If you are like most people, you might see cardio and weight lifting as two entirely different kinds of exercise. Cardio is for burning calories and weight lifting is for building muscle, according to conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom is wrong in this case, though. Burning more calories than you eat is a key part of weight loss, it is true, but losing weight is more complex than that. Read on to find out why, if you want to lose weight, you need to include both cardio and weight lifting in your workout routine.
The Role of Cardio in Weight Loss
If you do cardio exercises at a moderate level of intensity, you keep going for a significantly longer time than you spend lifting weights, which happens in short, high intensity bursts. Because of this, you burn a lot more calories doing cardio than you do while lifting weights. If you keep the cardio going for long enough, you can burn off more than you consume, so your body will get the extra energy it needs by burning fat.
Sounds simple, right? But if that was the case, everyone who did cardio would lose all the weight they wanted.
The Role of Weight Lifting in Weight Loss
While you might not burn as many calories while you are lifting weights, you will build muscle. And in the long run, that will help you burn more calories, even when you're not exercising. You see, your muscles burn calories whenever they move, so the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn all the time, even when you aren't working out. Adding muscle increases what doctors call your resting metabolic rate.
Putting Together a Good Weight Loss Workout Routine
Cardio exercises and weight lifting exercises each work different muscles in different ways, so it is best to do these exercises on alternate days. That way, the areas you use on one day get some rest on the next, and they need that if you're going to develop muscle. So on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you could do cardio exercises like cycling, swimming, jogging, jump rope, or whatever other exercises you like best. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, do weight lifting. Split your workout between upper body and lower body lifting exercises, such as curls and weight squats. You should use enough weight that you can only do about 10 reps per set if you want to build muscle. Sundays you should set aside for rest and recovery.
Alternately, if you are too busy to exercise six days a week, you can try a circuit training approach. With circuit training you spend some time 2 or 3 days a week alternately doing moderate intensity cardio, weight lifting, and then a short burst of high intensity cardio.
When you combine cardio with weight lifting, you get the short term weight loss benefits of cardio and the long term weight loss benefits of weight lifting. You should see better results this way than either approach alone would give you.