Q: I am currently going to a gym that says that you should only do strength training and not cardio. They claim that if you build enough muscle, you should be able to burn the fat and that cardio will decrease your muscle gain. Do you have link that may explain the advantages and disadvantages of this?
I’m mildly annoyed by this.
Yes, muscle development and maintenance burns more calories than carrying fat. This is why it’s better, in the long run, to strength train. You also, as a muscular person, can eat more calories without gaining weight. (No one ever understands this, but I have to bring up bodybuilders – they have to eat a lot of mostly protein, just to make sure that they can maintain their bodies. A muscular body is rarely a malnourished one.)
That being said, cardiovascular exercise serves two valuable purposes and I’m a little annoyed that a gym would misconstrue that:
1) Cardiovascular exercise burns fat. Directly. There’s no roundabout way to go about it. Muscle development is awesome because developing and carrying a cubic inch of muscle burns almost three times as many calories as a cubic inch of fat. However, most people don’t want to just build a bunch of muscle and wait for that to burn off whatever fat they’ve got… and I think that’s fair. We’re not talking about nutrition, here – we’re talking about vanity. Appearances. And if you’re not going for the “I can only see a little bit of my muscle because it’s hiding under all this stuff I haven’t burned” look, then it’s not going to work for you.
2) Cardio, most importantly, is exercise for your cardiovascular system. Your heart. Your lungs. Your arteries. Your heart and everything connected to it? Cardio works all of that out. When you inhale deeply during cardio, you are pumping oxygen, nutrition and blood through your body …through your arteries and veins. When you eat certain foods (like, for an indisputable example, trans-fats) that clog your arteries, you are eating foods that prevent your blood from flowing through your heart (and, really, your brain.) When you perform cardio, you’re not only exercising your heart, but you’re unclogging your arteries. (That’s why food manufacturers are so adamant about promoting exercise….it can work to counter some of the effects of a bad diet, but not all.) When blood pauses in flowing to the brain, that causes stroke. When blood can’t flow through the heart, that causes heart attacks.
The bottom line is that as a far more sedentary people, if we’re not performing cardio, we’re not exercising one of the most important systems in our body.
The frustrating thing about the gym’s advice, at least to me, is that they’re fronting like there aren’t activities that combine muscular development and cardio all at the same time.
Quality, targeted, focused, challenging strength training exercises that also burn calories exist. I just.. they exist. Presenting it as if it’s zero sum is a bit dishonest and doesn’t promote all-around fitness. (I wonder where this was/what kind of gym enthusiasts these are…gyms usually push the heavy cardio route because they know cardio promotes weight loss and “weight loss” is what keeps people in the gym, even knowing full bloody well that extensive cardio actually runs counterproductive to muscle development.) There are tons of exercises that get your heart rate going without weights and help with muscle development – burpees, mountain climbers, that-exercise-whose-name-escapes-me-but-consists-of-switching-between-a-plank-and-a-lunge, any variation of high intensity interval training with calisthenics or interval training in general – so I’m not sure why they wouldn’t just steer you in that direction. I just don’t get it.
Truthfully, if lifting [with proper form] doesn’t have your heart rate up while you’re in there, I wonder if you’re challenging yourself enough. There are tons of ways to flip lifting into something that is challenging both for your muscles and your cardiovascular system, but if you’re new to working out you might not know those… much like most people wouldn’t know a lot of the stuff I’m saying here… which makes it all sound like a lead in to a pitch for you to hire one of the gym’s trainers. Tsk, tsk.
I cannot stress this enough – overall health is the key goal, in my most humble of opinions. You can lose weight a thousand ways, but we’re going the path that brings overall improved health and well-rounded fitness. While I can’t say for sure what your gym’s stance is or why it is that way, I can only say that the best thing for any person is to shoot for overall fitness… you should be able to run from zombies when they come, yes, but you should also be able to climb a wall (or a lamp post? pole fitness anyone?) to get away from ’em, too.