The dilemma is not new. What slims more, cardiovascular exercises or weights? And the answer is surprising. Although aerobic exercises (cycling, swimming, running or zumba, for example) involve a rapid and high calorie expenditure , strength training can achieve identical results. Or better . Because, according to specialists – who remember that weight training is essential as they get older – they can still be more effective . As we recently explained in Why you should do weights if you are 30 years old or older , strength training is the only known “medicine” to combat sarcopenia or muscle wasting, which weakens and, after certain ages, may end even incapacitating.
The good news for those looking to lose a few kilos , is that “a well-planned workout with weights can lighten the way to weight loss because it makes the muscle work intensely, raising the basal metabolism and resorting to the body’s deposits . That is, glycogen and fats, “explains Lucas Leal , creator of the slow training method. He also adds that “with the weights the work takes you home because the calorie consumption in this type of training does not end when you finish the effort but to recover after an intense session, the muscles still need oxygen and the body continues to burn calories to facilitate it. That’s why we say you keep working even when you’re at rest. “
This is what is known as COPD (excess of oxygen consumption after exercise), also called afterburn effect : after an intense exercise your body increases its metabolism for a while, consumes more energy and burns more fat. And that’s what makes some specialists, like Jordi Notario , head of DiR fitness, say that training with weights allows you to burn more calories and for longer
Reaching muscle failure
Yes, To get there, you have to know how to work effectively and plan your training well. Lucas Leal is committed to “the HIST (High Intensity Strength Training) method, which is the most effective, quick and healthy way to increase muscle strength. The exercises are performed at an extremely slow pace, until local exhaustion of the muscles involved . The exercise program works the whole body, generally with a maximum of ten exercises “.
Leal explains that the goal is to ” stimulate the different muscle fibers to the maximum in a range that ranges from one minute and a half to three minutes, and involve between 5 and 8 slow and controlled repetitions . ” That implies the maximum effort on the muscle in a slow, slow execution, until you notice that pain that burns ( no pain no gain say the bodybuilders and although in this case the work is different, its premise is more than valid) that indicates that the limit has been reached. “
It is stigmatized, but it is essential
Jordi Notario recalls that “muscle work is stigmatized by those who say it helps to gain weight because of the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, but it is essential in training plans . You have to know that a toning job does not imply a big increase in the muscles, but rather that it activates it “. Therefore, the American College of Sports Medicine emphasizes the importance of combining cardiovascular work of prolonged duration and moderate intensity with muscle exercises to promote the elimination of fats and increase basal metabolism.
The weight that we can get to lose
But how much can we lose? How much weight do we have to lift? How many days per week? All these questions, explains Notary, depend on many factors. That’s why a personalized job is important. “It is very important to emphasize that the amount of fat that can be lost in specific periods depends on the age, sex, initial weight, the specific body composition of each person, and also their clinical and sports history . Each one has some goals and an ideal weight, which implies different parameters in each case “, explains DiR’s head of fitness. To conclude with another good news: ” However, with a combined routine of cardiovascular work and toning, the results are assured in all cases.”
With thirty minutes it may be enough
For this system to work, the idea is to invest the necessary time in each session. The correct weight (which costs but is not impossible, and go up gradually session after session) in a loading time interval-called TUL-that will vary between that minute and a half and three minutes already cited. And the number of repetitions is related to that TUL or slow speed, and it will vary between 5 and 8 depending on the person and the exercise. You have to look for fatigue up to the threshold of muscular failure, but never to the injury . That must be very clear: muscle failure means that moment when the muscle is so tired that it gives the sensation and can not go either forward or backward . “You have to stand there for a few seconds and then leave the exercise,” says Leal.
The Slow Training system promoted by Lucas Leal only works with one series per exercise because he considers that “if it is done with sufficient intensity, it is not necessary anymore. We also try to rest the minimum between exercises to maintain the metabolic effect during the whole session. ” In other words: it’s about going slow in the exercise and quick in the intervals . And “it is achieved in this way to raise the pulsations in a short time. The heart can pump 130-140 beats per minute and the metabolism is activated to compensate for this energy expenditure. It does not matter if he’s got there after a 40-minute race or with that weight job, but he has to activate and he does it. “
The idea is to do the lifting slowly and return to the resting position also as slowly as possible. With this effort is how to get the basal metabolism that allows weight loss . To understand this aspect it is essential to differentiate perfectly two phases of the movement of the weight exercise. The concentric or positive phase is one in which the muscle shortens or concentrates when contracting , while the eccentric or negative phase lengthens it. One could say that the concentric phase is one that goes against gravity and the eccentric phase in favor.
Why so slowly?
Leal explains that “by performing each exercise slowly, we achieve the same effect on muscles with lower weights than training with much higher weights but done more quickly”. And he adds that “being able to train with less weight to achieve the same effects on the muscle makes the load on the joints less . In strength training not only the weight used is important, but also a correct and accurate execution. “
To help increase metabolic expenditure, an exercise circuit that includes all the major muscle groups is better than dead weights. This even exceeds the calorie burn that would bring a full hour of zumba. And as you get better and you feel more trained, you should cut the interval between exercises.
Rest is essential: train on alternate days
The body also needs a break so many trainers recommend making this effort on alternate days so that the body assumes the benefits generated by this type of training. Leal recalls that according to a 2002 study in the European Journal of Applier Physiology , metabolism increases by about 20% during the 48 hours after exercise. That’s almost 800 extra calories for an average person. That is the reason why breaks are advisable on alternate days or, at least, give the body a day off a week.
It does not help if you do not eat or eat badly
To be able to activate the afterburn effect (and avoid extra caloric intake) it is essential to take good care of the diet. What is clear is that avoiding carbohydrates is perfect to eliminate glycogen stores and activate COPD . And it has also been more than demonstrated that to favor the process of homeostasis (self-regulation of the organism), it is necessary to nourish oneself . There is no point in good training if we later spend many hours without eating or eating badly. It is essential to provide the body with the nutrients (and micronutrients) necessary to promote this recovery process.
On the other hand, always, without exception, a warm-up of between five or ten minutes is mandatory to put the muscle in a position to work. If you start the dumbbells cold it is very easy to injure yourself. You have to go to fatigue, but never to pain. When the pain appears, you must lower the intensity of the exercise or the weight, and if it persists, avoid it.
“Big five”, the five must-haves
According to Lucas Leal, you have to always work with the “big five”. It is one of the most recommended basic programs to initiate a strength pattern that also helps increase metabolism .
What exercises are those? Well, the Seated Row (seated oars); Chest Press (chest pres); Pulldow (pull dorsal), Overhead Press (shoulder pres) and Leg Press (pres legs) . They can be done perfectly in any machine circuit or even at home, looking for alternatives to those dumbbell exercises or even the weight itself. But it becomes difficult, of course, the work of increasing the weight as the objectives are achieved