With summer right around the corner, you might be thinking about finally getting that gym membership you promised yourself in January. Better late than never, right? But the real question is, what do you do when you get there?
You can join the masses lined up on the cardio machines or you can brave the free weight space on your own. Should you get a trainer? Take a class? Do you even have time for that in your busy schedule?
Ultimately, we all want to know how to get the most workout bang for your time-crunched buck. How can you lose weight and build muscle in the least amount of time? Let’s see what the experts have to say, so you can get in and out of the gym and on with your life (hopefully in a swimsuit on a sunny beach somewhere).
Cardio vs Weights
According to Healthline.com,“You’ll burn more calories per session of cardio than weight training for about the same amount of effort. There are reports of resting metabolism staying elevated for up to 38 hours after weight training, while no such increase has been reported with cardio. This means that the calorie-burning benefits of weights aren’t limited to when you are exercising. You may keep burning calories for hours or days afterward.”
If you’re looking to burn calories, you need to get beyond the instant gratification of the numbers flashing on the elliptical screen. It feels good to see exactly how many calories you’ve burned in your 30 minute session, but with cardio, what you see is what you get. If you burn 140 calories in your morning workout, you’ve burned 140 calories. However, if you did a weight lifting session for the same amount of time, your body continues burning calories long after you’ve left the gym. Now that sounds like an efficient workout.
Build Muscle to Burn Calories
When it comes to the cardio vs weights conversation, we might be looking at it all wrong. It doesn’t have to be one or the other; you can build muscle and burn calories. In fact, building muscle is actually the most effective way to burn calories. Women’s Health Magazine explains that “Strength training is the number-one way to build more muscle. And for every three pounds of muscle you gain, you can expect to burn an extra 120 calories a day without moving a single one of those muscles.”
To maximize your workout time and get the most efficient calorie burning results, head for the weights. If you’re intimidated, don’t worry, you’re not alone. For a little weight lifting inspo, check out Girls Who Lift. They’re on a mission to break the stereotype of girls who lift (and they can get you looking good in the gym while you’re at it). Follow them on Instagram for daily workout motivation, too.
Cardio and Weights Mashup
Pro-Tip: Hit the weights first, then finish with cardio.
According to Health Magazine, to maximize your results, “Combine the two, doing your strength training first and finishing off with your cardio. An American Council on Exercise study on exercise sequencing found that your heart rate is higher—by about 12 beats per minute—during your cardio bout when you’ve lifted weights beforehand. That means more calories burned.”
If you’re serious about getting in shape quickly and want to find a workout that builds muscle, burns calories, and helps you lose weight, you might want to explore workouts that combine cardio and weights. Think HIIT workouts. These workouts tend to be quick, more intense than a regular cardio session, and include free weights or utilize your own body weight to build muscle.
While there are plenty of benefits to a cardio focused workout, the most efficient way to build muscle and burn calories is a weight lifting session. Or, incorporate weights into your workout in some way. For the ultimate results, try combining the two, or at least tack on a quick walk or jog to the end of your workout. You can also use the cardio machines as a way to cool down at the end of your gym time.
What do you prefer – cardio or weights? Do you have any weight lifting tips? Share in the comments below!
All photos courtesy GIRLS WHO LIFT / Androu De Vera