As you go about designing a weight loss program for yourself, you might find yourself wondering what combination of exercises should be included for optimal results.
Should you focus primarily on cardio training? Or should strength training be the focus? Or should you be doing both each time you hit the gym?
While there is no right answer to this, it pays to understand how each form of exercise will influence your body. One area that many women do go wrong is with cardio training, so let’s clear up some of the confusion surrounding this right now.
The Cardio-Weight Loss Connection
When it comes to weight loss exercise, most people come to believe that cardio training is the way to go because you will be burning up calories each and every second you do the workout session. As such, it only seems reasonable that this would help yield fat loss results. And there is some truth to that. In order to lose weight, you do need to burn up more calories than you consume through your diet alone. The only thing is that you must understand now all cardio variations are created equally. Some will help you burn more calories than others, while assisting in total body fat loss. Furthermore, don’t discount other forms of activity. With weight lifting for instance, you will still burn some calories while you do the session, but in addition to that, you will continue to burn calories for hours after the workout is completed. This is very powerful when it comes to total body fat loss.
What Really Works
So what works for cardio training? If you want to focus strictly on fat loss, the most superior form of cardio to do is interval cardio training where you alternate very intense bursts of exercise with active rest periods. This is repeated 5-10 times, starting with a five minute warm-up and finishing with a cool down. This form of cardio works so well because just like strength training, it not only has you burning up calories while you do the workout, but will also help you increase your total calorie burn after the workout is over as well. Therefore, you see better overall results. This form of cardio, because it is so intense, is also great for improving your physical level of conditioning, taking your fitness level up a notch. If you want to enhance your heart health, this is actually the most superior form of cardio to do it.
Which now brings us to the concept of what doesn’t work. What won’t really help you lose weight? Hours and hours of cardio training where you work at one pace for the entire time. Often, reading a book or magazine while you do the cardio as well (a sure sign you aren’t working as hard as you should be). While this form of cardio may burn off some calories, it’s not as many as most people think and it has the tendency to just make you even hungrier, so you end up consuming more calories once it’s over. This typically only leads to injuries over time or, burnout if that comes first. One study that was published in the Circulation journal had two groups of subjects perform either interval training or steady state exercise training, 3 times per week for a 16 week period. The results of the study illustrated that the interval training group showed a greater increase in VO2 max levels as well as showed a greater removal of metabolic syndrome risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes. This illustrates the superior power interval training holds.
Structuring Your Workouts Effectively
So to best structure your workouts for fat loss, focus on strength training and interval cardio training. Aim for 3 strength workouts per week and 1-2 interval sessions to go with it. This isn’t to say you can’t do a long run occasionally if it’s something you really enjoy, just don’t expect it to help you really win the war against fat loss. So keep this information in mind and you can feel confident you’re making the most of your cardio training and will be off to seeing the best results possible shortly.
Bye, A. et al. (2008). Aerobic Interval Training Versus Continuous Moderate Exercise As A Treatment For The Metabolic Syndrome. 118:346-354.