Cardio or Strength Training to Lose Weight?

Hi Davey,

I have a lot of body fat and know that cardio is the only way to lose it. I spend 45 minutes 5 days a week doing interval training on the elliptical. I also want to appear toned and know that I need to add weights to my routine. I only have an hour a day to spend at the gym, so if I add weights, then it will be cutting down on my cardio time big time. What should I do to get ready to hit the beach this June? Stick with cardio and just do pushups and such, or cut back on the cardio and start with free weights?


Dear Anonymous,

You’ve just touched upon one of the biggest fitness misconceptions that the world has ever known. In fact, in some ways, I feel like it’s my personal mission to set things straight. Just doing cardio isn’t - I repeat, is not - the best way to lose weight.

Weight loss is most effectively achieved through a combination of BOTH cardiovascular exercise (i.e., treadmill, biking, swimming) and strength training. While the cardio will get your heart rate up and burn calories, strength training brings great weight loss benefits, too. Strength training adds muscle mass to your body, and increased muscle mass means a dramatically increased metabolism. Adding even a few pounds of muscle will increase the number of calories your body burns each and every day.

Focusing only on cardio and skipping strength training could actually make it harder for you to lose weight. In fact, you may even gain weight - especially if your cardio workouts exceed 45 minutes. If you do cardio too long, your body consumes muscle for energy. For most people, that “too long” mark is at about 45 minutes. Done over and over again, day after day, this excess cardio could have a substantial impact on your body - and the muscle loss could decrease your metabolism and result in weight gain.

If you have 60 minutes of gym time, here’s what I’d recommend for a client looking to lose weight:

  • 25 minutes of cardio (5 minutes of warming up, 15 minutes of intervals, 5 minutes of cooling down)
  • 30 minutes of strength training
  • 5 minutes of post-workout stretching

I hope this helps, and let’s forever put to rest that cardio-only workouts are a good idea for people looking to lose weight.


About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Wow, this just puts me at ease. I do about 30 mins of cardio intervals 4 times a week, plus quite a bit of strength training (At least 30 mins a day)…I was worried that I wasn’t doing enough!
    Thanks Davey!

    • Once you feel like your routine is well established, you can always increase the number of days that you exercise or slightly increase the durations.

      • Hi Davey,
        I have been trying to lose weight of about 60 pounds. I am doing cardio(threadmill and eliptical trainer) for about an hour, then an hour of strength excersice with 2kg dumbbels, but I seem to have gained weight, Do I have to chance my routine?
        I am doing the routine from the past 1 month. Currently my weight is 190 pounds. I am supposed to be 130 pounds. please, guide me on this.

        • I would suggest doing weight training before cardio. You won’t tire yourself out before having to lift and cardio helps push lactic acid out of your muscles helping them recover after lifting.

    • Thanks, Davey for great information. I am passionate about helping other people lose weight and have written a few articles on weight loss. One article is about how strength training will help you lose weight. People do not realize this and it is good you are letting them know how important strength training really is for weight loss. Cardio exercise is also important for weight loss but people tend to over do it and get tired of it and give up. Never knew that if your session is to long your body will start burning muscle. I quess this answers the question why people tend to gain more weight once they give up on cardio exercise. Thanks again for some truly valuable information.

  2. Rafael Barboza says:

    Dear Davey,

    I don’t know if I am doing right at the gym. My routine is:

    20 min on the treadmill

    30 min weight training

    10 min on the treadmill

    Is that ok?


    • Personally, I think that if you use the final ten minutes on the treadmill as a cooldown period and do some stretches as well, it would be okay, but I’m not a trainer.

    • Depends what your goals are! And, of course, more than just the time - what matters is what you do with that time!

  3. Thanks….great advice!

  4. Omg, this helps me so much. Me and my friends have been doing a diet for about two weeks now and we thought we only had to do cardio to lose weight. I’m glad I read this. Thanks so much Davey. 🙂

    Love & Joy,

  5. I have lost 10kgs in past 3 months, doing gym ie wt training,cardio and a proper diet. But now not losing a single kg of wt. want to ask y so.Do i increase my cardio time.

    • You have hit a ‘plateau’ which is common. Bring some changes in your workout, like increasing the intensity, or changing the order of the exercises, or adding new exercises, etc. Google about ‘how to break weight loss plateau’ for more detailed explanation and solutions.


  6. Hi Davey, I have been trying to lose weight for a few months mainly by doing cardio, but I seem to have hit a wall where I am not losing any more, hence your advice makes perfect sense, I am going to try it.

  7. Hi dave

    I’m 5’9 249lbs and I want to lose 40lbs by the summer. I normally do 7minutes warm up on the bicycle, then 30 minutes of weight training, 30 minutes or 45 on the elliptical machine(which is my favorite machine). When I’m done, I do at least 100 crunches. Is that good enough or should I workout harder then that? Btw, I go to the gym 4 days a week.

  8. If I do 30 minutes of cardo prior to strength training, I will be tired and will not have to energy to complete my strength training or lift heavy which I enjoy. After 3 months of strength training I went form 32% down to 24%. But my weight is stuck at 224 pounds and I can’t lose the fat in my stomach/gut area. But overall I feel Great and I’m getting stronger every week.

    Got any advise ? I’m 58 yrs old, does that have anything to do with it. I also watch what I eat.


    • Jennifer says:

      Hello Dave,

      I will be changing my lifting routine to the AM to PM. My previous routime was run 1 mile prior to weight training. I am curious with the change to the afternoon if I add a 20-30 minute cardio routine (4-5 days a week walking on treadmill 15 incline at a steady pace). Is this a bad idea with the concern of losing muscle mass? Main reason for adding is trying to keep fat loss in mid-section slimming down. I do eat correct for fitness level.Thanks for any advice.

  9. hey davey plz told me that how can i get a hot underwear figure

  10. Hi Davey,
    I am a 31 year old female and have about 3stone to lose. I have just started exercising in the hope to lose the weight. Due to work and family time is very limited. This week I have done 30 minutes of cardio every day. This is at home before getting my daughter up for school. I also go to a kick boxing class once a week. Please could you give me some advice on the best way to use my time. I have just bought my self some free weight.

    Thanks for your time and help


  11. Great delivery. Sound arguments. Keep up the great effort.

  12. Dave, do you not think the reason cardio is not effective is simple because an overweight person cannot perform it at an adequately effective level of intensity as opposed to it being ineffective?

    • Ooops, I meant to say *simply because. I only raise this point because I know of 2 individuals who have successfully lost weight and kept it off by hitting the pavement and not picking up a single dumbbell.

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  14. Red Safari says:

    I lost about 35 pounds last year with 90 minute bike rides, about 5 days a week. I didn’t notice muscle mass loss. I was taking in around 1400 calories a day. The main thing I noticed was my quads got larger. I still found that the majority of weight loss was from fat. I was mixing in strength training whenever I could, I just loved the immediate results of a bike ride that burnt 1500+ calories. Scale would go down half a pound each day when combining that with 1400 or less calories. It was intense, but very effective. Can you counter the effects of cardio over 45 minutes with strength training?

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  38. Dana Macaluso says:

    Well, I’m 32 and never had to worry about what I had to eat, never had to think about joining a gym. And then a series of health issues, and a total hysterectomy later, I am now in the throes of menopause complete with hormones. So, those carefree days of ‘eat whatever I want, veg out freely’ time is OVER. I have about 25 lbs to lose to get back to my normal weight, and 35 lbs to lose to get to where I’d be very happy.

    Let me begin by saying ‘ I HATE THE GYM’…..nevertheless…I am going. I have no idea what I am doing, so when I stumbled upon this site, I thought ‘well, maybe someone can tell me if what I am doing is going to result in any results’…

    I am at the gym for about an hour…at least 4x a week..sometimes 5 depending on schedules. I get about 25 minutes of cardio and 35 weight training….I get bored so easily and switch back and forth between cardio, e.g. 10 minutes on bike, then 25 mins. weight training, back to 10 minutes eliptical, move onto treadmill for 5…back to weights…..etc….

    Is this routine going to result in any weight loss in a few months??

    Any tips would be great…..and thaks!

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