By Linda Raina; Personal & Small Group Trainer, Group Ex Instructor, Member Service
Does cardio or strength training burn fat faster? If your goal is weight loss, those days of going on a long run or getting on a cardio machine for an hour of steady-state cardio should be a thing of the past. Although great for your heart and lungs, working at an aerobic level/low intensity versus an anaerobic level/high intensity does not metabolize body fat like strength training does. High intensity interval training (HIIT) works so well for weight loss because intervals constantly challenge your body. With steady-state cardio, our bodies are quick to adapt so those long cardio sessions end up burning fewer total calories and fat. The best method for fat loss is high-intensity strength training!
In just a 20 to 30-minute workout, high intensity strength training will give you better results, in less time! Not only do you burn more calories during your workout, you also burn fat and calories after your workout. By cycling intensities each workout and including short intervals of work that allow you to workout HARDER than an hour-long cardio session, you increase the “after burn”. This occurs through a process called post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), because it takes energy for your body to repair and recover. This EPOC could last from a few hours to a few days after a tough anaerobic workout depending on intensity.
While steady-state cardio can be catabolic to muscle tissue, interval strength training can not only retain lean muscle mass, especially important as we get older, but to also build muscle as you burn fat. Think of it like this, muscle is your fat burning machinery so the more muscle you have, the more fat and calories you burn, even at rest. Daily activities also get easier and performance gets better.
Some of my favorite methods include Tabata, hybrid and density training. Tabata is timed exercises for 20 seconds of work at maximal effort followed by a 10 second rest for eight sets, totaling 4 minutes. Hybrid exercises combine 2 or more moves together that flow well with each other and allow you to work more muscles at once and even work your body in different planes of motion. Density training is used to increase volume with timed circuits like with AMRAP. The goal of AMRAP is to get as many rounds as possible, using the most challenging variations as possible, in a set amount of time. By increasing the amount of work, you do in a set time, you increase work capacity which leads to building lean muscle and helps you slim down.
The purpose of this article is not to discourage cardio totally. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say, “I need to do cardio to lose weight before I start strength training.” I encourage those who are not seeing results and wondering why to break that plateau with high intensity strength training to get results faster and help stay motivated. See our certified and qualified personal trainers here at Century Fitness to learn more!