Can weight lifting be considered cardio training?

If done with a focus on power and intensity, weight lifting can indeed induce a significant oxygen debt and cardio demand. In fact, I love adding a cardio component to my lifting programs!  Not only is it an effective use of time, but it keeps it interesting. If you're just beginning a fitness program, I suggest performing body weight exercises with speed - for example, in between weight training upper body, perform body weight squats at a fast, but controlled speed. When that becomes too easy, you can progress to plyometric training (adding a jump to the top portion of your squat), or adding weight to increase the resistance. You can use a similar (body weight) approach with other exercises like sit ups, push-ups and pull-ups as well. To introduce speed to other exercises, try using resistance tubing rather than free weights - this way you can perform biceps curls, chest presses, shoulder presses, and rows with speed. Just remember to only go as fast as you can while maintaining proper (safe) form. And have fun!

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.

Yes. When you feel your heart throbbing, that is cardio training. A circuit based workout with little or no rest is fantastic for your cardiovascular system.
Definitely, if the weight lifting routine is performed in the correct manner. Typically, cardio training is characterized by a prolonged increase in heart rate. With traditional weight lifting, a set is performed followed by a rest period before the next set. This rest period allows for muscle recovery but also allows for a decrease in heart rate. The best way to make weight lifting an impromptu cardio session is to nix the rest periods in between sets. This is typically referred to as circuit training. The circuit training works is by performing one set of each exercise in your workout (which should be about 5-7 exercises) back to back to back with minimal rest in between the sets. When you complete one full round of the ciruit you can take a short rest 30-90 seconds and then start back from the top. Depending on your weight lifting experience and the intensity of your exercises, you should complete 2 - 4 rounds of the circuit. If you have never done weight lifting using this method be sure to decrease your load (weight) on your exercises. You'll find that on your second and third round through, your body is pretty fatigued because the muscles haven't been given their typical rest periods. Circuit training is a great way to break up the monotony of working out and can be an awesome plateau buster! Be sure to order your exercises so that you are working the big muscle groups (and multi-joint) exercises first, followed by the smaller muscle groups (single joint exercises). Enjoy!

Generically weight lifting is considered anaerobic, lack of aerobic. The truth is that cardio training is similar to weight lifting in that it must follow identical guidelines, i.e. the FITT principle. FITT stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type. Altering a weight lifting session's frequency (number of sessions at a given time), intensity (neuromuscular demand), time (length of session and intensity), and type (activity) in a session will affect the body's adaptations by increasing several physiological factors, such as stroke volume, cardiac output, and resting heart rate resulting in cardio.

On a side note, influencing intensity and duration under load and time will elicit a positive metabolic effect.  For example, strength training is short so it utilizes ATP; whereas, aerobic training is not short and utilizes glycolysis. When altering the simple factors listed above to totally tax the system, the body combines both energy systems. Moreover, a positive metabolic effect will help with weight loss.

The bottom line is that weight lifting can be considered cardio training.

It depends on the intensity with which you are lifting.  For example, if you are to perform supersets with little to no rest, you may experience a cardio effect; Kettlebell training is also a great example of a cardio effect in a weight lifting based modality of training.  Circuit training is also a great way to work in cardio and strength training together.  
The answer is YES!!! Weight lifting can be considered cardio training. When training clients, I like to incorporate strength and cardiovascular training as one exercise. For example, I will have a client perform 15 repetitions of squat jumps while holding a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells. Each time a client land and squats, they will perform a biceps curl and repeat the jump. This movement will be performed for the duration of the exercise.
Robert May

Yes, there are ways to incorporate your cardio training into your weight lifting program. Keeping your heart rate elevated by using a circuit style routine is an excellent way to do so. While engaging in the type of circuit, you must decrease the rest period between sets, allowing your heart rate to remain elevated throughout the entire routine.

Coming from an endurance sport background, it is difficult at times to admit this; but yes! If done in a circuit training format with the proper combination of sets, reps, and decreased rest in between, you can get a really sound cardio workout with weights. I often tell my runners that they either love what they do or they are somewhat crazy since, from a purely "lifetime wellness perspective" they could get a sound cardio work out and get all of the benefits of strength training in one simple workout without running.

Thank goodness they seldom listen to their coach!

Of course it can! Any time you are raising your heart rate you will help build your endurance. When you incorporate any 2-3 exercises together you have a circuit routine. The type of exercises will be determined by your goal and expertise.

I love having my clients do a pushing exercise for upper body then a lower body movement like squats than maybe "active rest" like a plank. Recovery is dependent on the goal, ability and your heart rate.

Certainly, one can perform weight lifting and cardiovascular training simultaneously. For example, the old school exercise, Squat Thrust can be particularly challenging by adding dumbbells.

The squat thrust is a callisthenic exercise that works nearly every part of your body. Performed fast or slow, modified or full out, it's a killer.

To begin the squat thrust with a dumbbell, stand straight with dumbbells at your side, feet together. Squat down to the floor remaining on the balls of your feet, place dumbbells horizontally slightly in front, slightly outside of your feet.  

Explosively hop both feet back behind you. You'll be in the plank position, then explosively hop your feet back in, and stand up with dumbbells at our side.

To up the ante, you can add a push up from the plank position and hop back up to the starting position.  

Perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps of this exercise, and I guarantee you'll be crying for mercy and sweating bullets, too.

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.  

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

Weight lifting can be considered cardio training because it increases your heart rate, specially when using vertical training mixed with circuit training with little or no rest between sets and high repetitions (16 to 26 reps) and low resistance . Also the tempo is important, using a slow tempo (4/2/1) will engage more muscles (decelerators and stabilizers), burning more calories. Results depend on how you manipulate the training variables according to your specific goal.



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.

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.

As long as your heart rate and breathing rate are being raised during your weight lifting, then it is considered cardiovascular training as well. Circuit training is a great example of how weight lifting and cardio training can be combined into one workout. Simply reduce your rest time in between sets or perform your exercises in a series, one after the other with no rest at all.

Brian Waldo

Weight lifting can certainly be considered cardiovascular if done in a circuit fashion. This is were you have 3-5 exercises or more set up for different body regions and you rotate from one to the next.  You rotate on a rep count or timed interval of some sort. Generally, you should be tracking your heart rate and being sure that your rest periods or transition times to not allow your heart rate to fall below the targeted training range. This heart rate range may have been set for yourself or that your trainer has set for you. So, keeping moving is the focal point. Remember you must be moving continually for 3 minutes or more to considered cardiovascular exercise.

Yes, weightlifting can be considered cardio training. A weightlifting program can be designed to elicit the proper response to increase your heart rate and enhance your cardiopulmonary system. It is important that the program is built to you the individual. The program should take into account your heart rate training zone parameters, your structural thresholds, and your goals. The variables of the program can be designed to match you. Variables such as exercise selection, rest to work ratio, load, speed, and total duration can be tweaked to fit you.

Yes, weight lifting at a fast pace with little rest between sets is an effective cardio training tool. In addition to the extra cardio conditioning, you will increase your endurance and calories consumption. Be sure to maintain proper control of your weights and posture during your workout.

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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.