Cardio or Weights – Which is Best for Fat Loss?

What Should I Focus On If My Goal Is Fat Loss?


Ahhh, that age old question,  “Shouldn’t I be focusing on “cardio” if I want to lose weight?”

Look around any commercial gym, or out on the sidewalks on a bright sunny day, and it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what most people are choosing as the answer to that question.

Is weight or fat loss simply a matter of how many calories you can expend during a training session, or is it a little more complex than that?

The go to approach that most people will take when looking to shed some unsightly pounds, or get in better shape for that winter vacation down south, is to concentrate all their efforts on copious amounts of cardio, while at the same time cutting their calories aggressively to obtain fast results.

The problem with this approach is that when you cut calories and do a lot of cardio training, the weight that you lose will be around 50% muscle, which slows down your metabolism.

When your life goes back to “normal” (you have less time to train, you abandon your diet because it is so strict, your job gets long and stressful, etc), you will gain all that weight back, however now all of it will be fat, rather than the combination of fat and muscle that you lost while training. T

his in turn slows your metabolism down, making it easier to gain more fat. This is the yo-yo cycle of weight loss/gain that you see so often in people.

Body composition is everything when it comes to how you look. 1 pound of muscle is about twice as dense as 1 pound of fat, so while you may be heavier on the scale with more muscle mass, you will look much smaller than with a higher percentage of body fat. If you take identical twins, both of them the same height and the same weight, but 1 on them is 30% body fat, and the other one is 15% body fat, they will look completely different, even though the scale reads the same.



Won’t Lifting Heavy Weights Make Me Bulk Up?


“Bulking up” requires a lot of training volume, it doesn’t happen by accident. For people who don’t want to add any size but want to reshape their body, focusing on doing 3-4 well thought out strength training movements with heavy weights (relative to your strength levels), will make an immense difference in how you look, feel and perform without adding any unwanted size.

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Unless you are an endurance athlete, training priority should be first to strength train with progressive overload, followed by strategic cardio such as high intensity interval training (more commonly known as HIIT), or metabolic circuits for fat loss and cardiovascular health Remember also that the more lean tissue, or muscle, that you carry on your body, the faster your metabolism will be, and the more calories you will burn while at rest.


Do I Need To Change My Routine Every 6 Weeks To Continue Seeing Progress?


Muscle confusion is a myth. Muscles only know tension or amount of load. The reason progressive overload is so effective is that you are constantly asking your body to do more than it did before, which leads to changes in strength, body composition, increased stamina, and weight loss.

Progressive overload doesn’t always just look like adding more weight to the bar, however.

There are many ways to overload your muscles, and ask more of your body over time. Increasing sets, reps or time under tension are all great ways to overload the muscles, in addition to adding weight. Also, the longer you’ve been training, the more you should rely on alternative forms of overload, rather than always trying to add weight to the bar, as continuously adding weight becomes increasingly difficult the stronger that you get in any given movement or exercise.

The reason that it seems like muscle confusion works is that when you change up your program every 4-6 weeks, most of the progress that you see until you “plateau” is largely your nervous system becoming more efficient at the movements. Once you become better at the exercises, which doesn’t take longer than a few weeks, progress slows down and people will change their program, looking to shock it into new progress.

The problem with that approach is that your muscular system won’t even begin to adapt to the training load until you hit that plateau, so people are missing out on all those muscular adaptations that only occur with continued progressive training after the plateau hits, which is a big mistake.

Building muscle takes time and patience, and is an excruciatingly slow process. Ever notice that people who are continually hopping from program to program never seem to make much progress in the gym? This is one of the reason why that happens. Changing things up is a good approach to conditioning and fat loss, but a very poor approach towards building strength and muscle.


Interested to find out how I can help YOU achieve your fitness and fat loss goals while still living your life? Check out my 28 Day Fat Shredder Program which has helped hundreds of busy parents just like you shed pounds and pounds of ugly, oozing bodyfat while still enjoying the foods and beverage that they love…


About the Author

Chris J Friesen

Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former "fat dad" living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.

He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.

In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.

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