One of the most stubborn fallacies is that myth of putting resistance training and cardiovascular training as two entirely different entities in the body. What a disservice, and what a poor approach to conditioning and health. The commercial fitness industry has much of the blame on this.

Take for instance, your typical novice going to a fitness facility for the first time. Whether seeking the guidance of a typical trainer or the written word found on the pages of the junk hanging on the magazine racks, the individual is told one thing: Start with cardio and you’ll do weights in the future.

Now, let us take a few seconds to actually do some thinking and see why such a statement does not make much sense, and we will analyze it along some of the more common beliefs that are still used as rebuttal.

But I have never exercised, I should start with cardio
So we have an individual who has not done anything physical in a long time, if ever, and wants to get started. Excellent goal. What does conventional wisdom say? Start with Cardio.

But hold on… We have an individual who is physically unfit, of who we know very little of the state of his muscular endurance. We do not know how long his untrained muscles are going to be able to support him before the load gets shifted to his joints and ligaments.

Further, we know nothing of his neuromuscular state, that is, his reaction time, coordination, or any imbalances he may present. There are assessments, but these are also limited in scope and do not tell us the whole story. And with this very limited information, we are putting this person to perform repetitive loaded patterns popularly known as cardio.

Would it not make more sense to start this person in a reasonable resistance training program that would help us monitor his progress and pinpoint his issues? Wouldn’t this approach along with the strength gained help this person sustain the stresses of repetitive movement, AKA traditional cardio?

But weights is not cardio! Cardio works the heart!
Here we go again, separating two functions that are much closer than people have been led to believe. What does working the heart exactly mean? I have yet to see somebody approach a piece of cardio equipment, remove the heart out of his chest, put it to work, and then put it back in when the routine is over.

The heart is simply reacting to the working muscles which in turn are engaged in a form of vigorous movement. The circulatory and respiratory systems do not absolutely care for the source of the movement, nor do they understand fat burning zones and other fallacies that will be analyzed in the next installment, all they care about is making an efficient exchange of gasses to fit the rigors of the activity and keep the body moving as demanded.

Basic strength training should not be neglected in this critical phase. An individual who builds a solid strength base and has his unbalances and issues addressed, will undoubtedly sustain endurance activities far longer and safer than somebody who jumps into endurance activity without any previous training, just to “work the heart”.

If you really want to isolate the heart here’s a novel idea; lie down on your bed and hold your breath for as long as you can. Guaranteed that by the time your body forces you to breathe, your heart will be beating like a maniac. Did it benefit your endurance? I think not, but hey, it worked your heart!

Most people are not familiar with the hundreds of variations and applications of resistance training, and what they know as “weights’ usually conveys the image of spandex clad muscle boys curling and benching. No wonder they fail to see the fallacy in the weights vs. cardio dilemma. Now, if we have our trainee perform supersets and circuit training within his capabilities, wouldn’t his heart be engaged?

It’s impossible not to. His working muscles are demanding his cardiovascular and respiratory systems to eliminate excessive CO2 and bring forth fresh O2. While the modality does not fit the traditional view of aerobic exercise, you can bet the heart is getting a workout!

But weights are hard on the joints!
No unless you stupidly overload the joints on purpose, and here is another great tidbit. The joints do not get stressed only under excessive loads, they do get damaged as well by overuse.

So if we put a well designed program for our trainee, changing the exercises frequently and monitoring the loads, will he risk his joints? Absolutely not. Oh but take your average cardio user engaged in the same movement pattern day after day month after month, what are his chances of developing overuse injuries after awhile… Pretty high wouldn’t you say?

Loading the joints progressively and in different arrays strengthens and nourishes them. The fluid inside the joints can bring fresh nutrients only under loaded conditions.

It is the excessive stress put in the joints with no rest, and engaging in the same exercises over and over, what causes premature wear and leads to arthritis. You can damage your knees from squatting just as easily as you would from spending too much time on the elliptical machine.

Part II of this excellent topic will be covered in the next installment next month. More fallacies will be brought up to light, and will hopefully help you make better decisions in the future or allow you to look at exercise with a new perspective

Author's Bio: 

Israel A. Sanchez is Bainbridge Island's top Strength and Conditioning expert. He helps his clients overcome major pain issues and puts them back in the path of amazing fitness. Visit his blog at Coach Izzy Talks Fitness.

Israel is available for presentations and lectures on the topic of Exercise, Health, Fitness, and all things Strength.