Cardio can crush a gazillion calories in a single session, but building muscle through resistance training can be a much more enjoyable route. Muscle is metabolically active. It requires energy at all times. What does that mean in practice?

More lean muscle on your frame equates to a greater proportion of consumed calories being directed towards just maintaining that muscle, versus being stored as fat or burned for energy.

You should prioritize building lean muscle. Resistance training promotes this signal in your body. Running, unfortunately, does not.

Not only that, but your body tends to adapt quickly to excessive cardio. It becomes increasingly efficient at covering the same distance with less energy (fewer calories). When food was scarce, and you had to travel long distances to find calories, this was a great feature. You could go further with less energy. Today, we simply don’t face this problem. We face the problem of having too many calories.

All else equal, a 5 km run today will burn more calories than the next 5 km run. You burn increasingly fewer calories the more proficient you become at running, and the more your body adapts to the activity.

This is important: your body will not prioritize building muscle if you are constantly running. Why would it? Muscle is heavy, and you don’t need a lot of it to run long distances.

Take a close look at a long distance runner vs a 100 m sprinter. The marathoner’s physique is extremely slim and light, while the sprinter is packed with lean muscle. Both groups have low body fat percentages, but sprinters have far more muscle mass.

I’m not trying to convince you not to run. If you love it, and it works for you, fantastic. However, for many people, resistance training may be more conducive to their goals. If you’re like me and you enjoy eating, but hate long, steady-state cardio, picking up the barbell and building some muscle is the obvious choice.

Our garage gym. Complete with explicit wall tags from previous owner.

I only really started training with a barbell regularly two years ago. Although I dabbled previous to this, I never engaged in any sort of disciplined, consistent training. And of course there existed years on end with little to no exercise at all, let alone any sort of barbell training.

Barbells have always been the domain of the Meat Head. Or that’s what I told myself. More likely the few power racks that I did have exposure to were simply too intimidating, and it was easier to convince myself the treadmill and some bicep curls were more than sufficient… nay better, than the what the idiots in the power racks were doing. They were just showing off. They were risking their health for aesthetics. Right?

Fast forward to two years ago. My interest in strength training was first piqued through exposure to Nassim Taleb (philosopher, statistician, author, bull shit detector, former trader) and reading about his experience deadlifting. Because Nassim Taleb took up this intimidating activity at a late age, and the fact that he doesn’t come from the health and fitness world, likely played a role in encouraging me to explore the domain further. I was curious more than anything.

Once I began to learn more about strength training, I was convinced it was something I wanted to introduce in my life, and sooner rather than later. The cost-benefit became clear. If I were to engage in a structured, safe, slow progression routine, this would benefit me more that many of the other common activities folks engage in to improve their health and mobility.

My goals were clear. Improve my strength and mobility using the minimal effective dose of stimulation. I wasn’t interested in slogging through grueling ninety minute runs every other day, only to lay up at night icing my knees. No, a few sets of heavy squats every few days (although grueling in their own right for the few seconds they take to complete), was far more compelling, and likely much more effective, at achieving my desired outcomes.

And so I lift. I train to pull hundreds of pounds off the ground in a safe, controlled training environment today, so that I might pull lighter weights off the ground, with less risk of injury, at an older age, tomorrow. I’m lifting today to help me continue lifting tomorrow.