Aerobic Exercises and Strength Training: 10 Key Differences

Aerobic exercises and strength training are the two top categories in the realm of physical fitness. One must know the difference between these two categories, their types, what muscles they target and how are they benefit one’s overall fitness goals. 

1. Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises, often referred to as cardiovascular exercises, are activities that elevate your heart rate and breathing for an extended period. They improve cardiovascular health, increase endurance, and help with weight management.

1.1 Types of Aerobic Exercises:

Running and Jogging: These high-impact activities involve continuous running at various paces.

Cycling: Riding a bicycle is a low-impact aerobic exercise.

Swimming: A full-body workout that’s gentle on the joints.

Dancing: Fun and rhythmic, with various styles such as Zumba and aerobics.

1.2 Target Muscles in Aerobic Exercises

Heart and Lungs: Aerobic exercises primarily strengthen the heart and respiratory system.

Leg Muscles: Activities like running and cycling engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

Core Muscles: The core stabilizes the body during movements, especially in activities like swimming.

2. Strength Training

Strength training, also known as resistance or weight training, involves using resistance to build muscle and increase strength. It’s effective for toning, muscle development, and improving metabolism.

2. 1 Types of Strength Training

2.1.1 Bodyweight Exercises:

Exercises like push-ups, squats, and planks use your body weight as resistance.

2.1.2 Free Weight Exercises:

Free weight exercises use dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells and require you to stabilize and control the weight. They are excellent for functional strength and balance.


  1. Dumbbell Squats: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, perform squats to target your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
  2. Bench Press: Lie on a bench and use a barbell or dumbbells to work your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  3. Kettlebell Swings: Swing a kettlebell between your legs and up to shoulder height to engage your lower body and core.
  4. Bicep Curls: Use dumbbells to perform bicep curls for arm strength.

2.1.3 Machine Exercises

Strength training machines provide guided and controlled movements, making them suitable for beginners and isolating specific muscle groups.


  1. Leg Press Machine: Works your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes with guided leg presses.
  2. Lat Pulldown Machine: Targets the back and biceps, helping improve upper body strength.
  3. Chest Fly Machine: Isolates chest muscles for a focused workout.
  4. Leg Extension Machine: Focuses on the quadriceps.

2.1.4 Resistance Band Exercises:

Resistance bands are versatile and portable, making them an excellent choice for at-home workouts. They offer variable resistance and engage multiple muscle groups.


  1. Banded Squats: Place a resistance band above your knees and perform squats to engage the lower body and glutes.
  2. Banded Push-Ups: Loop the band around your back and hold the ends in your hands while doing push-ups to increase resistance.
  3. Seated Row with Band: Sit with your legs extended and wrap the band around your feet, pulling it toward your torso to work your back and biceps.
  4. Banded Lateral Raises: Stand on the center of the band and raise your arms laterally to target the shoulder muscles.

2.2 Target Muscles in Strength Training

Muscle Groups: Strength training targets specific muscle groups. For example, squats work the quadriceps and glutes, while bicep curls target the arm muscles.

Full-Body Workouts: Full-body workouts engage multiple muscle groups in a single session, promoting overall functional strength and conditioning.


  1. Deadlifts: Using a barbell or dumbbells, deadlifts engage the legs, back, and core.
  2. Clean and Press: Lift a barbell from the ground to overhead, combining lower and upper body muscles.
  3. Kettlebell Swings: As mentioned earlier, kettlebell swings involve the entire body.
  4. Burpees: A bodyweight exercise that combines a squat, push-up, and jump, providing a full-body challenge.

Core Strengthening: Many strength training exercises require core stability, making it an essential aspect of these workouts.

1. Planks: Planks are excellent for working the entire core, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back.

2. Russian Twists: Russian twists target the obliques and help improve rotational core strength.

3. Leg Raises: Leg raises are excellent for the lower abdominal muscles.

4. Bicycle Crunches: Bicycle crunches work the rectus abdominis and obliques.

5. SupermanSuperman exercises target the lower back and help with overall core stability.

Key Differences: Aerobic Exercises and Strength Training

The key differences between these two categories of workouts are briefly discussed below.

1. Exercise Intensity: 

Aerobic exercises focus on sustained moderate to high-intensity activities. Strength training involves short bursts of high-intensity resistance.

2. Exercise Duration:

Aerobic workouts are longer in duration, often exceeding 30 minutes. Strength training sessions are typically shorter, ranging from 20 to 45 minutes.

3. Cardiovascular Health:

Aerobic exercises significantly improve cardiovascular health and endurance. Strength training contributes to muscular strength and endurance.

4. Calorie Burn:

Aerobic exercises burn more calories during the workout. Strength training boosts metabolism and continues to burn calories post-exercise.

5. Muscle Mass:

Strength training is ideal for building muscle mass and definition. Aerobic exercises are more focused on endurance and cardiovascular benefits.

6. Equipment Requirements:

Aerobic exercises often require minimal equipment or specialized facilities. Strength training may involve weights, resistance bands, or access to a gym.

7. Consistency

Aerobic exercises are more consistent and do not require rest days. However, strength training requires rest days to allow the muscles to grow and recover. 

8. Types

As discussed above, both categories have different types such as high impact, low impact aerobics and bodyweight and free weight strength training exercises.

9. The target Muscles

The aerobics are all about heart and lungs basically while the strength training focuses on gaining muscles and core strength. 

10. Nature

Aerobic exercises involve continuous, rhythmic movements that increase your heart rate and breathing. Strength training, also called resistance training, involves lifting weights or using resistance to work against muscle groups.


Now you know the key differences between the aerobic exercises and strength training, you can use them to incorporate a combination of aerobic exercises and strength training into your fitness routine can provide a well-rounded approach to achieving your health and fitness goals. Understanding the differences between these two exercise categories allows you to tailor your workouts to your specific needs, whether you’re aiming for improved cardiovascular health, muscle development, or a balance of both. Ultimately, the synergy of these two forms of exercise can lead to a healthier and more robust lifestyle.

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