Best Lifts That Double As Cardio
You might already know that weight lifting plays a key role in weight loss. While many people (especially women) tend to narrow in on cardio, the fact of the matter is that you won’t burn enough calories through cardio alone to make a huge impact on weight loss (unless you’re doing hours per day). Of course, cardiovascular exercise also provides many key benefits like heart health and improved recovery time, so should definitely be included in your fitness program.
The fact of the matter is that you won’t burn enough calories through cardio alone to make a huge impact on weight loss.
Knowing this (and especially if you are crunched for time), what is the best way to combine weight lifting and cardio, all in one? Let’s consider the following.
First and Foremost, Why Is Strength Training So Important, Anyway?
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning that it causes you to burn more calories while at rest. While the impact that cardio exercise has on your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories) doesn’t extend far from the treadmill, building muscle will actually mold your body into a calorie-burning machine, all day long. This is because it increases your resting metabolic rate, so you continue to burn calories long after your workout.
Top 4 Full-Body Movements to Build Muscle and Get Your Heart Rate Up
The good news is that by incorporating certain movements into your routine, you can get the biggest bang for your buck at the gym. Check out the following compound movements, meaning they require work from almost every major muscle group in the body, therefore requiring more energy expenditure (calorie burn).
The deadlift works muscles you didn’t even know you had, including (but not limited to) key core muscles in the low back, abs and glutes. The deadlift has been shown to increase fat burning, improve posture and is very much a functional exercise, meaning that it helps you to carry out normal, daily tasks effectively and safely, protecting you from injury.
Form is key here, so make sure to seek out guidance if needed, and definitely start with light weight if new to the deadlift.
Many fitness professionals see squats as the single best exercise that everyone should be doing. You can do squats in a gym with a barbell, or at home with just your body weight.
The squat builds muscle, improves mobility, and seriously works your core muscles, all while getting your heart rate way up. Take squats to the next level by doing an overhead squat, which will further work on upper body mobility (something most desk jockeys are in desperate need of).
What squats are to the lower body, pull-ups are to the upper body (although they are both excellent compound movements). Pull-ups can be done just about anywhere, and there are tons of variations, so even beginners can do them (we’re looking at you, ladies).
To start, you can use an assisted pull-up machine or a thick exercise band (or two), and slowly work your way up. Once advanced, you can add weight and try one-armed versions. You can also vary your grip (wide vs. narrow, overhand vs. underhand), which will work different muscles. You’ll get a major boost of grip strength, and pull-ups can burn serious calories, especially if you decrease the amount of time between sets.
Kettlebell swings are one of the best exercises for body composition changes (less fat and more muscle). This movement is pretty amazing when you think about it, being that it all at once works muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, hips, lats, shoulders, abs, and chest. Not to mention, it seriously gets your heart rate going.
Kettlebell swings are one of the best exercises for body composition changes (less fat and more muscle).
Try incorporating swings into your routine in a circuit (alongside other strength and cardio exercises), or check out these 10 kettlebell HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts for a quick and intense option.
Well, there you have it. In general, exercise needs to be part of your life, in some capacity. One study even found that it decreases your risk of dying by a whopping 50%! Start with these lifts to gain muscle and burn calories, and watch as your body changes. Remember to always up the intensity of each exercise as needed, as that’s the only way to keep your body challenged and progressing.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.