Are cardio workouts or weight training more effective for losing fat…
by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer
In this article, I have an intriguing discussion about cardio workouts, which will hopefully get you thinking differently, and trying new things.
You may know I’ve been called the anti-cardio guy before, but this week I’m back posing the question to you… Do you really need cardio training to get lean and in great shape? By the way, you’ll see in a minute that I’m not really “anti-cardio”, just “anti traditional cardio”.
Most fitness buffs, weekend warriors, or anyone trying to get in shape or lose body fat, consider it a fact that they need “cardio” exercise to accomplish these goals. They would never even question it.
However, I’m not only questioning it, I’m going to refute it! In fact, you may be surprised to know that some of the leanest and meanest people I know (men and women), NEVER do any type of normal or traditional cardio. And I’ve spent over 15 years working out in various gyms, and hanging out with athletes of all sorts, so I’ve seen it all.
I will say that there can be a place for low-moderate level cardio for really overweight or deconditioned people, but even in those cases, there can be more effective methods.
But what exactly is “cardio”?
Most people would consider cardio to be pumping away mindlessly on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, or coasting on an elliptical machine, while watching the TV screen at their state of the art gym. This is what I call “traditional cardio”. Hmmm, no wonder the majority of people get bored with their workouts and give up after a couple months without seeing results.
But if you look closer, “cardio” exercise can be considered any type of exercise or activity that strengthens the cardiovascular system. I’m not going to get into anything technical like increasing your VO2 max or anything like that. To keep it simple, if it gets your heart pumpin, and gets you huffin and puffin, it’s cardio. I don’t care if you’re holding dumbbells or a barbell and everyone calls it a weight training exercise…it’s still conditioning your heart.
Let’s take a look at a couple examples. Take a barbell (or dumbbell, or kettlebell) clean & press for example, which involves lifting a barbell from the floor up to shoulders, then push pressing overhead. And listen up ladies, because even though this is usually seen as a manly exercise, it doesn’t matter if you’re not lifting 250 lbs; if 45 lbs is challenging to you, then you will still benefit just as much.
At first glance, most people think of the barbell C&P only as a weight training exercise or strength exercise. However, I challenge you to do a hard set of around 10-15 reps on the C&P. If you used a challenging enough weight, what you’ll find is that your heart rate is probably up to about 80-90% of your recommended max, and you are huffing and puffing like you just ran a 100-meter sprint (which by the way, sprinting kicks the crap out of jogging any day if you want the easiest way to lose the flab).
Try the same thing for a set of 20 reps of one-arm snatches or swings with each arm with a kettlebell or dumbbell, and tell me your legs aren’t burning, heart racing, and you’re gasping for breath. How about trying 5 minutes straight of bodyweight squats, lunges, and pushups with very little rest. Again, notice your heart pounding, sweat pouring off of you, and chest heaving for breaths!
Try and tell me you’re not conditioning your heart with this style of training! Conventional thinking says that these are weight training or strength training exercises. However, they are fullfilling your cardio workout needs as well (saving you time!).
Not only do you save time, but you strengthen and condition almost every muscle in your entire body with these full body exercises if you do them with enough intensity…something that can’t be said for that boring stationary bike ride or treadmill jaunt while reading or watching TV.
Reading or watching TV while you workout is a joke!
Seriously, if you can read or watch TV while doing any exercise, you’re not concentrating enough on what you’re doing, plus you’re probably not working out hard enough to see any real results.
I challenge you to give the “traditional cardio” a rest for a month or two, and start training the way I explain in my internationally-selling Truth about Six pack Abs Program, and see how you start getting leaner, more defined, and your six pack starting to show through what used to be stubborn stomach fat deposits.
And I’m not talking about interval cardio, although the weight-training method I’ve been preaching has an HIIT feel to it. That’s the F4X method, (featured in Old School New Body) which is moderate-weight, high-fatigue training with short rests between sets. It burns more fat and pumps up your muscles like crazy too. Here’s the drill:
You take a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you only do 10; rest 30 seconds, then do it again—and so on for four sets. On the fourth set, you go to failure, and if you get 10 reps, you increase the weight on the exercise at your next workout. Notice how those sets are like intervals with short breaks between—you can even pace between sets to burn extra calories, but there’s more.
Fat-burning pathway 1: While that training style does great things for muscle growth, via myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic expansion, you also get loads of muscle burn. That lactic acid pooling has a spiking effect on your growth hormone output—and GH is a potent fat burner. Fire up muscle burning to get your GH churning. (GH also amplifies other anabolic hormones, so it effects both muscle and rippedness.)
Fat-burning pathway 2: If you do the reps correctly on every set, you’ll also get myofibrillar trauma. The myofibrils are the force-generating strands in muscle fibers. By “damaging” them with slower, controlled negative strokes, you force the need for extra energy during recovery. In other words, your body runs hotter while you’re out of the gym as it revs to repair the microtears.
To attain that extra fat-burning trauma, use one-second positives and three-second negatives on all 10 reps of all four sets. On a bench press that’s one second up and three seconds down. It’s the slow lowering that will produce the metabolic momentum after your workout. (That rep speed will also give you 40 seconds of tension time on every set, an ideal hypertrophic TUT.)
Fat-burning pathway 3: Now if you really want to get some blubber-busting microtrauma, try your last set of a F4X sequence in X-centric style. That’s one-second positives and six-second negatives. You may have to reduce the weight, but it will be worth it. Try for eight of those, 56 seconds of tension time, and you should feel the results the next day. Your muscles will be aching, but it’s a good indication that fat is baking.
F4X for a GH surge, slower negatives for fat-burning micro trauma and X-centric for even more time under tension and fat extinction. It all adds up to faster leanness with less meanness—because you’ll need less cardio. Prepare for acid-etched abs! Yes!! Even as you age this system works, in fact it is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth.
Stay tuned, train smart and be Built for Life.
Editor in Chief Iron Man Magazine and co-creator of the Old School New Body program
I had the pleasure of being interviewed recently by a fitness professional from NYC, Certified Personal Trainer, Geovanni Derice. The interview is below and I think you’re going to like it… I reveal some of the hardest hitting strategies for getting rid of that stubborn stomach fat to uncover those flat six pack abs that everyone wants.
“GD: Welcome Mike to our 4-ever-Toned Fitness Journal. For those who do not know you, please tell us a few things about yourself and how you can help our readers with their fitness and health.
MG: Thanks for having me, Geo. Well, to go back a little, I have been heavily involved in fitness and sports for about 20 years now, ever since I was a teenager. Being involved in sports in high school got me interested in strength training and conditioning.
At that point, once I started feeling more energetic, getting stronger, and looking better, I was instantly hooked for life. I’m 36 now and still addicted to the way living a healthy and fit lifestyle makes me feel energetic, confident, strong, and youthful on a daily basis.
I decided earlier in my 20′s that I wanted to make the commitment to help other people experience the excitement of being fit and getting in the best shape of their lives, especially since we’ve reached an epidemic of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, etc. That’s why I became a fitness professional. It just gives me so much satisfaction to help others, who have struggled for years to get in good shape, and show them that it can be done, and it can be fun in the process.
I’ve expanded over the years from just reaching local individuals with personal training, into being able to help people all over the globe achieve their fitness goals with the reach of the internet. I only hope that my passion for fitness inspires people to take action and improve how they look and feel for life.
GD: Now Mike, there’s so many things out there as to what works and what does not work… if you had to pick 3 things that work time and time again to get flat lean abs, what would they be?
MG: The first and most important thing to get control of in order to lose your belly fat and get flat abs is cleaning up your diet. Exercise is important, but your diet is king when it comes to losing body fat so that you can see your abs.
There’s so much confusion these days about what a healthy diet that promotes fat loss really is… after all, we are bombarded by conflicting messages in the media about what is healthy and what is not, and you have all of these gimmicky diet books about low carb, low fat, high protein, vegetarian, fasting, atkins, south beach, liquid diets, and hundreds more. There’s so much conflicting info, that the average consumer doesn’t even know where to start when it comes to eating for fat loss.
The second thing that works time and time again, is to focus on the intensity of your workouts and focus on working the body as a whole in order to get the best metabolic response to lose that stubborn stomach fat.
In order to really get lean, the workouts should have a high intensity, with short rest periods, working the largest muscle groups of the body, instead of trying to isolate specific small muscles like the biceps, triceps, or calves.
For the third thing, let’s talk about actually training the abs specifically. When it comes to training the abs, if you want real results, I always recommend forgetting about the crunches and situps for the most part. They are ok for someone that is really deconditioned, but most people that already have some training under their belt need a much better stimulus for their abs than crunches. Crunches are one of the abs exercises that actually provide the least amount of resistance, and remember that resistance is what develops and tones the muscles.
I provide a ton of great abs exercises in my book, but one of THE highest resistance exercises for the abs, is hanging leg raises (but NOT the way you see most people at the gym doing them). The key to doing these and actually working the hell out of your abs is to curl your pelvis up as you raise your legs. Almost nobody ever does this right. To be honest, the majority of people cannot do this at first, but I provide some strategies in my book as to how to progress to doing these correctly.
GD: What are people doing wrong when it comes to developing the coveted “6 pack abs”?
MG: Well Geo, I know this sounds funny to most people, but the MAIN thing that people are doing wrong to get those flat 6-pack abs is… are you ready for this?
They spend entirely too much time focusing on training their abs! WAY too much time spent on abs exercises. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Remember, having a flat and visible six pack of abs is all about getting down to a low body fat percentage. In order to do that, your workouts must focus on stimulating a fat burning hormonal environment in your body, and increasing your metabolic rate. That just does not happen when you focus too much time training a small muscle group like the abs.
Instead, you must use the majority of your time focusing on training the largest muscle groups of the body like the legs, back, and chest. That’s what stimulates your metabolism and the fat burning hormones that will get you truly lean and sporting a flat sixxer!
GD: Which exercises are the top exercises that people need to do if they are to get maximum defintion with their midsection?
MG: When it comes to developing the abs themselves, I again refer to any kinds of hanging abs exercises, as well as some good floor abs exercises like lying leg thrusts (all described and illustrated in my book).
However, maximum definition in the abs and midsection comes from losing bodyfat, and the most effective exercises featured in my program for that goal are various forms of swings and snatches (unique dumbbell or kettlebell exercises that almost nobody ever does in normal gyms), squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, clean & presses, mountain climbers, sprinting, and other full body exercises and calisthenics. If you want great looking flat abs, focus on those instead of focusing so much on training the abs directly!
GD: When it comes to diet Mike, people really have tried millions of ways to get one thing… and that is fat loss. What recommendations have you used to successfully help your clients lose body fat and keep it off?
MG: I have included a fully comprehensive discussion of this topic in my book, which accounts for almost half of the book, but I’ll try to make some nice simple generalizations to get people started on the right path immediately. The most important thing is that your diet is as natural and unprocessed as possible. It almost always comes back to the overprocessing of food that makes it unhealthy, and makes it totally wreck your metabolism and hormone balance in your body.
For example, why eat refined grains, when you can eat sprouted whole grains (keep in mind that I usually recommend strictly limiting grain-based foods overall for best results due to the problems with antinutrients and gluten in grains which are inflammatory).
Why eat refined sugar, when you can get natural sources of sugar from a high nutrient whole food like fruit. Why eat highly processed, refined, and hydrogenated vegetable oils (these are THE worst thing in the modern diet), when you can eat natural sources of healthy fats like nuts, avocados, fish, eggs, coconut milk, organically raised meat, and so forth.
The point is to not fall for some gimmick like extremely low carbs (although I do believe in a fairly reduced carb intake as that is a big problem for most people), low fat, super high protein, or any other combination that has you focusing on one macronutrient vs. another.
Your body needs all macronutrients to thrive and obtain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. Trying to cut an entire food group out just works against what your body needs. I get into much more detail on this vitally important topic towards losing body fat (especially that stubborn stomach fat) for life in my book.
GD: Thank you very much Mike for sharing with us all of this great information.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this interview and plucked several nuggets of info to get you motivated and started on showing off your flat abs shortly. If you don’t already own a copy, be sure to pick up a copy of my Truth about Six Pack Abs book and discover the entire system I’ve developed for ridding yourself of that extra ab fat for good!