Steady state cardio is where you do moderate cardiovascular exercise for an extended period of time (i.e. jogging on a treadmill). Studies suggest that this form of exercise can actually be counterproductive in the long run, because although you might lose some weight for awhile, eventually your body will plateau, and it will become very difficult to lose more weight. Why? Because our bodies are designed to adapt. After awhile of doing the same exercise over and over, your metabolism adjusts to make it so that exercise isn’t difficult for you. If you aren’t constantly changing your exercise routine, after awhile it won’t be a challenge any more. And as the saying goes, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”. The bottom line is that you don’t have to spend an hour on the treadmill every day to lose weight. Their are many more efficient ways to get the job done.
Here are 3 forms of exercise that are far more effective than steady state cardio for fat loss:
Lifting – Contrary to what you might think, picking up heavy stuff and putting it back down is one of the best ways to burn fat. Why? Well first, if you’ve ever lifted heavy weights you know that it gets your heart rate up like nothing else, which boosts your metabolism, which burns fat. But even more than that, it builds muscle (lean muscle mass ladies, you won’t look like a bodybuilder), and muscle burns fat. One drawback of cardio-only training is that it often causes you to lose fat and muscle at the same time. Strong muscles are important for your everyday function and overall physical health, so losing strength is NOT something you want even if you are losing fat at the same time. With weightlifting (whether you use a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell), you will burn a TON of calories in a short time, build functional strength, and the best part is that you will continue burning fat for hours after your workout (afterburn)! So if you’re trying to lose weight and have access to heavy weights, find a good beginner’s weightlifting routine and get started!
Kickboxing – You don’t have to be a professional martial artist to enjoy the benefits of kickboxing. You can burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour of kickboxing, while strengthening your core and building power and strength. Using a heavy bag is ideal, but if you don’t have access to one, you can just do shadow boxing. To make it tougher and more effective for strength building, use some light wrist and ankle weights. Just 3-5 lbs. will make a huge difference. Here is a sample of what a workout without a bag could look like:
Interval Training – Simply put, interval training is where you alternate between intervals of working really hard and “active rest” (light activity). One of the best formats for interval training is Tabata, where you work hard for 20 seconds, and rest for 10, for a total of 4 minutes (8 rounds). Tabata is a great format for a short but extremely effective workout! With this style of training, you don’t have a chance to plateau since you are constantly keeping your body guessing. One of the great things about this style of exercise is that you can do intervals with any style of training – kickboxing, lifting, or even regular cardio on a treadmill. Strength training in the format of intervals is much better than using cardio machines for weight loss, but if you really want to use a machine, interval training is the way to go. If you are doing it right, interval training also creates the same afterburn effect as lifting or strength training since it is so intense.
Here is an example of what a Tabata workout looks like for a CrossFitter. You can use the same format for whatever style of training you want!
Below is one of my favorite HIIT workouts that incorporates cardio and strength training. It is short and doesn’t require any equipment, so you don’t have any excuses not to try it 😉 If you do this workout 2-3 times per week, along with some lighter cardio and/or strength training, you will see results very quickly. You can also search “FitnessBlender HIIT” on YouTube. They have over 500 free, full length workout videos, so you can do a different workout every day if you want!