Strength training: Worth the weights?

Dear Raphael,

I love doing aerobics. However, I have a hard time getting into working out with weights. Can I get the same results from a cardio workout that I can from a strength-training routine?

From a strictly cosmetic standpoint, you’ll get different results if you add weight training to your programme versus not adding it. In time, if you only perform cardio, you’ll risk losing muscle and may not look as tight and firm.

I want to first explain some things about muscle versus fat. I promise to keep this simple to understand.

If you compare one pound of fat to one pound of muscle, you’ll find that fat is larger in size and volume than the muscle. The one pound of muscle may appear to be the size of a small, compact tennis ball, where as the one pound of fat may be three to four times that size, and actually resembles jelly. That alone tells us that muscle is leaner and tighter than fat.

For every pound of muscle you gain, the body burns approximately 30-50 additional calories per day. If you gain five pounds of muscle, that’s a lot of fat burning potential over the course of one year.

Increasing muscle helps to burn fat, stokes the metabolism, increases bone density and makes one look more pleasing to the eye. When fat is decreased on the body and slight muscle gains take place, it creates a more fit and symmetrical look. This alone tells you that combining cardio and weights is in your best interest.

Once you begin weight training, the initial result will be a melting away of inches. The slight increase in muscle will stimulate the metabolism and help to burn more calories and fat. This might result in a loss of body fat, but gain in muscle – which would show as no weight lost on the scale. However, you would have actually lost fat. Talk about the scale being deceptive!

The total solution for optimal health and a pleasing body is: weight training to build muscle and burn calories, cardiovascular exercise to burn additional calories and a balanced nutrition programme to make sure you’re taking in just enough calories to burn fat, while sustaining energy levels.

If you continue to only perform cardio, you will get thinner, but lose muscle in the process.

I believe you would be better off finding a weight training routine and schedule that isn’t so intimidating. In reality, all you need is two whole body workouts per week for approximately 25-30 minutes. This is the minimum I recommend – but would be a good place for you to start.

The following are weight training guidelines that will help build lean muscle and burn fat, but also takes into consideration your dislike for weight training.

• Work out two alternate days of the week.

• Keep workout time to approximately 25-30 minutes.

• Perform two sets per muscle group, for 8-12 reps and wait no more than 45 seconds between sets.

• The body will adapt to any routine within four to six weeks, so change the exercises and workout parameters every three weeks or so. This will also alleviate boredom.

• Focus on precise form to isolate a muscle and to avoid injury.

• Every few weeks, try to add five percent more weight to your exercises. The overload will make you stronger and create more muscle, which in turn burns more fat.

Remember that reduced body fat through proper nutrition, weight training and cardiovascular exercise is your ticket to success!

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