#REALGIRLFIT…strength vs cardio

#realgirlfit is all about fitness in the pursuit of a happier you. It’s not about reaching unrealistic aesthetic goals by way of punishment. Been there, done that! I started working out in the gym at 16 because I wanted to change the way my body looked. I wanted to lose weight, so I started exercising more, and dieting more extremely (going a whole day with no food, bingeing the next, living off soup and pineapples for weeks, the list goes on). But what ensued was years of yo-yo dieting, never being the same size for longer than six months, losing 40 kilos and putting half of it back on again.

Two years ago while working on an emotional eating column for Psychologies Magazine I started training at Lomax Bespoke Fitness with no aesthetic goals. My only aim was to improve my fitness levels. Now, my goals are a little more complex. I want to lose body fat, gain muscle, and improve my endurance levels (so I can run for the bus without breaking a sweat). And I want to do this all without becoming obsessive, going on restrictive diets and above all I need to enjoy what I’m doing.

So what’s the best way to train to achieve these goals? The answer would totally depend on who you ask, but let’s start with strength training vs cardio?

While cardio will see your overall weight drop you may well lose all important muscle (which weighs more than fat) too. Cardio burns more calories than strength training, but strength training allows you to burn more calories post workout. For every three pounds of muscle you gain you can expect to burn around 120 calories without even moving. This is thanks to its ability to increase your metabolism (the more muscle you have the faster your metabolism becomes). Don’t worry about bulking up because unless you start taking testosterone and consume a lot more food there is no way you will begin to resemble a body builder. You don’t have to lift heavy weights either, start with body weight exercises like squats, lunges, press ups, tricep dips etc. These will leave you looking leaner even if the number on your scales stays the same or even increases. You can also create a workout that mixes cardio with weight training to get the best of both worlds (see below).

From personal experience I’ve found that now I’ve added three cardio sessions (HIIT, boxing and spinning) into my programme, alongside my weight lifting (five strength training sessions – two leg days, two upper body workouts and one full body) my fat percentage has dropped far quicker than it ever has before (without being on a restrictive diet), while my muscle mass has increased. In February alone I lost two percent body fat and gained three percent muscle to be exact. This is the ideal training method for me to achieve my fat loss goals. However, if you are simply looking to tone up, strength training is a must as cardio alone will never give you a defined aesthetic.


I love olympic lifting (yes that’s what I’m doing here) with one of my favourite trainers, Maria Samoshenkova. If you’re not quite ready for that but want to incorporate strength training into your workouts try this awesome strength and cardio circuit designed by Samoshenkova.


Cardio & Strength circuit

Mobility warm-up (30 seconds for each exercise)

Arm swing across the chest
Full shoulder rotation arm swing (front to back then back to front) with the hips/legs static
Good mornings
Deep squats – touch the side of your feet before coming to stand
Straight leg walk ins to high plank into downward dog
Warrior stretch reaching over
Scorpion reaches

Ab circuit (30 seconds for each exercise)

Crunches with weight placed on your chest
Bicycle crunch
Straight leg raises
Russian twists with weight

Cardio Warm up (30 seconds for each exercise)

Resistance Band kick back left leg
Resistance B kick back right leg
Jumping plié squats
Mountain climbers

Block 1 (3 sets of each exercise alternating from one to another – 1 minute each)

Squats with barbell or hand weights – 3 seconds down and 1 second thrust upwards

Backwards lunges (hand weights or barbell optional)

1 minute of either…Bike sprint or treadmill sprint or burpees

Ab circuit (as above)


Block 2 (3 sets of each exercise alternating from one to another – 1 minute each)

Narrow stance squat jumping into a wide stance squat with or without amTRX
Kettle bell swings

1 minute of either…Bike sprint or treadmill sprint or burpees

Ab circuit (as above)


Block 3 (3 sets of each exercise alternating from one to another – 1 minute each)

TRX row or barbell row
Dumbell clean and press one arm at a time (alternate)

Ab circuit (30 seconds for each exercise)

Crunches with weight
Legs up reach toward your toes
Leg raises
Russian twists with weight