Many personal trainers are now using strength training as a primary method of fat burning for weight loss, while many professional bodybuilders mix cardio into their workout routines.
What is the truth? If you are confused on the issue, you are not alone. It seems complicated until you break it down to the basic truth: effective, long term weight loss requires a combination of cardio sessions and strength training sessions.
Cardiovascular training is effective for weight loss because it brings the heart rate up and keeps it there for an extended period of time. This places a higher than usual demand on the body for energy, which requires the body to burn a lot of calories to produce that energy. If you are watching what you eat and controlling your calorie consumption, the extra calories needed to produce this energy will be pulled from stored body fat. This is why those who do a lot of cardio work have an easier time losing weight. They simply have a higher demand for calories to burn.
How does training training fit into this? While dumbbells, barbells, and weight stacks used to be the domain of those looking for a super pumped, muscular frame, personal trainers are now using these tools for women and men who just want to lose some weight, tone up, and look their absolute best. Cardio still has to be a part of the weekly routine, but strength training is now considered essential for weight loss.
Strength training does strengthen and tone your muscle, but while doing that it places a huge demand for energy on your body. Modern research has shown that your metabolism stays elevated for hours after an intense strength training workout. This simply means you continue to burn calories at an elevated rate even after you have finished working out. Remember, the more calories you burn the more likely they are to be pulled from stored fat, so this is a great thing for weight loss.
Resistance training also keeps your muscle mass, and can help you build more muscle if needed. Women can do this without getting bulky like men. They simply become leaner and better toned, so they look smaller regardless of their weight. Men can get more bulk to them, but it takes considering effort to look like a professional bodybuilder.
The only problem with combining strength training and cardio for a well balanced weight loss program is that it takes a lot of time to put in three or more strength training sessions and many cardio sessions every week. The solution is often to do circuit training sessions that combine strength training movements with bursts of cardio. This keeps the heart rate high so the benefits of cardio are delivered, while still working the muscles for strength training benefits.
There are some people who benefit more from cardio and some who benefit more from strength training. If your goal is simply to lose weight, then a combination is your best plan.