Can Cardio Make You Stronger?

Cardio is the C-word of the workout world. No one enjoys it, it's slow and boring and the least effective way to burn fat. Unless your goal is to get better at cardio, is it a waste of time? Or can cardio help make you stronger?

Your heart and lungs are muscles, so yes, you will become stronger in those areas from cardio, no doubt about that. But cardio, when performed along with consistent strength training, can aid the skeletal muscles of your body in becoming stronger as well.

Cardiovascular activity itself is catabolic, which means it eats away at your muscles rather than building them up. This is why strength training for runners is so important and why those that don't will often suffer injuries. Not to mention, when they are injured and can't run, they gain weight and they gain it fast, because a lack of muscle mass means slower metabolic function. While this would seem to prove the point that cardio is the antithesis of strength training, remember that a well rounded routine is the only way to build well-rounded fitness.

Firstly, cardio teaches your body to use oxygen more efficiently and oxygen is one of the necessary factors that facilitate muscle contractions. During exercise, your body shunts blood flow from your abdomen and redistributes it to your exercising muscles. Your rate of breathing increases to fill your blood with more oxygen to deliver it to those exercising muscles that need it to function. A muscle with better, more consistent blood flow will be bigger and stronger, no doubt about it.

Plus, the prolonged, repetitive movements of cardiovascular activities work to build muscular endurance. When it comes to building strength, time under tension is the name of the game. The longer your muscles are able to work under stress, the greater your time under tension and the longer you can last during heavy sets.

But strength isn't just about how much you can squat.  Strength is functional- how well you can complete physical tasks required of you in your every day life. Functional strength is the key to performance inside and outside the gym, and cardio is a key component to that. A well rounded routine is the only way to create a well rounded athlete.

Cardio is defined as an activity that elevates your heart rate for an extended period of time. This doesn't mean you have to take up running or learn to love ellipticalling your life away. You can do cardio and strength workouts in one, saving you precious time without sacrificing results or boring yourself to tears. Farmer walks, the prowler, or simply wearing a heart rate monitor and setting up a strength training circuit, making sure to move without rest to keep the heart rate elevated, will better support your goals of becoming stronger by promoting muscle growth while getting those cardio benefits.


by Kelly Turner

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