Cardio is important for our health in many ways, and we should all aim for at least the minimum requirement of 75 to 150 minutes per week. If you love running, cycling, or hiking and you do it more often, all the better.
But we all need strength training as well. Both are important, so if you’re mainly a lifter, you should get some cardio a couple times a week; and if you’re all about running, you should still hit the weights.
What if I run a lot?
Here’s where the dilemma comes in: if you want to spend more time on the trails and less time in the gym, can you use a lifting program that calls for upper and lower body days, and skip the lower body stuff entirely? After all, running (or cycling, or hiking) uses your legs.
Unfortunately, no. To make your legs stronger, you need to challenge them appropriately with heavy weights or other appropriate strength-building exercises. Running is pretty much the opposite of that: you do thousands of steps, but each one is only a small amount of work. To make matters worse, the better you get at running, the more efficient you are, and so the less work each of those steps really is.
How do cyclists get those big legs?
Well, often it’s because they strength train in addition to all their miles on the bike. They also often do strength-specific workouts using their bikes as resistance, which probably could partially replace leg day. But you or I chugging up a few hills on a ride isn’t the same kind of training.
So, yes, you need to do leg day if you want to be a healthy, well-rounded athlete. Here’s the good news, though: taking time to train your legs will make you faster, stronger, and maybe even less injury-prone on your runs or rides.
So instead of an upper/lower split, consider using a full-body strength training routine and doing it twice a week. Or check out the rest of our tips on how to combine running and strength training, which you can adapt to whatever type of cardio is your favorite.