When it comes to the kind of training that works best for losing weight, people will often suggest cardio. Yes, cardio sessions mean your heart works harder, so the body burns more calories. But strength training ensures you will lose those excess pounds, while becoming stronger at the same time.
If you're serious about losing weight, incorporating strength training into your routine is key. It helps to build lean muscle over time, which definitely works in favor of your weight-loss goals. Having more muscle means your body burns more calories at rest. When you lose weight via cardio, it’s likely that you lose both fat and muscle. And if resistance training isn’t a part of your plan to counteract this loss, you could actually be slowing down your metabolism by losing lean muscle mass rather than revving it up.
Strength training helps to build muscle better than a cardio-only routine, and needless to say, you get stronger as well. When you lift weights, you overload the muscle and it works to adapt to be able to lift more weight. The way the muscle adapts is by increasing something called myofibrillar size (the contractile units of the muscle). This growth is facilitated by resistance training so muscle mass gets a boost over time. Aerobic exercise does stimulate this process, but the increase isn’t as much as it is with resistance workouts.
With more lean muscle, your body burns more calories when you rest. Having more muscle increases your everyday base metabolic rate, or BMR, which is the number of calories the body burns just to keep functioning without exercise. The metabolic demand of a pound of muscle is greater than it is for a pound of fat, so the amount of energy needed to maintain a pound of muscle per day is greater than that of a pound of fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day — even when you’re inactive.
Muscle is always being broken down, synthesized and recreated. These processes need energy; thus the more muscle you have, the more energy is required. So building more muscle enhances metabolism. When BMR is high and more calories are being burned at rest, the calorie deficit is increasing as well, which is vital for weight loss.
A few heart-pumping elements will help you achieve a great burn during a strength training session. There are several things you can do to maximize your burn, such as move faster between exercises, don't rest between sets, move quickly during each set, increase your reps and choose heavier weights (but not so heavy that you risk injury, of course). You can also try incorporating a 5-minute cardio burst between strength moves by jogging or sprinting on a treadmill.
The concept is simple: Your heart rate increases during a workout, so the need for fuel goes up, which means the body demands more calories. Muscles are essentially fat-burning machines and the process doesn’t stop even after the workout. Your body is still torching calories for the next 24 to 48 hours as it works to repair stressed muscle tissues. The intense workout makes excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) shoot up, so more calories are burned after exercising. It’s a temporary boost to your metabolism, also known as the “afterburn effect.”
At the end of the day, you still have to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. Even though building muscle can help with this effort in the long run, it’s still important to chip away at calories on a day-to-day basis. In a nutshell, you need to do both strength training and cardio for a weight-loss plan to work. Doing strength training three to four times a week for 45 to 60 minutes is enough to increase endurance during aerobic training. The stronger you are, the less effort it takes to complete aerobic exercise. Switching up your routine using machines, free weights, bars, bands and even your own body weight increases strength and decreases boredom.
It’s important to note that anyone who has a history of eating disorders should speak with a doctor before pursuing any weight-loss goal, including starting a new exercise routine. Goals should be set according to your current health and level of physical activity.