Far too many people believe that the only way to lose weight is to wear themselves down mentally and physically with hours and hours on the treadmill. Cardio is definitely not the only component in successfully losing weight, and if it’s the only part that you implement in your own program, you are going to struggle to drop the weight and be very unlikely to keep it off.
Getting and staying lean takes a dynamic approach. A combination of regular cardio and strength training is the method that is most likely to bring about sustainable results.
When you utilize only cardio for weight loss, you are burning calories while you are actually doing it, but you aren’t necessarily creating a situation where your body is going to burn more calories around the clock. Strength training, on the other hand, builds lean muscle that burns calories at a higher rate even while you are resting. You might technically burn fewer calories during a 60 minute strength training routine than you do running for an hour, but the lean muscle that you build when training for strength is going to get you a higher net expenditure, because of the elevated burn that lasts up to 24-48 hours after you finish.
Most types of cardiovascular training typically do not build significant amounts of muscle. Long duration cardio workouts can even end up breaking down muscle tissue, which would further slow your baseline metabolic rate (meaning that you will need to eat even fewer calories throughout the day, just to maintain your current weight).
If you drop weight using solely cardio routines, you are going to find yourself having to eat like a bird just to maintain that weight. It will be a struggle and you are setting yourself up for anguish in the form of yo-yo dieting and feeling like you are starving all of the time. If you use weight training you are going to have to worry much less about having to go hungry, because your body will actually literally need those calories (that you are hopefully consuming from clean, healthy, smart food choices).
Aside from the fact that weight lifting helps you lose fat, it also has a very long list of health benefits, including increased bone density, improved coordination, stronger ligaments and tendons, better balance, improved mood and lessened likelihood of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that it is appropriate for almost literally every fitness level and age (though you still want to check with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe for you specifically).
Don’t think that cardio workouts are not as important to your health; they also release feel-good hormones, encourage healthy circulation, are crucial for heart health, can help increase bone density, fight back against diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. Moderation is key, and so is variety, which is why the combo of ST and cardio is best.
How many times a week should I do strength training workouts for fat loss?
We recommend that each week you do strength training routines for the upper and lower body, two times each (four ST sessions total). Another option is to do 3 routines per week that target all muscle groups (instead of just upper or lower). Cardio can be done for 10-15 minutes before and after these routines as a calorie burning warm up and cool down, and longer duration cardio sessions, or HIIT, can be done on rest days in between muscle building routines.
More is not necessarily more beneficial, so make sure that you are giving your muscles ample rest in between demanding workouts. Generally speaking, if a muscle group is still sore from your last workout, it likely needs a longer rest period. Make sure that you are always warming up and cooling down – these are the things that protect your from injury and allow you to stay active.
Example Strength Training Plan:
Monday – Lower Body
Tuesday – Upper Body
Wednesday – Cardio + Core
Thursday – Lower Body
Friday – Upper Body
Saturday – Stretching, low impact cardio, or rest
Sunday – Rest/Stretching
You can easily put together a plan like the one above using Fitness Blender’s workout videos; we have hundreds to choose from in all of the categories listed above. If you want a plan that has been professionally laid out for you, check out our home workout programs.
Women should not be afraid of bulking up. They don’t have the same hormones as men that lend themselves to faster mass building, and it takes a lot of work, a lot of weight, and often supplementation to start looking like a bodybuilder. Instead of becoming massive, you are going to reshape your body, and find it easier to stay lean because your body burns through calories faster than someone who sticks to just cardio for exercise.
Building muscle is an investment in a higher metabolism, and it’s necessary if you want to burn off body fat and make it much easier to stay slim.