Health & fitness

Pounding the pavement vs pumping iron

Don’t believe everything you hear.

‘Lifting weights will make me bulky’.

‘Cardio will stop me building muscle.’

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these two statements. What’s even more frustrating is that that’s exactly what the are – statements rather than questions and I can tell you now that they are both wrong.

Lifting weights will certainly make you bulky if that’s your aim – you can build muscle definition and bulk with a specific workout routine and diet. However they are also great for tone and fat loss. Weight lifting is all about your programme design.

Those looking to improve muscular BUILD should try different training techniques such as pyramid training, drop sets or super sets, lifting moderate – high loads in multiple sets for the same muscle group with short rest periods. (I will be blogging about these in future!)

Those looking to improve muscular STRENGTH should lift heavier weights with longer rest periods and include multi-joint movements in training (i.e. squats, deadlifts, etc)

Those looking to improve muscular ENDURANCE should lift moderate loads in multiple sets or circuits with shorter rest over a longer time period.

So what is best for weight loss?

Overall a combination of weight training and cardio (paired with a good diet) is the best route to weight loss. Lifting heavy weights helps to build strength which allows you to maintain muscle tone while so combining this with HIIT (hight intensity interval training) with lower weights and higher repetitions to burn fat. While cardio will burn more calories during your session, lifting weights and HIIT burn more calories overall because they increase your metabolism and keep it higher for hours afterwards.

If you’re planning on incorporating cardio and weights into a workout, always finish with your cardio to achieve that extra burn. To burn fat, your body first needs to use its glycogen stores followed by fat stores (yep – its the sciency bit!) and when you weight train you typically use glycogen as fuel. This means that by weight training first and using up those glycogen stores once you get in to that calorie-burning cardio you’re burning away at that fat!

While training don’t forget that weight loss is predominantly diet – you can crunch, punch and cardio until your hearts content but if you’re under or over eating, ignoring those macros and not putting the right nutrients in to your body, you wont get the results you want.

If cardio burns fat, will that stop me building muscle?

It all depends on how much cardio you’re doing. If your cardio far outweighs your lifting, then of course it will. You need to keep consistent and focused with your weight training in order to see results. However its always necessary to mention that, as with weight loss, nutrition is a huge factor when trying to build muscle and you must ensure that you are providing your body with enough fuel – protein for muscle growth, carbs and fats for fuel. You also need to rest between workouts to let your muscles repair, rebuild and regrow. The harder you work, the more fuel you need to give your body and the more time it needs to repair.

The issue with cardio is that you’re using the same fuel needed for muscle growth and makes it harder to refuel. There is a way around this.

The simplest thing to do is to use your cardio as your recovery day on days you won’t be strength training. For example, if you weight train on Monday then go for a run on Tuesday, this could actually help with muscle recovery. Cardio increases blood flow helping build muscle back up in the body and removing waste products.

A lot of people choose not to include cardio when they are ‘bulking’ but then struggle to build back their cardiovascular ability post-bulk. By maintaining some level of cardio workout in your routine you wont find it so hard to build back up.

Remember – its all about balance. If you’re going to up the ante and try to build muscle, you need to increase the intensity of your workout and increase those calories!

You may read a lot of ‘fitness advice’ on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites but unless its written by a fitness professional, try not to believe everything you see – and if you really want to know, just ask! That’s what I’m here for!