If you’re looking to burn fat quickly, it may just be time to throw the rule book of what you think you know about exercise out of the window.
For weightlifters already in good, muscular shape, unless it is shredding season, chances are you’ve been focusing on mass and bulking with an emphasis on lower reps when lifting heavier weights. Sure, you are in shape, but it is not the perfect recipe for low body fat.
Likewise, believe it or not, fans of the latest fad diets, hitting all the cardio and none of the resistance training, may not see the results that they are hoping for? Why? That’s because when it comes to cardio, resistance training and nutrition, one hand wash the other. Your body needs it’s 2:1 ratio of protein to develop and recover, not just to build like the hulk, but also to make the most of the likes of cardio training.
And, then again, resistance training is not just for building mass muscle, but for developing the muscles you use for cardio exercise. Resistance training and weightlifting is also a fat burner you may not have known about.
Hit the cardio – but which are most effective?
First up is cardio, your go-to exercise for burning calories. If you are already an avid jogger or routine rower, there is always room for improvement. There may be a few simple changes to throw into the mix that could help shed extra weight.
For runners, road running is proven to be most effective for burning calories. Short of that, incline running is your best bet. This is because it uses more muscle fibres as it commands more muscles.
Whether you are a runner, rower or cyclist, simply pressing the ‘quick start’ on a machine isn’t always enough. Getting the best results is not just about attending the gym, after all. Your answer is high-intensity interval training, or HIIT as it is known. This involves combining high-intensity bursts in short intervals followed by intervals of rest or low activity.
The following rowing example can be translated into any other cardio workout:
High-intensity interval training is the one-stop shop for many people’s calorie burning needs, and it works just as effectively on the rower as it does for running. HIIT is about time-saving, too, but not at the expense of hard work.
In fact, it is effective because the ‘high-intensity’ part means getting your heart rate up. When using the rower, you can ensure this by keeping your stroke rate above 26. You will also mix up the rowing with another exercise in between, ensuring that you get an overall workout in just 20 minutes.
For the rowing part, do so at high intensity for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second low-intensity row. Repeat five times and then hit the floor for 30 seconds of press-ups.
After a 2 minute rest repeat the rowing intervals followed by 30 seconds of squat jumps. Repeat the 2-minute rest and the rowing followed by 30 seconds of stomach crunches.
Reps over weight
For resistance and weight training, slimmers may fear to bulk up. Trust us, ask a hard gainer if that’ll happen by accident and watch the face they pull. Weight lifting is a serious calorie burner as it targets your muscle fibres, using up energy and, in the process, burning fat. Single joint exercises will do to an extent, as they may help motivate you as you begin to tone up. But the real answer is compound lifts that use several muscle groups at once. Anything that involves standing up is a good place to start.
The only secret you need to keep in mind is that you need to focus on a higher number of reps instead of heavy lifts. This will ensure you don’t gain that bulky look and will simultaneously tone and get your heart rate up.
Work your legs… seriously
Leg workouts are one of the most effective calorie burners. It’s a fact. All that you need to give is 30 minutes of your time and, for many, it may (at least from afar) appear the lesser of exertions between a few squats and the treadmill.
We’re exaggerating, of course, and for many a gym-goer and weight trainer, leg day is the most feared and revered. However, one of the best-known secrets about exercise is that variety is the spice of a good regimen and counting entirely on treadmills and cardio could be a major deterrent if you’re not one for feeling like a hamster on a wheel.
Anyway, here is the bit that you want to hear – the facts proven by scientists that say how leg day is the quick-burn answer you’ve been looking for:
According to Harvard Medical School, a general 30-minute strength training session burns an average of 90 calories (180 calories per hour) for a 125-pound person, 112 calories (224 calories per hour) for a 155-pound person and 133 calories (266 calories per hour) for a 185-pound person. When you lift weights, the strain and effort put into countering that strain by your muscles uses up energy – in other words, the calories and nutrition you consume.
For mass muscle gainers, a surplus of calories is required to avoid losing weight. For lean gainers, a balance of cardio, weightlifting and adequate nutrition builds your muscles and burns your fat. The more muscle fibres an exercise puts to work, the more energy you will use and the more calories you will burn. Your legs are one of the largest muscle groups on your whole body, meaning there are the most muscle fibres to put to use.
The best leg exercises are therefore the compound lifts, including squats, deadlifts and leg presses, which will use the most muscle fibres. As for sets and reps, as we mentioned previously, you should aim for higher reps of a lighter weight if trimming down is your goal.
Is leg exercise alone enough to get your weight down?
Straight answer: no. Burning calories and losing body fat may, however, be part of a bigger picture that you have in mind. It may be a fair assumption that the average person looking to lose body fat is talking about losing a muffin top or the excess bulge that keeps them from being where they want to be aesthetical.
This means that a broader view of exercise needs to be taken on board – and yes, getting your leg sessions in will most certainly help with that. To specifically lose weight from your belly and achieve a six-pack you need to perform a regular cardio exercise, a healthy diet and routine abs exercises. Leg day is a fat burner and core strengthener that will target your core as well as your legs and particularly work your lower abdomen.