One of the biggest myths I hear in gyms worldwide is that aerobics is the best form of exercise for fat loss. In my experience, strength training is simply a better long-term form of exercise than aerobic training. Latest studies have shown that performing strength training burns more fat by increasing fat oxidation during training and after the actual session. For the fastest body fat loss I use a protocol of whole-body functional strength training three times per week and combine this with sprint interval training for both male and female clients. Although I do cardio for heart health it’s not the only way – and if done in excess can lead to a loss of lean body mass and therefore be counterproductive.
Resistance training should form an essential part of any fat loss programme, primarily because of it’s role in increasing and maintaining lean body mass (muscle). However, it also plays a vital role in increasing your metabolic rate. Your “metabolic rate” is the rate of energy expenditure at rest for any given individual. Increasing this rate can be achieved through resistance training, and helps us to achieve the all important, “negative energy balance” (you burn more calories than you store). If we achieve a negative energy balance consistently we lose weight. We generally try to combine this increase in energy expenditure with a reduction in energy intake (ie food) to get the fastest & most effective results.
More interesting however, is that recently a study by Ormsbee et al showed that fat burning actually occurs during strength training; whereas previously it has only been thought to occur in cardiovascular training. Fat is stored in the body in the form of triacylglycerol. The breakdown of these fats (which Exercise Scientists call lipolysis) occurred right in the abdominal muscle. Lipolysis increased by 78% during resistance training and by 75% after training when compared to a control group. It is thought that this was caused by the “excitatory” effect of resistance training on various hormones such as nor/epinephrine & growth hormone.
Whilst it is often touted that aerobic exercise is the most effective form of “fat burning” exercise prescription, this article serves to highlight the fact that aerobic training might not be the only way to achieve these goals. Of course, diet and controlling your energy intake is the other important aspect to consider in any weight loss programme, but for those who prefer to lift weights, this may now be a viable method of exercise in the fight against fat.