Why We Think Strength Training is Better Than Cardio to Help Our Clients with Fat Loss

Below are some excerpts from a recent article I read in Club Industry magazine, along with some of my thoughts. This article pretty much sums up exactly what we tell our training clients, with the research studies to prove it.

The idea that clients lose fat best through diet and cardio exercise isn’t necessarily true, as research shows that strength training is more effective.

Evidence shows that strength training, particularly with free weights, can deliver better results for fat loss than just using diet and aerobic training, according to a 2010 study, “Resistance Training Predicts Six-Year Body Composition Change in Postmenopausal Women,” in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

Strength training can contribute to fat loss in a number of ways. Although the calories used by resting muscle are often overstated, muscle does use around three times as much energy as the equivalent mass of fat. The resulting increase in long-term resting metabolic rate has been demonstrated in studies, including in this October 2018 study, “Effect of an 18-wk weight-training program on energy expenditure and physical activity,” published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). In addition, strength training has been shown to increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) more than steady-state cardio exercise. This means that the body will use even more calories for a period of up to two days after training.

Strength training also can reduce or even reverse reduction in bone density and muscle mass caused by weight loss, according to a 2017 article “Aerobic or Resistance Exercise, or Both, in Dieting Obese Older Adults,” published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

When using strength training as part of a fat loss program, the goal should be for the client to change their body composition by gaining lean body mass, which means that the focus should be on hypertrophy. Another study published by NCBI, “Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” found that training two to three times per week is optimal. For novices, multiple-joint exercises that target the bigger muscles at rep ranges of eight to 12 give the best results, per the 2009 American College of Sports Medicine study “Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults.”

So, go-to exercises should be the big compound movements, such as the squat and deadlift for the lower body, along with exercises such as presses and rows for the upper body. Every training session at Excel includes these movements.

The ACSM study also showed that a strength training program needs to incorporate progressive overload in order to avoid diminishing returns. So what this means to our clients is that you should increase your weights over time. For example if in a given time frame, say 2 weeks or a month, you do your Goblet Squats with a 16kg kettlebell, after that 2 weeks or month, increase that resistance to a 20kg kettlebell. The more weight you can lift (with good form) the more calories you burn!

People initially can be uncomfortable with strength training. Following are common objections and to overcome them:

I don’t want to get bulky. This is a common concern for women. Understand that, with natural hormones at least, it takes a long time for women to gain a lot of muscle size. Because muscle is more dense than fat, the likely initial result will be that you will get smaller as you gain muscle and lose fat.

I’m not losing weight. If a client is using the scales to measure their progress, they may be misled into thinking they are not losing fat. You must realize that you can change your body composition without necessarily losing weight. Switch your focus from the scale to your belt size or other measurement that will demonstrate that you are becoming leaner.

Now here is the deal, I am NOT anti cardio! I am only making the point that for effective fat loss and improved body composition, strength training along with proper nutrition is more effective. Mix in that cardio that you love to do, and you have a can’t miss solution! Cardio for heart health is great.

Our workouts at Excel are specifically designed to increase your metabolism so that you are burning calories during and after your workout, and even while you sleep! We did a training session just this week, where we did several strength training movements and mixed in just a little bit of cardio(metabolic) movements, like jump rope, and squat jumps, . Most every client at the end of the session said “man we did a lot of cardio today!” I love hearing that! We find a way to get in our cardio, without having to do miles and miles of steady-state cardio, like running on a treadmill. By the way, I HATE running on a treadmill! LOL!

So if you are trying to lose body fat, improve your body composition and feel stronger, give strength training a try! If you are in the Melbourne area, and want to come in and see how we get our clients results with strength training, come on in! We are also kicking off 2019 with our Annual New Year 6 Week Fitness Challenge, where several participants lose anywhere from 5 to 20 lbs in 6 weeks! Not only that, but they learn to make fitness part of their long-term lifestyle plan! Find out more about the Challenge HERE

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and God Bless!