Do you need to do cardio if you're weight training? Fitness trainers answer the most Googled questions

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Do you need to do cardio if you’re weight training? Stylist Strong trainers answer the most Googled strength and fitness questions. 

Weights vs. cardio? It’s the ultimate rivalry. For so long women were told to favour the latter for fear that lifting weights would make them bulky. Luckily, we’ve dispelled that myth and in recent years we’ve seen a defiant shift towards more women entering the weights room. 

For good reason: weight lifting makes you strong, helps your bones and balances your hormones. But that doesn’t mean we should tarnish all heart-rate inducing exercise with the same brush: it’s essential for cardiovascular health, and has huge mental health benefits. 

The questions are: where do weight training and cardio intersect? Can you get away with just doing one or the other, or must you do both? And how do you fit that in your already very busy schedule?

Each week three trainers from Stylist Strong, Stylist’s fitness brand that runs strength training classes focused on incorporating weights into fitness, explain some of the most asked questions from women who want to get into lifting.

This week they are explaining how to balance your weight training with your cardio. 

Should you do cardio as well as strength training?


“I think balance is a really good thing. Cardio basically just means that your heart rate is raised for a sustained period of time. In terms of cardio where you’re spending hours on an elliptical, it’s not necessary.

“Weight training can be [seen as] interval training because there is points where your heart rate is elevated and there are periods where it is lowered. That improves your cardio-vascular fitness, just not in the same way [as the elliptical]. ‘Fitness’ is a very general term and there are lots of different elements to it, but you will get far more benefits from doing [strength] training than you will from sitting on a bike or on an elliptical.”


“I would just do what you enjoy. I think for someone new to the gym just do what you can. It’s good to do a couple of high intensity sessions every week that raise your heart rate quite high because when we’re really pushing our body and our minds further to what we think we can, that’s when we increase our fitness levels. It pushes us further and further in every session. And it keeps our body nice and healthy and it helps our hearts function better. But if your goal is getting strong, then you would want more weightlifting sessions in a week than cardio.” 


“It depends on what your goals are. People love running [because] it clears their mind. [If so] then go ahead and do it. It’s nice to do cardio with weight training because it’s a nice way to support your muscle development. You’re working on your cardiovascular [system] when you’re running. But then with weights you’re strengthening your body, your legs, your arms, your back.”

Should you do cardio on a different day to weights?


“If you’re doing a mixed session, ideally you want to do your weights first and then do your cardio after, because you don’t want to tire all your muscles out before you’ve done your weightlifting. You want to focus on form and you don’t want to be too fatigued. So do your weights, and then follow with maybe a 15 minute cardio session. It could be high intensity, it could be intervals, or a run. Or you might not feel like you want to lift weights on one day because you might feel a bit tired, so you could go for a nice easy row or a 5k walk or 5k run. Or if you only have time to do weights, that’s okay, split it and do cardio on another day.”

How can I incorporate cardio with weight training?


“It is good for people to think ‘I know I’m going to be doing a heavy squat session on Friday, I’d better not ruin my legs on Thursday with a 15k run’. It’s all about planning it a little bit, being a little bit smarter, so you’re not training when you’re fatigued.”


“In order to help build a bit more strength and also get cardio in, doing a circuit with strength element in it would be a great way to do it. I do think that balance is a great thing. You can incorporate strength elements into your cardio so then you’re hitting both. If you had a circuit of about four or five movements then you could bring in two lower body and two upper body strength moves and then you could bring in some running or an assault bike.”


“If you do want to do both, which is absolutely fine, you need to make sure that there’s enough recovery time. You may over-do the cardio and weights and then your body is not able to recover in between which is so important. Recovery is actually more important that your actual session time. How much you recover in time and what you actually do in between recovery – you know like getting enough sleep, getting good nutrition in place and so it is ok to do both but you can’t go overboard with both of them. You’ve got to have a recovery day in between. You can’t have equal measures like ‘I’m going to run six times a week and then I’m going to do weights six times a week’. That’s a lot of goals.” 


Stylist Strong is a fitness brand specialising in strength training specifically tailored for women. Our classes are designed to build both physical and mental strength in a smart and informed way.

So, whether you’re a beginner or already have strength-training experience, Stylist Strong has a class to suit you. Come and try our strength-based classes at our own purpose-built studio at The AllBright Mayfair. 

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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