After several years of writing this blog, it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads it regularly that I’m a firm fitness advocate. I’m no Olympian or anything (Shut up! I heard that! You know who you are!) but I work hard to try and stay healthy, especially in light of having Type-1 Diabetes for over four decades. It started years ago with karate and slowly evolved into some cardio training and light weights. Like any fighting sport, karate requires that a practitioner have a reasonable amount of cardio in order to keep up with the rigours of martial arts. Some weightlifting is required in order to maintain one’s strength. So that begs the question: which is more important? Cardio or strength training?
The thing with any form of exercise is that one always believes that their way is the best way. People who focus on resistance training will always assume that resistance training is the best. People who focus on cardio will assume that whatever they do, running, cycling, swimming or whatnot, will swear that cardio is the only way. Realistically, karate is the only best way… (see what I mean?) But seriously, people will always assume that their direction is the only one but the reality is simpler than that. Proper and effective fitness will require both.
If all you do is weight lift, you may gain some static strength but it will have no practical application. Unless you’re trying to body build professionally, weightlifting is usually best done in moderate doses. The larger and more rounded your muscle groups become, the less flexibility and range of motion you’ll have. Picture those huge body builders who can’t remove that post-it note from between their shoulder blades. That’d be pretty easy shit for a person with normal muscle mass. That’s why in general and especially if you do karate, you should limit your strength training to developing actual strength and not necessarily increasing your overall size.
If all you do is cardio, you’ll have great stamina, great endurance and be able to hold out under your own body weight for extended periods of time. But you’ll need to run, if someone strong tries to get their hands on you. The caveat is that intensive cardio training will actually contribute to a bit of strength training. You can’t be a long-distance runner or a marathon swimmer without some strength thrown in there, right? But ultimately, you’ll still need some strength training included in your overall routine. Here’s where I get to brag a bit and mention that karate promotes and provides both of those things.
No matter what type of workouts you prefer, you should always work to include all types. You need some cardio. You need some strength training. And if you do martial arts, you need them both. Whether you integrate both aspects into one workout or do them separately… I like doing a routine where I’ll do my weight sets with a couple of minutes of high-intensity cardio in between. It keeps my heart rate up and makes the workout all the more challenging. If you’re doing cardio as a standalone workout, it’s important to remember that besides the normally-expected benefits of cardio, getting that heart rate up and increasing your blood flow will also help with muscle recovery from your strength training. Food for thought… ☯️