How do I take my workouts to the next level?

August 22, 2015

Q: I know that lifting weights can cause a calorie burn that can last all day and that it’s much more valuable than just doing cardio, but do you have any tips on how to get more out of my workouts, burn more fat and get more results?

A: After a tough weight-training workout, your body must find a way to replenish energy, glycogen and oxygen levels. These changes require energy in the form of calories, so basically weight lifting helps kick your metabolism into higher gear even when you’re at rest, and it’s also one of the reasons why people who lift weights burn more calories than those who don’t. However, you can fine-tune your workouts and get even greater results by incorporating the following techniques.

Lift challenging weights

The more intense the workout, the more calories you will burn, and in my opinion there’s no better way to accomplish this goal than to lift weights heavy enough to exhaust the muscles, but light enough to practice good form. Remember, the more you work out the stronger you get over time, so it’s important to periodically increase weights to make sure you’re not in the comfort zone and that you’re consistently challenging your body.

Work larger muscles

Exercises such as deadlifts, squats, barbell rows and lunges will force your body to use larger muscle groups and a lot more oxygen thereby increasing the effect and forcing a greater post-workout calorie burn. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with working smaller muscles, but make sure each workout is centered around larger muscle groups that will give you more bang for your buck and a longer calorie burn after you leave the gym.

Reduce rest periods

Another way to increase the intensity of the workout is to reduce rest periods to make the workout more intense and physically demanding, and require more energy to recover. However, this is a slippery slope, because you don’t want to go so fast that you diminish your ability to use challenging weights. This would be counterproductive, so the key is to meet somewhere in the middle. Spacing sets between 25 and 35 seconds instead of the average 50 to 60 seconds is a good start. You can also incorporate super sets - working two opposite muscle group back to back - giant sets - doing two exercises that work the same muscle group back to back - or drop sets - doing several sets of the same exercise back to back by dropping the weight in order to complete all repetitions.

High-intensity interval training

You can apply the same level of training with cardio that you do with weights by incorporating high-intensity interval training instead of longer, less-intense sessions. You may burn fewer calories at first, but the long-term calorie expenditure will eventually add up and be much more effective. Good examples of interval training would be 40- to 100-yard wind sprints or any other cardiovascular activity that incorporates shorter, more intense sessions that will require more recovery in the form of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption calorie burn.

So if your goal is to burn more fat for longer periods of time even on days when you don’t go to the gym, incorporate the above techniques and take advantage of things fitness professionals have known about for years.

Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out for training tips, news and inspirational stories.

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