Although difficult to admit, you probably were tempted by a few too many of those delicious holiday treats this winter. Who could blame you? But now that we’ve turned the corner into a new year- and the Season of Sweets has officially reached its end -what better way is there to usher in 2016 than with a refreshed, rejuvenated body?
Cardio, Strength Training, & the Whole Picture
How many times have you overheard the debate over “Cardio versus Resistance Training”, or the cynical idea that you can only choose one method to sculpt your body? This is the age-old myth that many a misinformed bunch buy into, resulting in hundreds of people with only half-nourished bodies. The truth of the matter is that both cardio and resistance training (also known as weight or strength training) are vital to the weight loss process! Cardio does tend to burn muscle mass, and weight training does promote muscle growth and bulk…and although mixing these two together sounds counterintuitive, your body needs both for total physical wellness.
Unless you’re training to become either a professional marathon runner or a body builder, balancing these two exercise methods is not a difficult feat! Before pulling on those workout pants, however, consider these 3 guidelines:
1) Choose whether or not you desire to lose weight (take on cardio) or gain muscle (begin weight training). Don’t worry — choosing one does NOT cancel out the other.
2) Consider your body type and history. Is it easy or hard for you to lose weight? What about gaining muscle? Are you naturally muscular, or an endomorph (naturally slender with difficulty keeping muscle)?
3) If you’re training for a specific sport, consider the skill set required to succeed. Endurance sports like soccer and basketball call for a different training program than weight-heavy sports like football and rugby.
Calories Aren’t Important
Consequently, don’t get hung up worrying about how many calories are burned during each session! Think of calories as a numeric representation of energy burned during the workout, not a measurement of how much food you can or cannot consume afterwards.
Your metabolism, or metabolic rate, is what should be the focus while training, and this is especially true for beginners. Your metabolic rate determines, in shorthand, how many calories your body uses up while at rest, and both cardio and weight training boost your metabolism respectively. Cardio burns calories quickly while you exercise, while weight training primarily uses up calories hours (and even days) after your workout as it repairs and builds your muscles. When well-balanced and paired with a wholesome diet, these methods will keep you from fussing over nutrition labels for good!
Exercising to Lose Fat
Wanna lose fat, but keep the muscle gain at a minimum? Up your cardio! Proper cardio reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure; increases “good” cholesterol levels; and slims you down without fussing over expensive equipment.
A good general starting point is 20-30 minutes of moderate to high intensity cardio per week. To maintain muscle mass, continue to practice low impact weight training exercises twice a week (thrice if you have trouble maintaining muscle).
- Low Intensity Cardio: Ideal for slow burn fat loss and easy muscle recovery with no real risk of muscle gain. Can be done every day (or even several times a day). Ex: walking or slow cycling.
- Moderate Intensity Cardio: Ideal for burning fat at a quicker rate than low intensity, and can be done 4-6 times per week at 20-30 minutes each session. Not to be done several times a day, however, seeing as this intensity requires sufficient recovery time. Ex: jogging or swimming.
- High Intensity Cardio: Ideal for the fastest and most efficient form of fat loss; however it is not recommended to do it frequently through out the week. Maximum 3 times a week, with sufficient recovery time so your muscles can repair properly. Each session should not exceed 20 minutes. Ex: sprinting or interval training.
Exercising to Gain Muscle
Wanna burn fat while bulking up at the same time? Up the weight training, and go easy on the cardio! Weight training is fantastic for burning fat, increasing metabolism, increasing strength and bone density, and above all is easy the joints.
A good general starting point for weight training is 30-45 minutes of weights 3-6 times per week, with only 1-2 cardio sessions per week in order to keep body fat in check.
Check out Built Lean’s excellent article on how to define low, moderate, and high intensity weight training workouts here!
**NOTE: Always set aside one day per week for complete rest, and listen to your body when it’s fatigued!**
Circuit Training: The Best of Both Worlds
How do you mash cardio and weight training in one workout? Circuit training, of course! According to the American Council of Exercise:
Circuit training is a high volume (repetitions), low resistance (weight) workout with short rest intervals and is geared primarily at improving muscle tone and definition, while improving cardiovascular fitness.
In other words, it’s interval training that includes both cardio as well as weight reps in order to build muscular strength as well as cardiovascular fitness. Considered an exercise method of moderate intensity, circuit training involves 20-30 minutes of exercise involving 8-10 different “stations” of work — each station representing a type of workout geared specifically toward one body part. For instance, a basic circuit training program may include:
- 5 reps of burpees (core)
- 30 seconds of dumbbells (arms)
- 1 minute of squats (glutes, hamstrings, buttocks)
- 30 seconds of jump rope (cardio)
- 30 seconds of push ups (core + arms)
By vigorously exercising different muscle groups with little to no rest in between stations, circuit training maximizes your body’s endurance, strength, and cardiovascular performance. Circuit training is considered an ideal fitness plan since each individual can customize his/her program to suit his/her personalized intensity level(s), body type, and fitness goals. There are no absolute rules that dictate which exercises one must choose, so long as they tax you physically and effectively!
Check out Ace Fitness’s general guidelines for circuit training programs here, Brian Mac’s extensive program guidelines here, and Sports Fitness’s guide to choosing the right moves for each body part here!
Happy New Year, and happy training!