 minutes, and 20 minutes of each back-to-back.
The results: Both studies found that the combined training resulted in the same muscle changes as cardio or strength training alone, i.e. cardio was a welcome complement, not an interference to building muscle.
What it means: Working on your heart health while also pumping iron (we’re talking to you Barry’s junkies) won’t reduce the effectiveness of your workout. But then, your full-length mirror has probably already told you that. —Lisa Elaine Held