The basic rule in fitness has always been: if you want to build muscle, you need to do strength training by lifting weights. But if you want to lose weight, then you need to do some cardio workouts like jogging, running, sprinting, and cycling.
But the real truth of the matter is that if you want the best way to lose weight, you should concentrate on strength training instead of focusing on cardio. Here are some compelling reasons why this is so:
- With cardio exercises, you can lose weight by losing muscle. Cardio training is very indiscriminate. You can’t spot reduce the weight loss. In other words, you can’t design a cardio workout wherein you target which part of your body loses mass. You will lose weight, but some of that weight loss is due to muscle loss, and that’s not something you actually want.
This was proven in a case study done in Penn State. Two groups of dieters both lost 21 pounds each on average. One group did cardio and the other group did strength training instead. What was revealed afterwards was that in the 21 pounds lost by the cardio group, 6 pounds were due to lost muscle. In the strength training group, virtually the entire weight loss was due to shedding excess body fat.
- You enhance your muscle strength with strength training. That’s a benefit in addition to losing excess weight. But you don’t get that muscle strength benefit with cardio exercises. Yes, you lose weight, but it doesn’t do much for your strength.
- You can pick which part you want to enhance with strength training. By using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and just body weight, you can enhance a specific area of your body. So you lose weight, but the weight doesn’t have to come off from the parts you want to remain big, such as your biceps. Women can also tone their butts, legs, and arms to reduce the flab.
- Gaining muscle is actually a great way to lose weight. When you gain muscles, you’re more apt to use them in everyday situations. You lift heavy stuff up more often, for example, and these activities’ contribute to the fat burning process. In fact, you burn about 120 extra calories a day for every 3 pounds of muscle you gain, and you don’t even have to move those muscles to burn those extra calories.
There’s also the “after burn” phenomenon in strength training. This means you continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout, which doesn’t happen in cardio. With strength training, the after burn period can last up to 36 or even 72 hours.
- Strength training increases your bone mineral density. This makes you healthier overall, and cardio doesn’t really offer this benefit at all.
- Strength training boosts the strength of the connective tissues. You have more strength in your tendons and ligaments due to your strength training exertions. Add the fact that you have stronger bones and muscles, and all these mean that you’re less likely to be injured in your workouts and in your day to day activities.
If you fall, for example, you’re more likely to sustain injuries if you’re a cardio buff instead of a strength training fan. And keep in mind that a lot of running can damage your knees.
If you are obese, then cardio is your best option to lose weight more quickly. But if your goal is to shed excess fat, to become stronger, and to look better, then strength training is what you need.