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What's Better For Fat-Loss: Cardio or Strength Training?

Matt Skeffington

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

May 12 10 minutes read

If it's fat-loss you're after, you've come to the right place!

You've probably seen the incredible member fat-loss transformations here at DSC over the years.

Members like Tim who has lost almost 60lbs!

And Shelby who is down almost 80lbs!

And Dawn who has lost over 100lbs since joining DSC.

If your goal is to lose weight and feel great this summer, then it's crucial to make exercise a regular part of your routine.

Then the question becomes, what's the best type of exercise for fat-loss?

Is it cardio or strength training?

Cardio enthusiasts will say cardio due to the fact you burn calories through getting your heart-rate up and weight lifters will say strength training as it builds muscle which helps burn fat at rest.

So who is right?

The answer is: both. Let's get into it.

Cardio Only for Fat-Loss

Cardio exercises like running or spinning are great for getting your heart rate up, increasing your fitness level, and improving the strength and function of your heart.

It's also a great way to burn calories while you workout which is why it's gotten so much attention.

There a problem with the cardio-only approach to fat-loss though.

Cardio alone is not a good long-term fat-loss approach.

And the research agrees.

Studies show we are incredibly efficient when it comes to preserving energy. It's actually a survival mechanism. Say you run or spin 3-4x/week. Over time your body adjusts to your walk, run, or spin and you become more efficient. This means you actually burn less calories to do same amount of work. This is one reason why many people plateau.

The second reason why cardio alone is not a good long-term fat-loss solution is that excessive cardio actually breaks down muscle. The more work we do during our cardio sessions, the more energy we need. Our bodies can actually break down our own muscle for fuel. This is bad news as the more muscle we have, the faster our metabolism will be. In fact, research has shown cardio-only workouts can decrease your daily metabolism. This means we will be burning less calories throughout the day leading to less fat-loss.

Strength Training Only for Fat-Loss

Strength training is a crucial component to your fitness and overall results.

It's great for improving total-body strength, mobility, injury prevention, and posture.

Think of strength as your fitness foundation. The stronger you are, the better your fitness will be. This means you can exercise with better effort and intensity. 

Strength training is crucial for improving and maintaining muscle mass. This is huge for fat-loss. As we said earlier, the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be. Research shows your metabolism declines by 5+% every decade as we lose 5lbs of muscle each decade. This is why it seems harder and harder to lose weight as we age. That is why strength training is a must when it comes to fat loss.

Another great fat-loss benefit of strength training and higher intensity exercise is EPOC. This stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. This is the period after your workout where your metabolism stays elevated and you continue to burn calories. EPOC can stay elevated for 6-48 hours after your workouts, keeping you burning calories for hours!

Should it be the only mode of exercise though? No.

Strength training alone can miss out on the enormous health benefits of cardio and the calorie burn it provides to aid in your fat-loss efforts.

So what is the best workout for fat-loss?

Enter Metabolic Resistance Training

Metabolic (cardio) and resistance training (strength training) is a form of exercise that combines the best of both worlds.

It is the foundation of our workouts here at DSC and one the biggest reasons for our incredible member transformations.

Metabolic resistance training is a fancy way of saying we strength train or lift weights while keeping our heart-rates elevated, mainly in circuit-training formats.

This style of workout combines all the fat-loss benefits of both cardio and strength training providing THE BEST results for you!

Another great benefit of metabolic resistance training is in the variety of your workouts. This style of workouts removes the repetitive and boring nature of traditional cardio workouts like running or walking and allows you to introduce an endless array of exercises, workouts, and equipment.

Metabolic resistance training:

  • Burns more calories during the workout compared to cardio alone

  • Burns more calories after your workout compared to cardio and strength training alone

  • Improves overall strength and muscle, leading to you burning more calories at rest

  • Boosts your daily metabolism 

  • Increases workout consistency

When you burn more calories during and after your workout, build muscle to burn calories throughout the day, and stay more consistent in doing so, you have an incredible recipe for fat-loss success.

Ready to get your metabolic resistance training and fat-loss started? 

Let's get into your metabolic resistance training (MRT) fat-loss workouts! Have FUN! 

1| Beginners MRT Fat-Loss Workout

Are you new to working out? We have the PERFECT starting point for you with our beginners fat-loss workout.

This circuit combines some of our foundational kettlebell, body-weight and medicine ball exercises.

Take your time and ease yourself into the movements. Aim to get a little better every time you complete this workout.

Here's how it works:

Set a clock for :20 of work and :40 of rest. This means you will complete each exercise for :20 at your own pace and rest for :40 before moving to the next exercise in order. Complete 2-4 rounds and rest 1-2 minutes between rounds.

Start with a 8-15lb kettlebell and 8lb medicine ball.

Your Beginners Fat-Loss Workout:

1| Med Ball Slam
2| Kettlebell Goblet Squat
3| Kettlebell 1-Arm Split Stance Row (right)
4| Kettlebell 1-Arm Split Stance Row (right)
5| Kneeling Push-Up
6| Elevated Burpee

2| Kettlebell MRT Fat-Loss Workout

The kettlebell is one of our favorite pieces of fitness equipment. Their shape and handle allow for an endless variety of exercises that are fantastic for burning fat.

Here's how it works:

This workout is a countdown. Set a clock for 10-15 minutes. Start on the right side and complete 12 reps of each exercise. Once you've completed each exercise, do the same on the left side. Once you've finished both sides, move to 10 reps of each exercise and again complete both sides, then move to 8 reps and so on. See how low you can get in the countdown before the time runs out.

Your Kettlebell Fat-Loss Workout:

1| 1-Arm Kettlebell Swing (right)
2| 1-Arm Kettlebell Floor Clean (right)
3| 1-Arm Kettlebell Push Press (right)
4| Kettlebell Wideout Squat
5| Kettlebell Drag Through
* repeat on left side

3| Landmine MRT Fat-Loss Workout

The landmine attachment is one of our favorite fat-loss workout tools. It is a movable piece that you put one end of a barbell into. The attachment piece allows the barbell to move freely, giving you an unlimited variety of fat-loss and strength exercises to choose from. The landmine is a fantastic way to shred fat and add variety and fun to your workouts.

Here's how it works:

Set a clock for 10-15 minutes. Each landmine exercise will stay at 6 reps. Complete each exercise in order and then complete :30 of your lateral bounds. Once you finish your lateral bounds, start back at the top and see how many rounds you can complete. Also, look to add a bit more weight to the bar each round.

Your Landmine Fat-Loss Workout:

1| Landmine Squat to Press
2| Landmine Alternating Reverse Lunges
3| Landmine Deadlift
4| Landmine Split Stance 1-Arm Press (right and left)
5| Lateral Bounds

4| Body-Weight MRT Fat-Loss Workout

No access to equipment? No problem. All you need is some space and a water. We are going to work through a series of exercises using just your body-weight. Get ready to sweat! 

Here's how it works:

Set a clock for 10-15 minutes. Complete each exercise in order for 10 reps. Once you finish each exercise, that is 1 round. See how many rounds you can complete before your time runs out. 

Your Body-Weight Fat-Loss Workout:

1| Body-Weight Squat 1.5
2| T Push-Up
3| Plyo Reverse Lunge (left)
4| Plyo Reverse Lunge (right)
5| Straight Leg Sit-Up
6| Burpee

5| Medicine Ball MRT Fat-Loss Workout

Time to burn some fat and spice up that workout routine with the medicine ball! These exercises are designed to challenge your your entire body and core, allowing you to really get that heart rate up.

Here's how it works:

Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Your goal is to get as low as you can on the countdown. You will start with 12 reps of each exercise. Once you complete each exercise in order, start back over with 10 reps of each exercise, and so on. See how much of the countdown you can complete before the time runs out.

Your Med Ball Fat-Loss Workout:

1| Med Ball Wall Ball
2| Med Ball Overhead Step Through Lunges (right leg)
3| Med Ball Overhead Step Through Lunges (left leg)
4| Med Ball Push-Ups (right arm)
5| Med Ball Push-Ups (left arm)
6| Straight Leg Sit-Ups

Our 30-Day Beginners Fitness Program starts June 1st!

30-days of coach-led workouts, nutrition coaching, and RESULTS!

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