Weight training vs cardio - do you know which achieves greater fat loss?

How many people do you see at the gym riding the same stationary bike, gliding up the same treadmill incline, churning away at some other piece of cardio equipment or taking the same step or cycling classes?

If you look at the rest of the gym, you’ll probably notice that there are not quite as many participants utilizing the weights.

Why do you think that is? A typical response I get from women is “I don’t want to look bulky –  weights will make me look like a bodybuilder.” When it comes to men, a common response I receive is that “you can’t burn fat while weight training.”

Interestingly, science and research have proven these statements false. Weight training has been found to be the victor in this stiff competition when comparing side by side long-term benefits – especially when it comes to fat loss. However, for the maximum benefit, both should be utilized in an exercise program.

Why Weight Training Works

When you put a heart rate monitor on, you’ll notice that you’ll burn more calories when your heart rate is elevated. When your heart rate reaches a specific zone, your body’s response is to utilize the aerobic energy system, which is what utilizes fat as energy, thus allowing you to burn a high percentage of fat during your workout. This is why so many gym members utilize cardio classes and equipment.

Unfortunately, the amount of muscle you build during cardiovascular exercise does not equate to much, and therefore you are only helping yourself in the short term. Sure, weight training does build “mass” (muscle mass, that is) – but that’s not something we should be afraid of because building muscle mass positively affects our metabolism. Research illustrates that the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn daily.

Any type of strength training will aid in building this muscle. If you put a heart rate monitor on during this style of training you will see that your heart rate will not be as elevated as it is during cardiovascular endurance training, however, the benefits achieved from strength training will run longer term.

Related: click here to register for a free personal training session at FFC!

How to Build Muscle Effectively

In order to build muscle most effectively, eccentric muscle contraction must be the focus of the exercise performed. Eccentric muscle contraction is how your muscle contracts during a specific portion of the exercise. An example of this would be the downward phase of a squat. Many people focus on the concentric phase (i.e. the stand up portion of the squat), and try to put up as much weight as possible. While this may boost their ego, it will not bolster muscle mass and may likely lead to injury.

Slow repetitions with full range of motion will yield the maximum benefit for muscle building. Women have no need to fear weight training, as they do not possess the same body chemistry as men do, and therefore cannot “bulk up”. You may have seen female bodybuilder who appear “bulky”, but they may be taking performance enhancing drugs that increase their testosterone levels which allow them the ability to build that large physique. Women do not naturally have enough testosterone in their bodies to “bulk” like that.

You CAN Have Both

So now the question is how to incorporate both styles of training in your program. For my beginner-level clients, I recommend that they consider doing some type of cardiovascular training during their “off” days, while maintaining an evenly proportioned weight training regimen that I have prescribed to them based off of my fitness assessments and evaluation of their current abilities.

For most clients, this means doing an average of four days each week dedicated to weight training and a minimum of three days of cardiovascular training. This type of beginner program structure ensures safety and results if paired with a proper nutrition program. Using a heart rate monitor during your training will provide you with the information as to which zone you’re operating in to make your training as time-efficient as possible. Stay tuned for an overview of different styles of training in my next blog posts to get a better idea of which might be a good fit for you.

Related: need more convincing? Here are 8 benefits of working weights into your regular routine!

About Tyler

FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen

Tyler Sutphen is a master trainer at FFC Union Station. Before FFC, he was a master trainer at XSport in Naperville, IL and prior to that, he interned at the MU Human Performance Institute in Columbia, MO. He holds a degree in nutrition and exercise physiology and is certified in both ACE personal training and Functional Movement Screen.

Tyler works with clients of all ages, gender and training goals. Two of his proudest fitness moments are currently 1) helping a client who had just gotten off chemotherapy lose 40 lbs over the course of 90 days and 2) helping another client to fix a muscular imbalance to walk properly again.

Want to contact Tyler to set up a complimentary consultation? You can email him directly at tsutphen@ffc.com! You can also follow along with him on his Facebook page here to receive a weekly fitness update every Monday, along with great tips, tricks and discussion.

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