A big reason the majority of people join a gym is to lose fat, and amongst many, the dominant belief is that cardio is the most effective way to go about doing this, whether that’s in the form of cycling via an elliptical machine or running on a treadmill. While cardio should definitely be a part of your workout, we want to explain why you should still incorporate resistance training (weight-based workouts) in your routine.
NOTE: This applies to both MEN and WOMEN. The idea that you’ll bulk up if you do resistance training is a myth. You can only increase your size if you purposefully consume more calories than you’re burning through your exercise. Resistance training will help you tone up and grow your definition, it won’t turn you into hulk.
For various reasons, resistance training is better for losing fat than just running; in this article, we’re going over the four major reasons why this is so.
1. Relying only on cardio-based work-outs leads to a slower resting metabolic rate
Our muscles burn more calories than fat does. Therefore, if you build up your muscle mass, you increase your metabolism and burn more calories – even when your body is at rest. The changes to your metabolic rate are going to be slight, but not insignificant.
When you cut back on calories and/or emphasise cardio to lose weight, you lose both fat and muscle (‘lean mass’), meaning the rate at which you burn calories when at rest decreases. This makes it easier to gain back the weight you’ve lost.
2. Weight training preserves muscle as you shed fat
Whatever your goal is, your aim at the gym should be not just to lose weight but to improve body composition by maximizing fat loss and minimizing muscle loss. If you lose muscle along with body fat, you won’t necessarily improve your body composition – or its appearance.
Weight training, not cardio, is what changes your physique. It’s not uncommon for people who do lots of cardio to lose muscle mass and become less firm and defined. Working against resistance creates a more pleasing physique and body composition. You look lean and strong, as opposed to the skinny, ill-defined physique some people get when they restrict calories too much and combine it with cardio.
3. Your body works hard to rebuild torn muscle fibers after each weight training session
The American Council on Exercise also shows how resistance training can lead to exercise post-oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Your body works overtime after vigorous exercise, consuming oxygen and increasing your metabolism. This burns lots of calories even after you’re finished working out.
The ACE says: “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is a physiological phenomenon that increases the net caloric expenditure after a workout. In simple terms, you continue to burn calories after you’re done exercising.” In addition, this process primes your body for losing fat and gaining muscle more efficiently.
4. Burns abdominal fat more effectively
If you take a look at people who just run, you’ll notice some interesting things. Yes, these people are very skinny, but they often have noticeable body fat in their stomach, thighs, and buttocks. It’s very rare to see someone who just runs with a set of six-pack abs. One study performed at the University of Alabama found that people who trained with weights were able to lose more stomach fat than those who just performed cardio exercises. One reason for this is that weight training helps you burn intra-abdominal fat more effectively.
Our argument here isn’t to ditch cardio, it’s to do a little bit of both.
If you can only manage a couple of exercise sessions a week, you can do some running or walking to lose weight on one day, and a HIIT workout in front of the television on the other day. The best elliptical machines also act as a combination of cardiovascular and resistance training.