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Do the squats/lunges in aerobic workouts count as strength training?

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Hi, just wondering if movements like squats, lunges or speedbags, like those done in the Turbo Jam Cardio Party, count as strength training? Or is strength training only when you use weights at a lower intensity? And what about pilates or yoga? Would those count as you are constantly working the abs, thighs & arms?
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In a limited sense it is strength training - though you run into the obvious issue with bodyweight-based resistance training pretty fast: just as your muscles get stronger and you need to increase the resistance.. you lose weight and decrease the resistance your muscles are working against.

 Therefore, any and all bodyweight-based protocol is limited in what it can do for you long term - if you can do more than 16-20 repetitions of an exercise in one series, you're strictly working on your strength endurance - more than 20-25 in one go and you're doing aerobic endurance training and not working on your strength at all.

 Well, for legs you can work your way up to the ultra-high rep range of 50-100 in one series and get lactate-mediated growth hormone release and see some muscle growth again that way, but for most people that's an altogether too painful method.

 By the way - intensity is defined as percentage of your 1 Repetition Maximum, the weight you can only lift once. High intensity is lifting a weight that's at least 80-85% of your 1RM. I realize that the cardio people have tried to redefine it to mean "percentage of your max heart rate during exercise" but trust me, when you're squatting 90% of your max for reps your heart rate's going to be through the roof as well ;)  Anyway - I suppose there's no chance to get the cardio people to find their own word and in most situations the distinction is obvious. (This has been an example of Melkor nitpicking an almost-irrelevant detail. Hopefully you're as much of an exercise nerd as he is and find this fascinating - or at least not annoying :-P)

 If you can only do 10 squats before your legs give out it's strength training - if you can do 20-50 or so, it's not strength but strength endurance you're training.

in my experience, when you finish a "strength training" move, you're ready to shout HOOYEAH! and/or fall to your knees&cry like a baby.  when you finish an "endurance" move, you sort of just towel off and grab some water.

i've been reading a bit about yoga lately, and it does sound like the yoga/pilates/body pump types of discipline improve strength endurance while also improving balance and flexibility.  those are good things (balance and flexibility are so often lacking in ppl's routines); so if you're doing that, good work.

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Strength endurance -- different than cardio endurance? -- must have its advantages too, right?
There's quite a bit of overlap at least between strength endurance and cardio endurance - just how much I have no idea about really, but if you're old enough to remember Eric Heiden, the skater - you'd have seen that overlap in action.

 Think I've mentioned him before - Scott Abel brough up his training regime fall last year. Heiden used to train legs by squatting 300lbs for 500 reps or so - now, that's strength endurance! And he beat the tar out of his competition doing that - he won the gold medal in every single skating event in the Olympics he started in. 500 meter through to 10 000 meter, roughly equivalent to someone winning all the running distances from the sprint through to the marathon in the summer olympics.  So clearly there's some overlap - and being able to produce a lot of force for a long time is an interesting fitness quality.

 I wonder if some of the resident cyclists would find some use in training like Heiden did? Interesting thought to ponder, at least.

flowerbud, this is quite an interesting topic, i'm coming to find.  i was reading about the differing physiques of athletes.  in discussing triathletes, this one article was saying that on the nonprofessional level, they're usually shaped like runners (long and lean).  but on the professional level, triathletes usually have a lot of leg muscle bec the bike portion of the event really ends up determining the winner.

what i mean is, the people who have strength endurance, in the case of triathlons, have an edge over people who only have the running/cardio endurance.  it takes little muscle to run 5 miles.  but it takes a lot of muscle to conquer a hill on a bike.  it's the difference between doing the elliptical at level 1 and level 13.

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But it also implies... that an activity like spinning, for example (to choose a completely random example that I happen to participate in on a regular basis :-P ) can build muscle -- not just when you first start, but over time as well?

flowerbud, i hear your curiosity.  as i am increasing the resistance on the cardio machine pretty regularly, i have pondered the same question.  i think yes, we're gaining strength endurance--that is, we can place high demands on our muscles through time (certainly longer than one "rep"). 

in terms of gaining strength, though, i doubt it's efficient to accomplish via elliptical or spin bike.  if i really wanted to make strides in the spin room, i'd hit the weights section and do some serious leg work there.  the demands placed on your muscles there are much higher, and they'll stimulate more muscle growth.  you can take those strength gains to the cardio section/spin class and implement some real strength endurance; surely you won't be able to do an equivalent amount of resistance training, but you'll be able to withstand increased resistance for an extended period of time. 


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I mainly work out at home & don't have those machines to work out my legs... would simple lunges & squats (done slowly) be just as effective? Are there any other exercises I can do without needing a machine that will strengthen my lower body?
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caloriecountingme -- the reason for the questions is that I find group classes much more enjoyable than lifting on my own. So I'm going for consistency over efficiency here. I do take a weights class, but since it's mostly women, it's targeted at women. I can do heavier weights and more slowly so I don't end up doing as many reps, but when they combine squats with shoulders, I can only use shoulder weights and so don't get the leg workout. I have started trying to supplement with a very short weight routine to target the muscles that I think don't get worked enough: so on my own I do 3 sets of 10 weighted squats, (trying for 10) assisted pullups, and 10 swiss-ball pushups with a knee tuck between them.

But again, we'll see how consistent I am with doing this on my own -- I really enjoy the classes, whereas with stuff on my own I have to convince myself to do it. So I don't mind if it takes me longer to build muscle, or honestly, even if I just maintain muscle and lose some more fat. But there are statements thrown around here like that too much cardio makes you LOSE muscle and that scares me!

I got worried about this because I do a lot of cardio and weight train only 2-3 times/week. So I started looking and found this article: (sorry, I don't know how to add links) rcise.htm . I found it to be sensible and encouraging. I do cardio for about an hour 5 days a week, and I can see clearly that I am stronger and more "toned" looking after weight training consistently for several months (other people who work out where I do have commented too!)


flowerbud, i don't think i quite understand:  "when they combine squats with shoulders, I can only use shoulder weights and so don't get the leg workout."  why is it that you can't do weighted squats w/the class?  but you say you're doing them on your own? i don't get it.

overall my ruling is that you can get stronger through cardio exercise.  anytime you're challenging your muscles, they'll get stronger (provided you rest/eat enough).  i'm just not sure if your gains will get smaller and smaller as you progress.  like, i'm not sure if beyond a certain point, you're basically going to just be maintaining strength.  i agree that consistency w/exercise is important.  if spin class is what you can get yourself to do, then you'll most likely get stronger and be successful doing that.  (i'm not of the opinion that cardio exercise makes you lose muscle.  personally, i do a lot of cardio and have plenty of muscle.)  good luck and have fun. 

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caloriecountingme - what I meant was that when we do squats and front raises at the same time, I can only manage weights I can lift with my shoulders, which are much lower than the weights I can lift on a pure squat. So I don't feel like I'm getting much out of the squat part of it, which is why I supplement with my own, more heavily-weighted squats.

As for spinning, I think it's different in a few ways than regular cardio. First, it's definitely an interval ride, not steady state. My heart rate constantly cycles up and down. The other thing about it is that you crank the resistance up as much as you feel is appropriate, which I think might prevent the diminishing gains problem, kind of like increasing the weight in a weight routine. Do you agree?

on the topic of squats and raises, i sort of agree.  right now i'm doing a total body weight lifting program, and it's lifts like these that i'm ambivalent about.  however, if you're looking to maximize calorie burn, then squatting before your front raise/shoulder press is really the only way to burn like any calories at all, bec the weights you're using for those are so low.  of course, you're going to have to lower the weight to some embarrasing itty bitty thing to do the squat/front raise, but so be it--that is, if you subscribe to the total body fitness regime for six weeks or so.

"regular cardio"?  spinning is actually much like other activites, in that you make the program your own--you can do hiit on a recumbent bike, treadmill, rowing machine, whatever.  you can increase resistance/incline on almost every piece of equipment at the gym.  heart rate cycling isn't really the indicator of strength gains necessarily.

i DO hear what you're saying (i promise).  but no, i don't agree.  the reason you don't see spin instructors looking like schwarzenegger is, i'm guessing, that there are limits to how strong cardiovascular activity (that is, cardio w/o strength training) will get you.  you can increase the resistance, yeah, but--i suspect--after a few months, you've probably maxxed out to whatever strength level you're going to get to.  

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OK, a few points.

First, when I said "regular cardio", I should have said steady-state. Yes, you can interval-train on a lot of equipment in the gym, and will see the advantages regardless of the machine if you're doing the work. Heart rate cycling isn't an indicator of strength gains, I agree, but it is helpful for overall fitness and fat loss.

Which brings me to my next point: I think a lot of this depends on goals. I said in one of my previous posts that I don't mind if I don't add muscle mass fast, or at all, in my legs, at least until I lose some fat. I am an hourglass shape and don't really want to have to put on bigger pants, even if it's all muscle... I know everyone will have their opinions about that. So when you say I might just maintain my strength/muscle mass, maybe that's ok.

However, these points seem to contradict themselves. You say that "anytime you're challenging your muscles, they'll get stronger". So ... what is it that causes that effect to diminish as you continue to challenge your muscles with more resistance? And why would this happen when pushing pedals against resistance, but not when lifting a bar?

I guess what I'm wondering in all of this is what I need to change, or what results will be borne of my current routine. (Melkor -- I'd love your input here too, if you're watching this!) It's easy to find a routine that is (in theory, at least) highly efficient, but with all the information floating around, it's hard to say what less-efficient routines will do.

My current routine includes the weight classes, different kinds of cardio (spinning 1-2x/week, snow shoeing when weather permits, trampolining, walking...), and I'm starting the exercises mentioned in post #9 -- working on improving the consistency there. I'd I've been most consistent with the pullups & squats so far, but the weight classes do a decent job of covering chest.

The weight classes could definitely be more efficient. When you mention your routine, I'm thinking of the Real Fast Fat Loss routine, which is VERY hardcore compared to what we do. We don't do high reps of each exercise, which is good, but we do do several exercises that work the same muscle groups (at different angles) in a row -- so while we may only do 8 reps of each exercises, we might do 32 reps of different chest exercises in a row. Does this fall under the low rep or high rep category? Rest times are longer, so it doesn't get your heart rate up like RFFL, and mainly, I just wasn't feeling tired or weak after the classes -- but I am able to up my weights.

Also, is it valid to try to "shape" the body by not increasing weights as aggressively on muscles that you want to maintain but not grow? I'm thinking of my biceps. I inevitably use them in pullups, pushups, etc, and they look big enough to me (genetics, I guess -- popeye biceps). So, what will happen if instead of upping the weight when I can do 12 reps, I up it instead when I can do ... oh ... 24?

I'll stop rambling now, and I realize I've digressed a bit... but I appreciate your input!

i always wondered about the levels on cardio equipment. to me it is an arbitrary number - what i want to know is how many pounds of resistance there is. tension creates resistance which in turn should be expressed like pressure, with a weight attached. i wish it was.

body pump left me about the same flowerbud, done working on my back and chest, but requiring more weight (and less reps) for my legs. oddly, after that, and the silly amount of work i do on my arms my biceps are growing only very slowly, even with my popeye arms. it's a good thing too, they don't need to be any bigger, and they are likely not getting much bigger - but i still work them. hello, my name is spookychick and i am a curl addict. Sealed

flowerbud, i'm not looking to model for the next cover of "muscle & fitness" either.  the thing about getting stronger is that the stronger you are, the more calories you burn--in life and also in your cardio classes.  you don't need to gain mass to get stronger.  as iron_mike has pointed out before (and you might pm him for more info on this), training for optimal strength and training for optimal mass are often different.  for maximum strength, do just one or two reps of a lift w/the absolute most weight you can handle.  for maximum mass, do like 6 reps w/heavy weight, rest 30 seconds and do another set.  the hypertrophy is stimulated by the execution of the lift.  as for your classes that do ten different chest lifts w/8reps each, personally i categorize that as medium reps bec of the 8 reps.  lots of people have "arm day" or "chest day" and do several lifts that focus on one body part.  but the mechanics of each lift are different, so you're not being repeitive like you may think.

pushups/pullups are super duper great exercises bec they work many different muscle groups and are really hard.  they're actually quite "aggressive" (as you put it) lifts.  your "shape" idea is truly all wrong.  by doing 24 of any lift, you're not getting stronger.  strength training doesn't burn enough calories to waste your time doing pseudo-cardio w/it.  either build strength or get back on the exercise bike.  i'm not saying that to sound mean.  but when you're at the pullup machine, if you're not looking to build up your arms but you want to get stronger, strap on your will and do two really challenging pullups.

programs like rffl are actually designed to try to burn calories while strength training.  but in all liklihood, people doing this program aren't going to get much stronger doing it.  the best it does really is increase strength endurance, which is a wonderful thing.  i don't do rffl bec i'm trying to gain strength; but i do a total body fitness idea, so some of the exercises are the same.  i'll do a high-heart-rate (high calorie burn, low strength gain) lift like a snatch; then i'll do a low-heart-rate (low calorie burn, high strength gain) lift like a bent-over row.  i cycle, like you mentioned you do in spin class.

oh, i have more to say!  you said that my comment about muscle challenge = strengthening seemed to contradict the comment that your strength gains are limited in a cardio routine.  think of running:  if you ran 24 miles, you certainly challenged your muscles, it's certainly sorta strengthening.  but why don't you get stronger legs when you run 24 miles?  bec, for goodness sake, if you can do it for 24 miles, then it doesn't pose enough resistance to serve as a muscle challenge.  but a sprinter who goes for 100 yards probably does lots of squats and lunges (not jogging) every day--bec it's that kind of resistance that will strengthen her muscles so that she can run super fast for just a short distance; could she run at that pace for the length of a spin class?  no way!  i really hope this is more helpful than frustrating.

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Well, this is why I pointed out that spinning was not steady-state cardio. A spinning class is not like running 24 miles. It's more like jogging a bit; then jogging up a hill; then recovering some; then sprinting; then jogging up and down small hills; etc. To me, this sounds more like a weight lifting pattern than running 24 miles. No, I'm not saying it's equivalent to doing 2 each of several exercises at your 2RM, but I would think it builds more strength than running 24 miles. You even say: "I cycle, like you mentioned you do in spin class." So why does this work for you, and not me?

Are you sure that being stronger, as opposed to gaining mass, is what increases your BMR? This doesn't seem to make sense to me as I thought the extra expenditure went to maintaining the extra mass. Gaining strength without gaining mass comes from adaptations of the nervous system, as far as I can tell, and I don't see how that would increase BMR.

Also, I'm still not sure why my idea of 24 reps is "all wrong". First I should clarify that I don't mean to actually do 24 reps -- I was just trying to say that I'd lift a 24RM rather than a 12RM, say. The situation is that I am in a weight class and one of the exercise we are instructed to do is bicep curls. We're looking at 6-12 reps, definitely within the optimal range for hypertrophy. If my goal is to maintain muscle mass but not grow it, what's wrong with using a bit lower weight? I am open to any other suggestions of what to do while everyone else is working biceps, but it can't be disruptive to the class. Getting on an exercise bike is not an option, for example :)

Also -- if "strength endurance" is a wonderful thing, why is doing 24 reps of an exercise a waste of time -- especially when it's exercising a muscle I don't want to hypertrophy?

For my squats - pullups - pushups on my own, I've been doing 3 sets of 10. Do you suggest something like 10 sets of 3 instead?

joel marion is a lot smarter than i am.  he wrote an article entitled, "ripped, rugged and dense" and then updated it:  "ripped, rugged and dense 2.0"  it discusses the low rep for strength idea that i talked about.

but let me address your post, point by point for a minute:  i wasn't equating spin w/marathon running, but i was comparing them.  that's why i said that sprinters do squats (weighted squats, i'm sure) to succeed at sprinting--they don't sprint to succeed at sprinting.  they don't jog up a hill and then sprint and then recover to succeed.  they weight lift.  in response to your question about cycling heart rates working "for you and not for me," i'm sorry i've been unclear:  my strength training program is a compromise between strength gains and strength endurance; it's not for maximal strength.  in fact, a strength program for maximal strength would probably yield super low heart rate.  heart rate, as i said and you acknowledged, isn't really related to gaining strength.  but if you lift a semi-challenging weight for 7 reps w/little rest between sets(the approach i take in my weight lifting for the moment), you're engaging in much more resistance training than if you engage in hiit training like spin, bec the work the body does is so much more intense.  remember that "hierarchy of fat loss" article?  The resistance training group actually increased metabolism compared to the aerobic group, which decreased metabolism. It seems that resistance training is a more significant stress to the body than a starvation diet.

i'm not "sure" about anything, and i'm not saying that sarcastically.  i'm a total novice like you, just trying to lose some fat and live healthier.  however, muscle burns calories.  muscle that is denser burns more calories (see article i referenced above, as well as other marion literature, for more details).  if you sought mass gains, you'd be doing 8-10 reps.  seeking strength gains, you do fewer reps.

in your exercise class, by lifting a low weight for twelve reps, you're essentially just burning a few calories.  i understand you don't want to look silly.  so then okay, lift a low weight.  all i'm saying is that it doesn't make you stronger to lift a weight that, after 12 reps, doesn't leave you breathless.  in response to your question about 24 reps for strength endurance:  YES!  it will improve strength endurance if you do it at a pace that leaves you breathless.  understand?  spin class is a great example of strength endurance, for example.  but if you do 24 or 12 or 8 reps at a pace that does nothing for your heart rate, you lose the strength endurance benefit.

i don't recommend 10 sets of 3.  see this t-nation article called "question of power."

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Well, there is so much information out there, and I still don't know the answer to my original question: what results can I expect out of my current routine?

Yes, "the resistance training group actually increased metabolism compared to the aerobic group", but if I'm not mistaken, the aerobic group was doing steady-state cardio. So I still don't know if this applies. Actually, the hierarchy of fat loss recommends interval training second to resistance training for fat loss. Of course, it recommends HIIT, and I don't think spinning is exclusively HI (though there is some of that), but it's definitely IT.

It sounds like, with 7 reps, you are in the hypertrophy range; see Tom Venuto, for example.

Again, with lifting a lower weight: I find it hard to believe that challenging your body slightly less, but still beyond its comfort zone, is useless. If using a 12RM for 12 reps causes hypertrophy, or a 5RM for 5 reps causes strength gains, what results in strength and size MAINTENANCE? Anyway, perhaps a better idea here is to lift even more weight, but instead of doing 8 reps, just do 5.

Also, 10x3 may not be so bad; sounds like Joel Marion's 5x5 could be good as well. But you've mostly said what's wrong and doesn't work and what you wouldn't recommend. So, what WOULD you recommend?

you asked for my opinion, and i will give it.  however, remember that this is my personal suggestion, and i don't claim to have any degrees or anything in exercise.  you say your goal is to "maintain muscle and lose some more fat."

your question:  what results can i expect out of my current routine (which is 1-2x spin, some random cardio like snowshoeing and walking and whatnot, weights class, your supplementary strength routine).  how much are you eating?  i think that if you're doing the calorie deficit deal, then you will lose muscle and fat on this program.  bec muscle is "expensive," and if it's not in pretty regular/constant demand, your body will shed it when it's deprived of calories.  if you're at maintenance, then i think you're in decent shape.  my guess would be that you'll lose muscle much more slowly, but you might not even notice bec your cardiovascular capacity and familiarity w/the activities will improve. 

if you're in a calorie deficit, i would suggest doing the interval cardio class(es) bec you'll burn lots of calories and keep your strength endurance in demand.  i would suggest EITHER dropping the weights class altogether or modifying the way you participate in it.  programs that compromise your weight capability by demanding more muscle groups will help you maintain the muscle w/o necessarily increasing muscle (rffl is an example, but you don't need to do anything crazy):  forward lunges w/shoulder raises.  squat to push press.  your assisted pullups and swiss-ball pushups sound good.  i think twice a week, 40minutes would be great.

if you're at caloric maintenance, then i would think that two twenty minute sessions a week would suffice, along w/your spin/interval cardio.  you could probably go like three weeks w/o any strength training and then do two 40 minute sessions, IMHO.  the spin class and your food intake will make muscle maintenance less of a chore for your body.

(if you continue w/the weights class, then i'd suggest changing the pace of your lifts or even slipping in something that will keep your heart rate up, so that your low weights will seem more difficult:  like maybe doing 7 military presses after you finish the prescribed set of bent-over rows).  i do encourage you to message other people who you think know more than i do.  i just wish you all the luck in the world, it's clear you're working hard!

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