Here at Men's Health, we ride or die with resistance training – and you should too.
Let me first say in my best Trump voice that nobody respects runners or cyclists more than me. Nobody. I regularly incorporate running and cycling into my weekly workout regimen and I believe they have an integral place in a well-rounded fitness program. That being said, when you compare both forms of exercise to strength training, well, they just don't compare.
It's kind of like going to a steakhouse. The steak, like strength training, is the main feature and it takes up a whole big plate on its own. It's got that hefty dose of powerful protein to build you up and that satiating fat to energise you for days. And nothing makes you sweat like meat does.
Now cycling and running are like two good side dishes. Let's say mushrooms and asparagus for example. You don't need them, but they sure as hell make the overall meal better. But the steak is what you came for. And if you're on a budget, you cut out the sides and get straight to the meat of it.
Not a fan of food analogies? Then chew on these 10 delicious reasons why resistance training is better than running and cycling.
Runners have great calves, there's no denying that. But if all you do is run, that's pretty much all you'll have to offer other than what you were genetically blessed with. That's because running primarily stresses the ankle joints and your cardiovascular system.
Sure, it's a whole-body movement, but it really doesn't require a big enough range of motion to stimulate muscle growth elsewhere. The exception would be for sprinting, but even sprinters add strength training workouts like this one to their training plans as it's the only way to maximise speed and power output. And let's be honest—most runners are doing distance work, not sprints.
I must admit that cyclists have some of the best quads on the planet. And there's no better way to build the quads than with cycling, particularly cycling intervals. It's low impact, easy on the knees, and you can apply varied levels of resistance to work the entire strength through speed spectrum.
That being said, because cycling is so knee-dominant, it does absolutely nothing to develop the hips (or the upper body for that matter). That's the reason why many cyclists suffer from "pancake ass." Their quads are insane, but they have little to no gluteal development. This can lead to a host of problems including lower-back pain and pants that require a belt and suspenders to stay up.
Plus, the last thing you want to do after a long day of sitting at your desk with your hips flexed and spine rounded is do the same thing on a bike. It's no wonder that many cyclists suffer from terrible posture.
A stronger muscle has more potential to do everything better. It's capable of generating more power, building up more stamina, and taking pressure off your joints and connective tissues. And nothing builds strength like the progressive overload offered by strength training. It's simple—get stronger and your performance potential instantly goes up.
It's often said the the rise of running created the physical therapy industry. The inherent imbalances that running and cycling create within the human body due to the limited range of motion and repetitive movement patterns can lead to overtraining injuries.
Sound strength training actually can bulletproof your joints and reduce the risk of injury from all types of training. That's why many runners and cyclists now incorporate strength work into their training plans. It allows you to strengthen imbalances and prioritise movements that running and cycling don't effectively train.
Strength training allows you to maximally develop every skeletal muscle in your body, not just your calves and quads. It allows you to build the size, symmetry, and proportions that can help you proliferate your gene pool.
Surely, many of you may find this reason to be vain. I would agree. But it doesn't make it any less true.
Everything else being equal, the more muscle mass you have, the less body fat you'll have. We covered this increased metabolic engine earlier. This is why bodybuilders and strength/power athletes like sprinters have lower body fat percentages than endurance athletes. It's often said that you'll never find an overweight sprinter, but there are plenty of runners and cyclists who carry a lot of extra weight on their frames.
If your goal is to be a lean, mean, fitness machine, you simply cannot do without strength training. But there are plenty of men and women out there who are ripped who don't do a whole lot of running or cycling.
Cycling and running don't offer a whole lot in the variety department. Sure you can cycle standing or seated and do both indoors or outdoors or uphill or downhill. And yes, you can even employ different environments and travel on different terrains. Yay!
But there are literally HUNDREDS of ways to do pushups, and that's just a single upper-body and core exercise within the massive resistance training exercise database. That's why resistance training offers a more complete workout that frankly is a lot more fun to perform.
As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density. This can make us fat and more susceptible to injuries. Studies have shown time and time again that the best way to reverse these effects are with a dedicated resistance training program.
The reason most middle-aged men and women suddenly appear overweight is actually due to the annual loss of muscle mass that starts after you turn 30. This loss of muscle mass decreases metabolism and you literally get fatter while eating the same amount of calories that you did when you were younger. The weight gain happens gradually, almost to the point where you have plausible deniability that it's even happening at all. But then all of a sudden it hits you in the form of a belly. And belly fat greatly increases your risk of negative health outcomes like metabolic disorder, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
In addition, the muscles we tend to lose first are the fast-twitch fibres that make us lean and athletic. Strength training is the best way to target these fibres and prevent us from getting fatter and slower.
This article was originally published on MensHealth.com