It’s that time of year where people start stressing about how they are going to fit into their holiday outfits, how they will feel comfortable on the beach or just look better for the summer months. This ultimately means, for a lot of us, we want to lose body fat. The question remains; what will work best to shift that unwanted flab, strength or aerobic training? Firstly, it is important to understand what both of these training types are, and how they can help lose fat.
Strength Training, sometimes referred to as resistance or weight training, include exercises where you use some sort of resistance in your workout; be it dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells. It often involves training intensities using ‘sets’ and ‘reps’. This type of training is often recommended only for those who want to build big muscles; however, can it help you to lose fat?
Strength training provides you with a post-workout calorie burn due to an increased metabolism, meaning the calories will continue to burn for up to 36 hours following your session.
Resistance exercises in a programme will ensure a long-term increase of muscle mass, leading an increased rate of calorie burn-the more muscle on your body makes for a higher metabolism.
Using weight training can help to ‘sculpt’ your body to give you a more defined, toned look. Aerobic training, or cardiovascular training, involves sustained exercises where you work at a moderate pace; this might include jogging, cycling or walking. Those that want to lose fat are often informed to include this type of training in their exercise programme, this is why:
It produces very high calorie burning effect during your workout
Little technique is required to take part in this training, meaning anyone can train this way to burn fat
You are less likely to need rest during your workout, meaning you are able to keep working for a longer time, resulting in more calories being burned during this exercise.
Clearly both types of training will help you to lose fat, however if you are looking to do this to achieve an overall ‘lean look’, it would be highly recommended that you include resistance exercises within your training.
It is also beneficial to strengthen any weaker muscles, as muscular imbalances in your body could cause injury, which will not help with your training programme! If you only perform cardiovascular training you are more likely to pick up injuries due to this imbalance only worsening over time.
Strength training can also be advantageous as it can be more varied and interesting and generally takes up a shorter period of time.
Before you completely ditch the cardio workouts however, think about maybe mixing your programme up a bit so it includes both strength and aerobic training. You might choose to focus two or three days a week on your resistance training, but use aerobic training once or twice a week in-between these sessions. Alternatively you could add some cardiovascular exercises onto the end of your weight training. If you are keen to stick with some sort of aerobic exercise why not try training methods such as fartlek or interval. Both training types include a change of pace, meaning you are not just running or cycling at one speed for the whole time. If you are able to work at short bursts of very high speeds (sprinting) you will also achieve the benefits of weight training for fat loss. It is also worth noting that when lifting weights you can perform this in a way that will replicate the advantages of cardiovascular exercise, it may just mean you lift lighter weights or do less complex exercises for a sustained period of time.
Overall, when thinking about your workout schedule, try to think about the old saying ‘variety is the spice of life’. Mixing up your training types will help to keep your body guessing, and will also prevent you from becoming bored from the same old exercises.
Also make sure you are enjoying what you are doing, both types of training are advantageous, but don’t force yourself to do exercises you find demotivating. It is also worth pointing out that you are only going to lose fat if you control your diet too, the advantages of strength/aerobic training for fat loss will only be reduced if you then go on an eating binge on processed, calorific foods. Lastly, please ensure you give your body enough rest to complete your workout, stiff and sore muscles lead to poor technique when exercising which will more likely cause injury.
Common myths on fat loss:
Losing weight is not the same thing as losing fat. Generally you will want to lose fat from your body, as losing muscle too will most likely lead to a figure you do not necessarily desire for sporting your new swim suit. Therefore a big no no would be to totally rely on the bathroom scales to show if you are getting more in shape. As you train more (especially with resistance training) you start to develop your muscle size which can lead to an increased overall body weight, as muscle is heavier than fat.
Generally, comparing pictures of yourself before and after you begin your training regime, or just feeling how much a particular outfit fits, is a good indicator that you are losing fat and will also give you the confidence and motivation to continue working towards your goal. If you do want a definite calculation of how much body fat you have lost, there are specialised machines and scales that can analyse this, most gyms are likely to have this type of equipment. Another common misconception is that performing hundreds of sit ups and crunches a day will suddenly transform your flabby tummy into a set of washboard abs. You can not exactly train the body to lose fat at a particular area, you can obviously develop muscles there, but you will need to lose overall body fat to see any benefits of abdominal training. Also, performing endless amounts ofsit ups will probably lead to back pain and injury.
Training for fat loss...
DON’T TRAIN HARD, TRAIN