Strength training is often associated with only bodybuilding. A majority of people think that this type of exercise routine is only opted for when one wants to achieve a muscular body. But, does strength training help in fat loss? Or, is cardio a better choice to lose weight? Why do fitness enthusiasts swear by strength training?
While everyone unanimously agrees upon the important role of nutrition in fitness and health, there are a few never-ending questions related to exercises for fat loss. If you, too, have these doubts, then read on to get your answers!
Difference between Cardio and Strength Training
Before we dive into understanding the role of strength training in fat loss, let us discover if there is any difference between cardio and strength training.
When people refer to “cardio”, they are referring to steady-state aerobic training like jogging, walking, or cycling. However, cardio by definition means any activity that raises your heart and breath rate, while improving the function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.
Now, haven’t you ever observed that someone who lifts weights also has an elevated breath rate? When you do bodyweight exercises like push-ups or lunges, doesn’t your heart pump faster than usual? To simply put, any activity which makes the cardiovascular system work more or makes it put in more effort, can be considered cardio. So, strength training is also cardio. Enlightening, right?
What is Strength Training?
Strength training, also commonly known as weight training or resistance training, is an exercise routine performed to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance. It involves using your bodyweight or different equipment like weights or resistance bands to exercise.
Strength training has countless benefits, including increased muscle mass, mobility, range of motion, and strength. It also helps in strengthening the bones and joints.
Let us try to understand how beneficial strength training is, specifically, for fat loss. When it comes to the caloric cost of resistance training, it does not burn many calories during the sessions. The lifter may burn approximately 75 to 300 calories per session, depending on lean mass and total workout volume. This is significantly less than the calories that a steady-state cardio session of the same duration can burn.
Busting Myths about Calorie Burning
During the medieval period, it was believed that muscles could burn 50 times more calories at rest since they are more metabolically active. This is far from the truth as one pound of muscle burns 6-10 calories, whereas one pound of fat burns two calories. Therefore, if someone gains 10 pounds of muscle and loses 10 pounds of fat, the increment in the resting energy will be 40-80 calories, which might seem insignificant for fat loss.
Importance of Strength Training
Let us talk about the history and human physiology, and how we have adapted and survived the pre-industrial age.
Our body has adapted to make sure that we survive in extreme situations, such as famine, floods, or any other calamity. All of these adaptations happened after thousand, if not, million years of trial and error.
Our bodies have a tendency to store fat. This is the primary reason why we can’t directly excrete all the extra calories out. It could have been countered, but the industrial revolution happened in the late 1700s and we never got enough time to adapt. Unlike our ancestors, we have a lot of food, but now, the amount of activity we generally do is quite minimal. Thus, we always end up saving a lot of calories in the form of fats because that is how our bodies have evolved.
When you put yourself under a calorie deficit and avoid resistance training, your body receives signals to start using muscle cells for energy. This happens since the main function of the muscles is to work against resistance.
The person may end up losing weight, but it’ll affect the overall body’s composition.
Weight loss is governed by many factors, primarily, by water retention and water loss. Yes, our bodies have approximately 60% of water. But fat loss, specifically, is governed by calorie-deficit, food choices, resistance training, hydration, as well as recovery.
Weight loss is governed by calorie-intake and water manipulation, whereas your training choice will decide what type of weight you will lose.
Weight training helps improve body’s composition (i.e body fat and muscle mass distribution), helps you get strong, and contributes to getting a toned appearance which makes you look and feel good.
This doesn’t mean cardio “aerobic training” is not worth your time. Every aspect of fitness is necessary and should be worked upon. But, if you’re sticking to only aerobic training for the sake of fat loss, you may end up changing your body’s composition negatively.
If you are interested in learning more about the science behind workouts, you should check out our Exercise Science Specialist Course.
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It is a detailed course that explains the various aspects of exercise science.
The course begins with a thorough explanation of human anatomy and movements. The course, then, goes on to explain the setup and execution of major exercises (along with gender-specific programming).
You will also learn exercise execution and customisation of training variables. Apart from this, you will also be taught rehabilitation protocols and the right techniques for avoiding injuries.
With the help of this course, you will understand the core of exercise science.
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Aditya Mahajan, INFS faculty, Standard Coach @ Fittr
Shubham Modi, INFS faculty
Ketki H, Content writer
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McClave, S. A., & Snider, H. L. (2001). Dissecting the energy needs of the body. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 4(2), 143-147.
Wang, Z., Ying, Z., Bosy‐Westphal, A., Zhang, J., Heller, M., Later, W., … & Müller, M. J. (2011). Evaluation of specific metabolic rates of major organs and tissues: comparison between men and women. American Journal of Human Biology, 23(3), 333