Ask The Trainer

Should I cut back on weight training to lose pounds?

December 27, 2014

Q: I know you are a big proponent of weight lifting, and I prefer weight lifting over doing cardio any day. However, what is your opinion on choosing cardio vs. weightlifting when you have weight to lose? I realize that lifting weights keeps your metabolism stoked all throughout the day. Supposedly completing cardiovascular exercise only burns calories for short periods of time, but if you have extra weight to lose is there a chance that you will build muscle on top of fat? I generally lift three times a week and do some form of cardio work three to four times a week. I have been thinking about maybe cutting back to lifting two times a week and picking up an extra day of cardio in hopes of shedding 10 pounds.

A: I don’t care whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle, weight training should be the foundation of your program. The benefits of weight training are so numerous you can’t afford to miss out. Unless of course, you don’t need stress relief, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence, a more youthful look and a stronger, tighter body.

It’s important to realize that we all have the same muscles. We all have biceps, triceps, hamstring and, yes, we all have abs. What sets us apart is the amount of fat we have covering those muscles. In fact, bulk is nothing more than muscles with fat on top of them. If you have a higher body fat percentage, your muscles will be hidden under layers of fat. Since fat takes up roughly twice the amount of space as muscle, you’ll be larger and softer-looking than someone with less body fat.

The key to getting in shape is stripping away the fat and exposing the muscle underneath. Weight lifting is the best way to do this, because muscle is the metabolic engine of fat burn. In fact, weightlifters burn an average of 50 more calories a day even on days they don’t work out. That’s an average of 350 more calories a week and is equivalent to about an extra 30 minutes of cardio.

In my opinion, cutting back your weight training routine to two days would be a big mistake. Instead, I believe the answer to your problem lies in tweaking your cardio and diet plan, not eliminating your weightlifting. Recently, I began training a client who was already doing cardio six days a week, 45 minutes a session. I cut her routine back to three times a week for 20-minute sessions and showed her how to find the right intensity instead of just focusing on time. In the first three weeks of her program she lost 9½ inches and 12 pounds. The lesson here is quality is always better than quantity, and cardio must be supplemented with weight training.

Eating a more sensible diet will help you shed those extra pounds. Remember, you are what you eat. It’s that simple. Too many people look for other solutions when trying to get in shape. They blame it on weight training, genetics or whatever scapegoat is available at the time, but the simple fact is you’ll never achieve the results you’re looking for unless you change your diet. Enough said!

Remember, it doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle mass, weight lifting is a great way to accomplish your goal. Be sure to pay particular attention to your diet and cardiovascular program, and you will be well on your way to dropping those 10 pounds and achieving a tighter, healthier, more youthful body.

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