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When you imagine ‘exercise’, chances are you think of aerobic exercises that boost cardiovascular health, like cycling, running, swimming, or jumping ropes. Even though cardio is effective for weight loss, it often leads to loss of muscle tissue if it is not coupled with adequate calorie intake. ‘Weight lifting’ or ‘resistance training’ has been a recent addition to many people’s fitness regimes.
It is slowly becoming the most popular form of strength training to increase endurance and build muscle. In resistance training, our muscles are put under pressure either by external weights or by body weight to build strength and increase to increase muscle mass. Research demonstrates that in addition to gaining more muscle, lifting weights to lose weight is a highlighting feature.
1. Cardio vs lifting weights: which is better?
As a general rule of thumb, in order to indulge in weight loss, one has to exercise and be in a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is when we consume fewer calories than we normally do.
However, various factors like genetics, choice of workout, and the quality of workout matter. It is established that cardio training is a go-to type of exercise if you plan to hit those calories.
Apart from helping you achieve fat loss goals, it keeps the heart healthy and improves lung capacity. Cardio provides an adequate bodily environment to stimulate the burning up of both fat and carbohydrates, two of the most vital energy resources.
For a pound of fat to be burnt, you need to cut out around 3500 calories. You will definitely burn more calories if you run a mile than if you lift weights. An interesting insight, however, is that lifting weights has added benefits that prove to be working long after the workout.
2. Benefits of lifting weights to lose weight
Metabolism is how much your body burns calories in a day. The better your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is how many calories you burn at rest, the more you tend to engage in total body fat loss.
When we indulge in strength training, our muscles need to work more, thus increasing the resting metabolic rate. The more the muscle mass is, the faster we burn calories. Some studies indicate an elevation of BMR for up to 40 hours after resistance training. No such thing has been proven for aerobic exercises.
“The more you use it, the more you have it”, is not just a boring, old cliche. Our muscles fit this description perfectly well. When we practice lifting weights, we essentially train our muscles to bear load and strength over time.
You might realize that the longer you involve yourself in lifting heavy weights, the more there is a change in body composition.
In an astounding study in The Faseb Journal, it was found that in addition to strength and conditioning, weight-training releases vesicles that help in burning adipose tissue or fat.
Muscles have an implicit interlink with metabolism which involves the metabolic use of the entire body. So the more muscles you engage, the faster the calories burned whilst increasing muscle mass.
3. How do bodies respond to lifting weights to lose weight?
The ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or the ‘after-burn effect is how our bodies burn fat.
For hitting those fat zones, there are two prerequisites, a high heart rate, and muscle fatigue.
Post-exercise, our bodies are deprived of the oxygen required, this, in turn, is compensated by more oxygen inhalation and oxidation of glucose, which is energy reserves in the body.
The two factors influencing EPOC:
The more vigorous the strength training exercises are, the prolonged the EPOC period. This is true for both anaerobic as well as aerobic exercises.
The magnitude of intensity is directly proportional to the heart rate during exercise. In order to understand how intensity impacts our fat mass, it is important to note the various warm-up zones that our body goes through.
The warm-up zone
This is the initial stage wherein your cardiovascular system is getting attuned to the process of exercise. In this stage, our maximum heart rate shoots to about 60-70% and is what is usually referred to as a ‘warm up’ that you are supposed to do before starting out any intense activity. Your bodies are able to sustain for a longer time in this zone.
The fat-burning zone
After the warm-up, comes the fat-burning stage where you use about 70-80% of the maximum heart rate. The body starts making minor changes such as sweating and panting to accommodate the change. Our bodies usually lie in this zone when lifting weights to lose weight.
The aerobic zone
In the first two phases, our body targets the carbohydrates to access energy and burn calories but in this stage, there is a mediation between burning up of both carbohydrates and fat calories. Engaging in this stage often is proven to keep our cardiovascular system healthy since the heart pumps blood quite hard, about 81-93%.
The anaerobic zone
This last stage is the highest the heart can possibly sustain, about 94-100% of your maximum heart capacity is reached in this stage. The after-burn effect occurs frequently to burn the body fat after an intense workout.
Knowing what zone you are in can aid in the process of you adjusting the intensity of your workout. In order to calculate your maximum heart rate, you can subtract your age from 220. So if you are 20 years old, your maximum, ideal heart rate should be 200.
How long you train for matters a great deal. The duration of EPOC also depends on the time taken in the process. It is because of this reason that along with progressively increasing the weights (intensity), an increased number of reps matter too.
Fewer reps produce short EPOC periods while more reps produce greater periods.
4. What are the most effective weight-lifting exercises?
In order to fully engage in lifting weights to lose weight, we need to have an idea about the anatomy of our muscles. A muscle group is a clustered group of muscles that perform similar motions.
There are 6 broad categories of a muscle group, these are:
Other meticulous categories are:- abs, obliques, glutes, upper and lower pecs, spinal erectors, quadriceps, and hamstrings. You can know more about the muscle groups, here.
Although it is suggested to train all parts equally for a proper weight training workout it can vary. For example, it doesn’t make sense to focus too much on training calves and legs when you want to condition your upper body. However, isolating one group and solely trying to maintain muscle mass can lead to a muscle imbalance, wherein the muscle size is significantly disproportionate to other groups.
Compound exercises are a suitable option when lifting weights to lose weight. It works with various muscle groups simultaneously.
One common compound exercise is squat which impacts your quadriceps, calves, and glutes.
It is recommended to go in for 2-5 days a week for getting effective results while lifting weights to lose fat. Most men generally target groups like chest and arms while women usually go for glutes and legs.
It can be fruitful to devise a schedule from a specialized trainer who can assist you in losing fat or building muscle or both.
5. Some caveats to keep in mind while weight training
Don’t skip the warm-up
It might be tempting to jump straight into the workout but it is always advisable to do at least one aerobic exercise to awaken the cardio-respiratory system. Doing this gives the body a signal to activate the muscles, otherwise sudden movements can potentially cause joint pain and body ache.
Don’t stop breathing
Many a time, we succumb to holding our breaths when we lift heavy. This is ineffective since our body needs some amount of oxygen for calorie-burning benefits. In most cases except for chest exercises, exhale while lifting and inhale when putting it down.
Very often, during a weight training session, we tend to hastily do the lifts whether it is a simple bicep curl or a compound exercise like a close-grip bench press. A professional or any personal trainer often instructs to do them in a slow rhythmic and gradual manner that involves releasing the weights because it adds proper resistance to the muscles and does not let momentum be a catalyst in the process.
Don’t go overboard
It is wise to know your limits. If you are a beginner, start small. A good sign to know that you have reached your tipping point is feeling that the muscle burns a great deal during or before the last rep. Your max load is where it is difficult for your muscle to make any more movements. This should not be confused with overexertion which involves a laborious exercise program with heavyweights for a longer duration.
- Both anaerobic and aerobic exercise burns calories. Lifting weights to lose weight can be successful if coupled with a cardio workout and supported with adequate nutrition and rest.
- While both cardio and weight lifting are efficient for burning fat but the effect of a weight-trained muscle is longer.
- A good exercise routine consists of cardio and strength training, if done together they can help lose fat while maintaining muscle mass.
Read more such articles at icy health.