I was checking out at one of my favorite local grocery stores a few days ago and my eyes found their way to the magazine rack. What I saw was quite amazing: Right there on the cover, “Celebrity Dieting Secrets Inside.” I was intrigued. Now, having a background in exercise and physiology, I know regular exercise and eating right are the only “secrets” out there, but all too often we get caught up in all the conflicting advice, information or news — we lose sight of what really works, end up confused and disregard how regular exercise benefits our bodies.
So let’s dive into the tried and true about what you should be doing.
As far as physical activity goes, I’m willing to bet you’re familiar with aerobic exercise. Go to any gym and you’ll see everyone lined up on the treadmills, bikes and stair climbers. Most associate aerobics with “fat-loss” (as you’re training in the “fat-loss zone”), and this is by far the most widely performed exercise among those looking to lose weight and tone-up. But as we’ll learn, it may not be your best bet.
Another popular form of training is interval training. Some tout it as the only cardio you should do and say anything long-duration is a waste of time. Interval training is often done with precise work-to-rest ratios that, in theory, provide optimal results.
Then there are resistance-based activities — basically any form of working your muscles against some force, whether it’s a handheld weight, elastic bands, equipment with weight stacks or even using your own body weight and gravity to provide resistance.
So what is the best form of exercise for fat loss, optimal heart, bone and overall health? And what should you do differently if you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain your weight?
I like to think you should base your weekly exercise routine around how much time you have. Just as you budget spending money, you need to establish how much time you are able and willing to devote to exercise. (“None” is not an acceptable answer!) Everyone has time to exercise; it just has to become a priority.
Then set realistic goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, what you eat is clearly the most important thing to monitor. Unless you’re exercising 10 hours a day, the total calorie burn from exercise cannot match the deficit you can create through proper eating. You can eat a candy bar in 30 seconds, but it will take a brutal 50 minutes of exercise to burn the calories from it. So get your diet in order first.
OK, so now what should your exercise routine look like? If you’re to do just one form of exercise and you’re crunched for time, resistance training is the way to go. In fact, strength training and related activities should make up the cornerstone of any exercise plan — no matter your goal. Not only does it benefit strength, it carries over to cardiovascular conditioning (as much as the treadmill), benefits bone health (more than popping calcium supplements) and clearly is the best exercise for overall fat loss (much more than even aerobics).
Weight training not only increases your lean muscle tissue, it creates a metabolic demand for many hours post-exercise. A study in the Journal Of Medicine And Science In Sports And Exercise compared the effects of diet-only, diet plus aerobics (three times a week for 30 to 50 minutes), and diet plus aerobics plus weights. Over a 12-week period, the diet-only group lost 14.6 pounds; the aerobics group lost 15.6 pounds (only one pound more than diet-only). And the weight-training group lost an average of 21.1 pounds — a notable difference. Other studies have found the effects of weight training on VO2 — a measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen — to be comparable to that of aerobic training. What’s not to like?
In my experience, full body routines in the 8- to 12-rep range, two or three times a week for 40 to 50 minutes each, work best. Choose about six different exercises — you can incorporate squat thrusts, mountain climbers (jumping up and down from a squat position), walking lunges, pushups and the plank among others. Do three sets of 12 reps of each exercise the first day, rest one day, then three sets of 10 reps the second day, rest a day, and finish your workout week with three sets of 8 repetitions.
Remember, regardless of your goal, resistance-based activities that elevate metabolism should be the top priority in any training program.
Zach Hunt is a fitness coach and personal trainer in Spokane.
WORKING WITH WEIGHTS
Monday – Workout 1
1A. Walking Lunges (Body Weight) – 3 x 12
1B. Incline Dumbbell Bench – 3 x 12
1C. Front Plank – 3 x 60 sec.
2A. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift – 3 x 12
2B. Mountain Climbers – 3 x 30 sec.
2C. Burpees (Squat Thrusts) – 3 x 15
Wednesday – Workout 2
1A. Dumbbell Squat and Curl – 3 x 10
1B. T Pushups – 3 x 10
1C. Side Planks - 3 x 45 sec.
2A. Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 3 x 10
2B. Jump Rope – 3 x 45 sec.
2C. Jump Squats (Body Weight) 3 x 20
Friday – Repeat Workout 1 (8 reps per set)