Tag Archives: Resistance Training

New Research: Is Strength or Cardio Better?

Common Questions: Is strength or cardio training better? Where should I spend my time and energy for optimal health results?

The Answer: Both are important. But for different reasons. And now we finally know which types of diseases and mortality are reduced by strength vs. cardio training.

The Research

The American Journal of Epidemiology published an observational study that followed over 80,000 adults to compare mortality outcomes associated with different types of exercise.

The Findings

The main takeaway from this research is that *STRENGTH TRAINING* REDUCES CANCER-RELATED DEATH!

The numbers… In the study, strength training exercises were found to be associated with a 23% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31% reduction in cancer mortality. (WOW!!! Go pick up some weights. Like ASAP.)

Also, good news… The benefits of strength training can be achieved via traditional equipment-based exercises in a gym OR through using one’s own body weight to work out (ex: push-ups, squats, lunges, pull-ups, planks, tricep dips, etc.).

But… Strength training was NOT associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality (this is where cardio training comes in, people!).

Summary of Findings

Optimal health and reduction of all-cause mortality is highest for people who commit to the World Health Organization’s cardio AND strength guidelines; 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise every week, plus two strength-training days. Exclusive strength training is positively associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality and cancer mortality, while exclusive cardiovascular training is positively associated with reductions in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality.

What We Still Don’t Know:

More research should be done to determine the appropriate intensity and duration of the strength-training days for optimal health benefits. Additionally, it may be interesting to see whether or not upper vs. lower-body exclusive training days confer different benefits from an internal health standpoint. We already know how changing training focus and intensity affects muscle growth and strength, but it’s time we learned about what’s going on deeper.

Lastly, why exactly does strength training have such a profound impact on cancer mortality? Is it because of metabolic adaptations, endocrine adaptations or changes in body composition? Are there additional benefits for women if they increase the intensity or frequency of strength training since, in general, women’s sex hormones suppress optimal expression of proteins in their bloodstream which increase muscle mass? I would love to know…  

How to Balance Cardio vs. Strength Training

Based on these findings, my suggestion for *disease prevention* is to attempt to keep cardio and strength sessions separate. In general, I love mixing the two from time-to-time; throwing in some lifting after a cardio session or ending a strength-training day with 10-15 minutes of HIIT training. My gut instinct and background in exercise physiology tells me this isn’t bad for health; it’s quite good for keeping the body sharp and incorporating a variety of movements and challenges into one’s routine – HOWEVER – I’ve also always known that for BEST strength-training results, let strength days stand on their own. Give them your full attention and reap the benefits. Like whoa. 

But, here’s the thing…if exercising is a challenge and you’re feeling like all these overarching guidelines overwhelm and discourage you, just do something – anything – for exercise that feels good and motivates you. Drop the rules and just GET AFTER IT!!!! 🙂

(Psst… hit me up if you have questions about “proper” strength and/or cardio training. I don’t ignore messages or leave them unanswered. Just not my thing.)


Yours in health and wellness,


Men’s Health Next Top Trainer Finalist Weighs in on Women

Today we have a special treat as former contestant and finalist from the Men’s Health reality show “Next Top Trainer,” Kevin Mullins, weighs in on women’s wellness. Kevin is my male counterpart in the sense that he goes to bat for women and puts their greatest needs as his highest priority. His advice is honest and authentic. His training style is serious (and effective) but his personality can be goofy and light-hearted. Side note: we banter like siblings all the time. I regularly poke fun at him for eating “all the wrong things” to fuel up for workouts but then he manages to attain a six-pack. Geesh. Show-off. 

Handing it over to Kevin… (and my side commentary)

Fitness is Changing.  More specifically, fitness is changing for women. Gone are the days where women blindly jump on treadmills and elliptical machines and plod away for hours on end only to deprive themselves of much needed calories for the rest of the day after. Thankfully, an increase in the available education for gym goers and fitness professionals alike has helped women train appropriately and maximize on progress towards their goals, while also maintaining their health and well-being.

The fact that you find yourself here on Maggie’s awesome site proves that quality, unbiased, and factually supported information is readily available. Knowing her for years, I’ve seen her consult textbooks, research studies, peers, and her own intuition when building programs, teaching concepts, and sharing her passion for fitness. With Maggie, you are in great hands! (Maggie: Stop Kevin, you’re making me blush!)

I hope my two cents don’t disappoint!

Fitness is changing

How We Got Here

As a trainer I have supported, guided, and trained a wide variety of clients in a variety of locations and settings. I’ve stood beside professional athletes, fashion models, pregnant mothers, and college-aged young guys and gals. I’ve had some amazing experiences and breakthroughs with many of my clients, and intend on having many, many more.

Nothing, however, provides as much satisfaction to me as guiding women, young and old, into a new era of personal fitness. See, for far too long women have been misguided in the gym setting. Everything from “6 minute buns” in the 90’s, the popularity of Zumba and dance-based classes across America, and the creation of Curves has segmented women from men in the fitness setting. Add in provocative, sexually driven ads of ripped, but scantily clad, women in every women’s magazine and there is no wonder why many women are frustrated by fitness.

Frankly, it’s not fair. (Maggie: It’s refreshing to hear a man agree!)

Now, I’m not saying I don’t support a good Zumba sweat, or a nice at-home DVD for the busy-on-the-go woman. In fact, I support all of my clients being active as often as possible. Take a hike, a run, lift weights, dance your booty off, or dust off that old Jane Fonda tape…I don’t care! Just move.

Yet, “just moving” only gets you so far. If it’s progress you seek then it’s progress you must chase.

We want progress! You want progress!

Thus comes the need for women, like men, to train to be stronger. Yes, STRONGER. I implore you to put a little trust in fitness professionals and start picking up heavier things when you go to the gym. Let’s learn why! (Maggie: Yes, please!)

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A Quick Lesson in Science

Now, it wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about strength and how to train to achieve it without paying some time and word count to a bit of the science.

What is Strength, actually?

Strong is watching a baseball player hit a home run way over the fence. Strong is also watching an Olympic gymnast nail a dismount from the bars and not flinch, or an ice skater hit a Triple Lutz with grace and beauty.

Strong isn’t ugly.

There is an antiquated assumption that for a woman to be strong she must be big and “manly.” Women such as Maggie herself, Neghar Fonooni, and Molly Galbraith (the creators of Girls Gone Strong) prove that strength and beauty go hand-in-hand. (Maggie: Whoa, Kevin! Just threw me out of my ballpark – equally thrilled and in shock.)

The neuromuscular system is the “highway of information” that runs throughout our body. Our brain communicates to our muscles and our muscles communicate what they are sensing back to our brains. Oftentimes, a deficit in strength output is resultant of inefficiencies in this system. Imagine trying to win the Tour De France when you’ve never really ridden a bike before…No Bueno

Therefore, strength gains often come in the absence of muscle mass gain. In fact, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, all progress in the first 6 to 8 weeks of a strength training program can be attributed to neuromuscular efficiency, and not a change in muscle mass. (Maggie: Yes! I mentioned this in Frenemies.)

So, fear not! Strength is very independent of muscle size. You can train to achieve it without waking up tomorrow looking like Chris Hemsworth. I’m still trying to find what will make ME wake up looking like him though!

So, what is it then that makes my muscles bigger?

Oh my, oh my! If there were one answer to this question then you would be far more impressed with the muscularity of the men that attend your gym or fitness center.

Hypertrophy, is the fancy science word for muscle growth, and it is a darn hard physical phenomenon to achieve. The most modern studies have pinpointed training volume and time under tension as the foremost variables that cause a muscle to grow or not.

So, now that you know that strength and hypertrophy aren’t much like each other, you should feel more at ease for trusting me. If not, then let me give you one more reason why you don’t have to worry about looking more like the Beast than the Beauty if you start to train strength!

Men have an estimated 10 times the amount of the hormone testosterone as women.

Testosterone is the sex hormone that helps keep body fat levels low and muscle mass higher (i.e., the major physical difference between men and women).

Yet even guys struggle endlessly to put a single pound of real muscle on in a year. So, if a male struggles with muscle gain and has 10 times the potential for growth then I promise that you have nothing left to fear!

(Maggie: Okay, okay! Enough of the science Kevin…)

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Why You Should Train for Strength

I know what you are thinking…”this sounds great and all, but why do I want to be stronger?”

Here are my top 3 reasons women should train to be stronger!

  1. Lifting near maximum weights in exercises such as the squat and deadlift have proven to release calcium into the bloodstream. This will strengthen bones and go a long way towards minimizing the risk of osteoporosis.
  2. Lifting weights and achieving strength is also an exercise in postural control. Learning to position and move through exercises such as the deadlift and overhead press will help you understand correct spine, hip, and shoulder alignment. Furthermore, you will strengthen postural muscles such as the gluts, hips, and spinal erectors, so that they can better support you in everyday life.
  3. Lifting for strength is a measurable challenge. Instead of going to the gym and trying to burn off yesterday’s mimosas, and chasing an image that isn’t fair in the first place, you show up with the intent of changing numbers. Even if you lift 1 pound more than you did last week then you’ve made progress. Progress makes you happy and increases rates of compliance to exercise programs.

These are all incredible reasons to start training to be stronger. If you need any other ones, Maggie and I will be more than happy to provide you with a plethora of them!

Where do I Start?

Great question, ladies! I really feel like we are on the same page here.

Training for strength doesn’t have to be intimidating. You don’t have to venture into the jungle of sweaty, cut-off shirt wearing guys with their headphones and shaker bottles right off the bat. You can stick to that machine you’ve been working out on for a while but this time, GO HEAVY! Do this with every move you do. Try to do 5 sets of no more than 3 to 5 repetitions. That last rep should be very hard! (Maggie: Kevin has put ME to the test with a strength program before – I really saw results!)

Here are my 2 guidelines to get you started:

  1. Do a Set of the exercise. Could you have done more? If you think you could have done 3 more reps then add 5 pounds to the lift. If you think you could have done 5 or more extra repetitions then add 10 pounds to the lift.
  2. Focus on progress week-to-week not day-to-day. Take notes and observe trends.

I truly hope that you feel a little inspired to start training to be stronger! I hope that you can be an example for your friends and family. The most powerful people in the world are the ones who are willing to test the waters and take the risks. We follow risk-takers because we trust them and their intuition. Be the one who starts the change!

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you,


(Maggie: Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap!)

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About the Author

Kevin Mullins is a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach for Equinox in Washington DC. Kevin was selected as one of Men’s Health magazine’s 2014 Next Top Trainers, and appeared on a reality show with some of the best trainers in the country. Kevin has also written and modeled for MetRX magazine, is an avid deadlifter, and teaches group exercise classes. Kevin can be contacted at Kevin.fit2last@gmail.com and maintains his own website, complete with blog, at KevinMullinsFitness.com.

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Women’s #1 Question

The #1 question women ask trainers all the time is “how do I get more toned?”

Whenever a woman asks me this question, I take a deep breath and prepare to answer. I cross my fingers and hope that all the “2 weeks to a tighter core,” “top tricks for toning,” and “5 best exercises for a sexy butt, etc. articles haven’t completely clouded her judgment and made her think that there is a single magic bullet out there in the mystical beyond of the exercise heavens that will get her the toned body of her dreams. Thank goodness, we don’t have to search the world and 100,000 fitness articles for the holy grail of toning – there are endless ways to achieve this goal. Below is a summary that you can take with you for life…

WW Women's #1 Question (2)

The exciting reality is that anything that stimulates your muscles will help them achieve good tone. There is no single and superior exercise prop or movement that fits every body’s needs or even a single person’s needs in different seasons of life. You can use exercise bands, dumbbells, stability balls, body weight, machines, cables, bosu balls, kettlebells, TRX, and many more pieces of equipment to achieve your toning goals. You can even use a toddler or a bag of heavy groceries…wink wink. Actually, it’s true! Again, anything that stimulates your muscles with resistance can improve tone! The secret to seeing results from all this “stimulation?” Answer: CONSISTENCY! 

Incorporating weights or resistance training to work all major muscle groups in your body is sufficient for toning if you do it a few times a week (again, you can use any of the props mentioned above). If you don’t exercise very often then twice a week for a half hour might be a good place to start. If you exercise regularly then you already know that more intensity is required to stimulate your body the same amount, so the aforementioned prescription probably won’t be enough for you. Ohhh, the mountaintop is always just another few steps higher and higher. 

WW Group Exercise

This brings me to the next point; for those who are new to exercise and those who are seasoned, you can take a deep breath and rest assured that you don’t have to spend excessive amounts of time in the gym hitting the weights for good toning. The secret to being efficient for toning purposes is….drumroll please…..lifting HEAVY. 

Using more intense resistance or heavier weight on any number of exercises means you’re stimulating your muscles and hormones at a higher level and can reap greater results in fewer sets and reps. This saves time and helps you look and feel fantastic. Once you experience this firsthand there will be no desire to go back to the cute little weights! Now, before you panic about heavy lifting because you think it will make you “bulky,” I want you to look at the picture below….

WW Women Don't Get Bulky

Okay, now please look back up at the picture again for an additional 10 seconds…

Did it sink in yet, ladies? I can’t tell you all how many times I have had to quell a woman’s fear that weight lifting will make her look bulky. I’m prepared to offer a small sample from the overwhelming evidence of why this just doesn’t happen to women. Read on! 

  • Testosterone is one reason women don’t get bulky. We don’t have a ton of it. Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in 20x greater amounts by men than women and helps with muscle growth. Frankly, this is kind of disappointing news!
  • On the flip side, research suggests that some female dominant hormones may actually prevent protein synthesis which again, aids muscle growth.
  • Women have fewer muscle fibers in their upper bodies compared to men. Hence, it’s harder to acquire that “bulk” women are so afraid of.

Parnell Dean with Body Transformation Fitness wrote:

“Although it is understandable that women are worried that weight training will make them overly muscular, there are many physiological and coincidental reasons why it is highly unlikely that women are going to become too big and bulky from weight training. Unless they take anabolic steroids, eat more calories than they need, and train intensely for years, women will not get too big and bulky from weight training; instead, they will build the strong yet sleek, trim, and toned physique that they desire.”

WW Women at Gym

And why wouldn’t you want to lift weights when you know how much they can transform you? Take for example, Adam Campbell with Women’s Health Magazine who wrote an article titled “12 Reasons You Should Start Lifting Weights Today,” and cited that lifting weights can help women lose up to 40% more body fat compared to just doing cardio exercise or no exercise.

To sum, consistency and lifting heavier as your body becomes stronger will help you achieve the toning you’re after. Trying out a variety of exercises and props will help you hone in on which ones you feel confident performing and which ones you enjoy and want to do more often.

I promise, I could write articles on the top 5 exercises for your gluts, upper arms, calves, inner thighs, lower core, upper back, chest, etc. all darn day long but here’s the thing – I’m interested in giving you so much more than a short list of exercises to take home. Wellnesswinz is here to help you understand how to make living fit and well a lifestyle.

Yours in health and wellness,