If I do cardio, why do I need to do resistance training to tone up?

Some believe that cardio will help you get that toned look that they are looking for. However cardio is only one of three parts you need to focus on. Cardio does help burn calories, lower body fat and increase endurance but it can do everything. Why you need resistance training is to help build muscle to so you can burn more calories resting. Resistance training gives you that toned look that most people look for. Also resistance training helps your body speed up your metabolism as well from 30-50 calories per pound of muscle gained. So really you can have one without the other. Bottom line your need cardio, resistance training and proper meal planning to achieve the results you are looking for.

While doing cardio will strengthen some muscles, a lot of cardio will burn fat, and a little muscle. Cardio is good for your heart health, but if you want to build some muscle tone, you definitely want to add in at least a simple resistance plan.

Well the answer to your question, is in your question. You need to do resistance training to tone up. Cardio training is just that, it trains the heart to sustain prolonged amounts of aerobic activity. Resistance training is what builds muscle.

JC Pinzon

Resistance training is important to avoid osteoporosis and osteopenia. Weakness in the muscles makes you imbalanced and creates orthopedic problems as you age. Having muscles also helps you burn more calories at rest and you will feel and look better.

It is a common misconception that a person only must have a cardio heavy routine to become "toned up." The "tone" look that must people exercising seek to obtain comes from a combination of the burning of fat from either cardio exercise or resistance training and the building of muscle. The building of muscle is essential for the "toned" look because the burning of fat stores will allow muscle to show through, but the there must also be muscle to show. The intent is not to put on weight, but for the tight defined look that most gym goers, even a health seeker, is going to come from the right combination of both. 

Cardio training is crucial to good health. Keeping the heart healthy can help stave off debilitating diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. In addition, cardio training burns more calories each day, helping create the energy deficit you need to lose inches. However, cardio training must be coupled with a good resistance training plan to see maximum results.

There are a few important factors to understand. First, while cardio training may burn a good amount of energy (calories) during the activity, it will not burn the same amount of calories as increased muscle mass will. Muscle burns calories all day long. Second, the heart pumps oxygen to our muscles. We need oxygen to burn fat. So, an efficient cardiovascular system will keep the heart pumping steadily, increase oxygen intake and distribution, and make our fat-burning engines (muscles) work better.

The cardio you do will tone the muscles you are using for the cardio but it will do nothing for the other muscles on your body. For example, if you run for cardio, you will tone the leg muscles, glutes, diaphragm, etc. but it will do nothing for your triceps. To tone all the muscles in your body, you have to work all the muscles and adding resistance training to the muscles not stressed by your cardio will do that.

Adding resistance training to your exercise program will give your muscles the stimulus they need in order to maintain and possibly build lean muscle tissue. Cardiovascular activity is defined in terms of repetitive motion involving cyclical activity of gross muscle groups. This helps you burn calories but doesn't necessarily provide targeted stimulus to specific areas.

Resistance training will break down muscle tissue and cause microscopic trauma or tears to the muscles (don't worry this is a good thing). Following a session, your body works to repair and even build the muscle back to levels that exceed what they were prior to your training session. Throughout this repair process your metabolism stays at elevated levels and thus helps you burn more calories.

In addition, resistance training can be used as method to maintain proper length-tension relationships around joints so that your body remains balanced. This helps you become more efficient with your cardiovascular training and also helps your stay injury free, thus being able to exercise more and ultimately burn more calories to tone up!

Mr. Donovan Green
Athletic Training
Cardio is great for the heart and lungs and some good calorie burn. However it does not work the muscles enough to build them. You have to implement weight training into your program because the external resistance is needed for your bones and muscles. It will force the muscle fibers to rip, heal, and tone. You will also burn more calories because muscles are bigger and require more energy usage. The more energy you use the more calories you will burn. So, the next time you do a cardio workout make sure to add some weight training to the mix. Leave the light weights alone and go to the heavier pounds. This means you too ladies. Get rid of the fear that you will look like a man. YOU WILL NOT! Make sure the weight is heavy but manageable to maintain perfect form.
Too much cardio can burn fat torching muscle so you won't get the results you are looking for. If you want to tone up you need to decrease your body fat percentage. Resistance training (combined with clean nutrition and cardio) will help you reduce the fat overall and build muscle (not the hulk kind - think lean) and it's those muscles that destroy fat at a fast rate. It increases your calorie burn at rest by boosting your metabolism. Muscle also takes up less space so your clothes will fit better and you will be healthier and stronger as a result. One of my favorite quotes that I like to think about when I train is: Strong is the new skinny!
Cardiovascular health is just one component of overall fitness. Resistance training is equally important, because it gives you the overall functional strength to avoid injury in your everyday life. Resistance training not only tones your muscles, it can favorably change your body composition (increase muscle tissue, decrease body fat percentage) which can raise your metabolism and help maintain a healthy weight. Resistance training has also been shown to prevent bone loss, which is extremely important as we age.

You'll always need both because, without building up your cardio endurance you will be at risk for heart disease. Choosing not to do strength training can cause your muscle to atrophy (Atrophy is the partial or complete wasting away of a part of the body). Strength training improves bone density, balance and sports performance. If you tired of the aerobic and strength exercise, try Plyometrics. Plyometrics is a type of exercise training intended to yield fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system, for the purpose of improving performance in sports. If the reason why you don’t want to do Aerobic exercise and Strength training is because you lack time, try full body exercises. Full body exercises will give you a complete workout in half the time and get your heart rate up. So get out there and do something but, get the okay from your doctor and or assessment by you fitness professional/personal trainer before starting a new system of exercise. 

Although endurance exercise improves cardiovascular fitness, it does not prevent muscle tissue loss. Only strength exercise maintains muscle mass and strength throughout midlife. A three month basic strength training program resulted in subjects gaining three pounds of muscle and losing four pounds of fat, while eating 370 more calories per day (a 15 percent calorie increase). A standard strength training program can increase muscle mass by about three pounds over an eight-week training period. This is the typical training response for men and women who do 25 minutes of strength exercise three days per week.

Resistance training will target your muscles and help you avoid muscle atrophy that is also called muscle loss. Atrophy happens when the muscles do not get the stimulus needed to grow, maintain it's size, or what is also called tone up. Doing cardio only will help you burn calories from fat but it will also take energy stored in muscles which means that you could lose some muscle in the process of losing weight. The muscles are the ones that make you look toned and they also make your metabolism work faster burning more calories even when you are at rest.

Other important factor to keep your muscles toned and lose fat, is having a balanced diet combining the right amount of macro nutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein), that will help you to have enough energy for your workouts and reach your goals faster.

Resistance training allows you to achieve tone as a resulting of developing lean muscle. Cardio will burn fat, but in order to achieve tone you need to increase your lean muscle mass through resistance training. The more varied components you have to your workout routines, the greater challenge to your body, which allows you to continue to adapt and change, by essentially keeping your body on its toes.

Cardio is a great fat burner and is also good for the heart, but resistance training (i.e., lifting weights) burns fat longer. Because muscles are metabolically active around the clock, when your body has burned off the day's fuel it will go shopping in the fat stores. The more fat it burns the more toned you will look as a result because you won't have that layer of fat between the muscle and the skin. Also, women don't have to be concerned with "bulking up" either as we don't have the testosterone levels needed for that muscle change to happen.
Cardio is a great exercise for working the heart, vascular and respiratory systems. Resistance training works the muscles. So if your goal is to tone up then resistance training should be a part of your work out. But don't quit the cardio, everyone needs a well-rounded program addressing all parts of the body.

Oh YES! Cardio helps to create a calorie deficit, and while that is a fantastic effect, doing cardio alone typically makes the body relatively shapeless. Resistance training in any form helps to create shape, gives curves, and helps to tone those muscles. The very best combination is a well-rounded routine that incorporates both.

Resistance training helps you burn more calories at rest because that muscle you build will constantly be burning. Cardio is more burning during your workout and a little after. That is why you want a combination of both.
"Toning up" is actually a product of favorably changing body composition. This is achieved through a combination of decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass. You cannot tone body fat so in order to tone up you have to have lean muscle mass. While cardio is great for burning calories and improving cardiorespiratory fitness, strength training is necessary to maintain and/or build lean muscle mass. A healthy combination of both cardio and resistance training will produce the best results for "toning up".  Ideally, you want to breakdown your body weight into fat mass (body fat %) and lean muscle mass (muscle, bones, organs, etc). Favorably changing the percentages of lean mass to fat mass is basically the definition of toning up.

I used to wonder that, too. Why bother with resistance training, as long as I'm exercising?  For me, cardio seems psychologically "easier." I just lace up my shoes and go. If I'm at the gym, I just pick a machine, punch the buttons and watch TV while I put in my time. Why bother with complicated moves?

Well, about three years ago I did add resistance training to my routine. I have to tell you, now I'm hooked! First of all, it is an amazing confidence builder. Your body starts to feel strong, and your posture improves, and you can just feel muscles developing throughout your body. It feels great! 

Second, it is very practical. Every day we have reason to bend down and tie our shoes (lunges), pick a laundry basket up off the floor (deadlifts), bend down and get a heavy box of kitty litter off the bottom shelf at the grocery store (squats), carry in bags of groceries (bicep curls, planks for core stabilization.)  Now I can do those types of daily activities with less effort and less risk of injury. As we get older, we can lose those basic abilities if we don't train our bodies to keep them.

Finally, I love the way I look! Like I said, my posture is stronger. I'm still feminine - believe me, I'm no bodybuilder by any stretch. But now and then I'll catch a glimpse of a defined shoulder, a flexed bicep, a toned calf... It's fantastic!  If you haven't been doing resistance training, give it a chance. If you'd like some guidance on workouts that are appropriate for you, contact me and let's see what we can come up with. You'll be noticing results in no time.


Cardio mainly works your heart and does burn calories, however resistance training helps to strengthen and add lean muscle. To truly tighten and tone your body strength training is a critical part of your fitness plan.
Cory Harris

Keep in mind that while doing cardio for the recommended 5 times a week and for at least 20 minutes each day, you will begin to lose weight or maintain depending on your goals. However, too much cardio with no other form of exercise could be bad. Your number one source of energy in your body is Carbohydrates. Once you burn through all of your Carb's, your body begins to look for another source of energy. Sadly, our body turns to the proteins which are our muscles. If you are going to do a lot of cardio to assist in weight loss goals, nutrition is the most important to ensure that your body has the energy it needs to burn. But, you also need to challenge the muscle and encourage muscle growth and development. That is where resistance training comes into play. By increasing your amount of muscle mass, not necessarily "bulking up", but thickening up the muscle fibers by lifting; you increase your metabolism, thus high calorie burn. With a higher metabolism and calorie burn, you will begin to burn off that pesky fat and you will begin to tone up.

Cardiovascular is a great exercise for your body overall.  However, incorporating resistance training can really help to provide you with a physique that you may not get with cardiovascular exercise by itself.  To perform resistance training, all one needs is their own body weight, no equipment required.  For those women who are concerned about "bulking up" not to worry, our bodies have considerably less testosterone than men which attributes to larger muscles.  Instead, women can attain a lean, toned physique with the combination of cardio and weight training.

Cardio workout for the most part do not provide enough resistance to challenge (the break down and repair cycle) the muscles. The break down and repair cycle is needed to increase muscle mass. Increasing muscle mass is really the only way to increase your metabolism. Cardio really works your heart and lungs; resistance training works your muscles which increases your metabolism. Remember muscle burns more calories than fat-when working out and while at rest.

Resistance training is an important part of speeding up your metabolism as well as putting the stress on your bones that they need to stay strong and dense for the rest of your life. When you do "cardio" exercise you are burning calories for those minutes that you are doing the exercise.  When your cardio session is over, your elevated calorie burn is over. When your resistance training session is over, you are burning a higher number of calories for the following 24 hours and sometimes MORE. Research has shown that you can burn twice the amount of calories IN YOUR SLEEP after a resistance training session and also a pound of muscle can burn more than twice the calories as a pound of fat in a 24 hour period. For each pound of muscle you put on you are raising your regular calorie burn through the roof. Cardio exercise is important but it's also important to realize that circuit training and interval training with weights IS in fact "cardio exercise".

Cardio is a vital part of overall fitness; however, incorporating a proper resistance training routine is just as important. Cardio helps with muscle, respiratory and cardiovascular endurance but probably does not provide adequate resistance for muscular/joint strength and stability. Both cardio and resistance training are important to overall fitness.  

Cardio is important to add when trying to tone up because it will help burn body fat, but adding resistance training to your routine will actually give your muscles the toned and defined appearance you desire. Performing resistance training will also raise your metabolism, which can slow down from excessive dieting. I like to combine cardio and resistance training in one workout by having my clients perform circuit training routines. Circuit training can give you an efficient fat-burning workout (which will tone your muscles as well) in a shorter amount of time. 

You will need to incorporate resistance training in addition to cardio training because when you work with resistance this will help build lean muscle. The lean muscle that is built though resistance training will tone and define the outer appearance of the body. Cardio training will focus primarily on burning the fat that is around the muscle.  

Resistance will help you develop some muscle or a lot of muscle, if you so choose and work hard for. Muscle will give your body an aesthetically pleasing look, as well as a stronger body.

Eating right and doing cardio are two key factors in trying to tone up. In order to tone up, you must begin by reducing your stored fat and burn more calories (energy) than you consume. However, when your body seeks energy to burn, it will find that energy stored in muscle and fat. This means that muscle can also be lost while trying to achieve the body fat reduction goal by performing only cardiorepiratory activities. Resistance training will help to minimize the loss of muscle by continuously providing the stimulus the muscle needs. If muscles are not used, they will reduce in size and start to be wasted, we call this muscle atrophy. By maintaining the muscle on your body, you will also be working to increase your metabolism. Metabolism is the amount of calories necessary to maintain your body. More muscle will mean more calories being burned during your body's regular functioning activities. By incorporating resistance training in with a weight loss program, you can work to minimize muscle loss, speed up metabolism, and achieve your goals of toning up much quicker.

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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.