Can weight lifting be considered cardio training?

Wendy Batts
Absolutely! Cardio training is anything that makes the heart and lungs work harder. Weight training definitely taxes your cardiorespiratory system. Remember, you’re breathing a little harder after a set of resistance training exercises after all. To increase the cardio-like feel of your weight training, minimize the rest in between sets of exercises or perform exercises one after another in a circuit.
Absolutely! Circuit training is actually one of the most beneficial forms of cardiorespiratory training - and one of my personal favorites. Any form of training that increases your heart rate and breathing rate can be used as a form of cardio training. Circuit training involves performing a series of resistance training exercises one after the other with little to no rest between exercises. This type of training has been shown to be just as beneficial as traditional forms of cardio training for improving, or contributing to improved fitness levels.

Yes, any activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered cardio training particularly performing resistance training in a circuit style fashion, (little to no rest between exercises). Elevated heart and breathing rates improves the function of the cardiorespiratory system (heart and lungs). When this occurs, more oxygen is carried to working muscles. In addition, the heart becomes stronger and is able to pump out more blood with each beat. For maximum cardiovascular benefits combining strength training with other forms of aerobic exercise such as walking, running, swimming, or aerobics/dance.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT

Yes, definitely! The heart’s job is to pump oxygen, nutrients, and energy to our working muscles via the blood, regardless of the type of activity. With that said any activity that increases your breathing rate and requires the heart to pump and circulate more blood, such as weight lifting, will provide benefits similar to those from cardio training. To maximize your body’s cardio fitness resulting from weight lifting, make sure to vary your routine by continually changing how many exercises you do, the intensity at which you do them, and the amount of rest you take between sets and/or rounds of exercises. 

Picture of weight training

Yes, if you do circuit type training. This type of workout cycles multiple stations, moving quickly from on exercise to the next. Mix your stations with strength exercises and cardiovascular exercises.  Perform these series of exercises with little to no rest.  

Recent studies have shown that various types of weight training like circuit training can improve aerobic fitness. To be aerobic in nature the weightlifting has to be intense enough and with a short enough rest period to keep the heart rate constantly elevated. Studies have shown that regular bouts of training like circuit training lower resting heart rate, increase VO2 max, and improve aerobic power despite not being traditional cardiovascular training. If you're pressed for time at the gym, and want to get the most bang for your buck, try a circuit training routine, you will improve your muscular strength and endurance, improve bone mineral density, and improve cardiovascular fitness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.