Which is better? Aerobic training (long distance running, stints on the Stairmaster) or anaerobic training (weight training & short intense conditioning work)
I've been asked this question hundreds if not thousands of times. First I'll give what I think is best and then I will talk about whether what I think is best even matters.
I my own professional opinion and from my experiences I believe a combination of strength training exercises (with free weights, machines, or bodyweight) and high intensity anaerobic exercise (e.g. Sprinting, running up hills, or stairs etc... have yielded the best results for me and the people I've worked with. I'll take it a step further by just looking at what the elite athletes do. The first thing that comes to my mind when it comes to ideal body composition (low body fat levels) and weight loss are long distance runners and sprinters. Marathoners run and workout for what seems like forever. One hour runs 4 to 6 times a week are the norm for many of them. Combine that with strength training (which many won't do because they're too tired and over trained from running) and you're working out almost everyday. Sprinters on the other hand use short intense workouts to build their speed. Many sprint 2 to 4 times a week for about 30-45 minutes and strength train 2-4x a week for about 30-45 minutes. Many times it looks as if they're not even training hard because they rest a while between their sprint sets.
With out getting too far into the details of the workouts of sprinters and marathoners I'll say this: The sprinters get far more in return for what amounts to less time spent working out. Just take a look at an elite marathoner (they look stringy and many times weak and sickly). Now look over at an elite sprinter and they look like an Adonis (It all boils down to what their training offers them. Long distance running will improve your aerobic endurance but at the cost of you overtraining, possibly having more colds, less muscle, you not looking and feeling your best and also leaving less time to do other things you might like. Sprinting and strength training will not give you the endurance to run 2 hours but you will look better, have more muscle, less fat, have more time to do other things. So I guess it's safe to say that I think strength training and anaerobic work wins in my book. Absolutely! Now does what I believe really matter when it comes to finding what works best for you?