woman lifting weights as a means of doing cardio workout

Is Lifting Weights Considered Cardio? The Answer.

Our website is supported by our readers. We sometimes earn a commission when you click through the affiliate links on our website at no extra cost to you.

Ah, the ongoing debates between cardio and weight training. Which is better? Should you do one over the other? Is lifting weights actually considered cardio, etc, etc. The questions are never ending! It kind of reminds me of the shampoo vs. conditioner scene in the film Billy Madison.

So many simple questions, yet everyone wants to offer a complicated answer. Ultimately though, despite the movement, the intensity, the weight, or the duration, if you’re elevating your heart rate, you’re doing cardio. It’s as simple as that.

Today, let’s try to dispel of the idea that cardio and weight lifting are mutually exclusive and learn how they can be one in the same.

What Is Cardio?

Let’s start with a fundamental understanding of what “cardio” actually is.

The term “cardio” is short for cardiovascular exercise. In the simplest of terms, cardio is anything that increases your heart rate and improves cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) health.

In most cases, cardio is what’s called aerobic exercise since it involves a steady state of oxygen consumption.

Some basic examples of cardio exercises include walking, running, biking, swimming, and aerobics classes.

How Do Lifting Weights Fit Into This?

weight lifting is considered cardio

Weightlifting is technically not considered a cardio exercise, rather anaerobic or requiring little to no oxygen throughout the movement.

However, that said, lifting weights can easily be done in a way that increases your heart rate and provides cardiovascular benefits. Here are 3 examples of how you can gain the most cardiovascular benefits from adding weight:

1. Circuit Training

Circuit training is a workout that includes various exercises that target different muscles. A circuit of 2-3 weightlifting exercises with little rest between sets is guaranteed to spike your heart rate.

2. Low Weight, High Reps

A heavy 1 rep max is always impressive. However, if you want the cardio benefits, consider grabbing a lighter weight and performing 20-30 reps.

3. Slow Down

It may seem counterintuitive to slow your pace down to elevate your heart rate, but it works. Slowing the overall movement throughout the range of motion and tapping into the mind/body connection is a surefire way to exhaust your muscles and tax your lungs.

So, the answer to the question “is lifting weights cardio?” is… it absolutely can be. It all comes down to how you lift weights.

How To Combine Weight Training And Cardio For Fat Loss

It probably goes without saying, but if you’re wondering if weightlifting counts as cardio, it’s because you’re looking to improve your physique.

To gain muscle and lose fat, it’s a good idea to do both cardio and weightlifting. Cardio will help you burn calories, and weightlifting will help you build muscle. But because muscle is metabolically more active than fat, even when you’re at rest, the more muscle you have, the greater number of calories you’ll burn.

The best way to lose fat is to do a combination of cardio and weightlifting. You can do this by lifting weights 3-5 times per week and doing some form of cardio on the days in between.

What About Cardio Machines?

You don’t need a cardio machine to improve your cardiovascular health. Instead, you can get all the cardio benefits you need by walking at a moderate pace.

Walking is a low-impact cardio exercise that is easy on your joints. It’s also free, and you can do it anywhere. If you want to get more out of your walks, you can add some hills, pick up the pace, or wear a weight vest.

According to one study:

Using a weighted vest can increase the metabolic costs and relative exercise intensity of slow graded treadmill walking.
A 5% increase from 10% BM (body mass) to 15% BM can increase metabolic costs and relative exercise intensity with no significant increase in perceived exertion.

In other words, simply wearing a weight vest with a 5-10lb weight can significantly increase how much energy you burn!

If you enjoy using cardio machines, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just know that you don’t need them to get a good cardio workout.

Related Reading: What Cardio Machines Burn The Most Calories: 5 Best Machines

Cardio And Weights Workout Plan

If you want to improve your cardiovascular health, here is an example workout plan that combines cardio and weightlifting:

Day 1:

30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (walking, biking, elliptical)

Circuit of 10-12 different weightlifting exercises, with little rest in between sets

Day 2:

45 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (walking, biking, elliptical)

Day 3:

30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (walking, biking, elliptical)

Circuit of 10-12 different weightlifting exercises, with little rest in between sets

Day 4:

60 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (walking, biking, elliptical)

Day 5:

30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (walking, biking, elliptical)

Circuit of 10-12 different weightlifting exercises, with little rest in between sets

Day 6:

45 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (walking, biking, elliptical)

Day 7:

Rest day or light activity (yoga, stretching, walking)

As you can see, this workout plan combines cardio and weightlifting to help improve your cardiovascular health. However, it’s important to note that the intensity of your cardio workouts should be moderate. This means you should be able to talk but not sing during your workouts.

If you’re starting, it’s essential to ease into this workout plan. Start with lower intensities and shorter duration cardio workouts. You can also start with fewer weightlifting exercises and add more as you get stronger.


What happens if you combine cardio and weights?

This is a great question! While cardio and weights are essential for overall health, combining the two can be incredibly beneficial. Cardiovascular exercises like running or biking can help improve your heart health while lifting weights can help build muscle and improve your strength.

What is the right mix of cardio and weight training?

There is no one-size-fits-all information to this query, as the right mix of cardio and weight training will vary depending on your individual fitness goals. But, the common knowledge is to do three days of cardio for weight training every day. This will help ensure you get enough of both exercises to see results.

Should I do more cardio or weights to lose belly fat?

This is another excellent question! While cardio and weights can help you lose weight, cardio exercises will typically burn more calories in the moment, while weight lifting and strength training are great for losing weight over the long term. This is because increasing your muscle mass will increase the number of calories your body will naturally burn every day.

It’s also not possible to target belly fat specifically. When you lose body fat, it gets lost all over your body simultaneously, it’s not possible to target a specific area and lose fat there.

The Bottom Line

So, is lifting weights cardio? If done correctly, for sure.

As outlined, any movement that elevates your heart rate or causes you to breath heavier is causing a metabolic burn. So if you’re not a treadmill kind of guy/gal, grab a light dumbbell instead. You’ll be amazed what slow, concentrated movements will do to your heart rate.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top