Cardio vs Circuit Training: Which is Best for Getting Ripped

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Cardio vs Circuit Training: Which is Best for Getting Ripped

by: Robbie Durand

For years, men and women who want to lose weight have been told to exercise in the “fat burning zone.”  As a result, aerobic training is widely recommended for weight loss. The idea is if you keep your heart rate in the “fat burning zone,” which is roughly 55% to 65% of your workout to burn fat optimally. The argument for training in the “fat burning zone” is that low-intensity aerobic training will allow your body to use burn more fat as an energy source, thereby accelerating the loss of body fat. Your body can only burn fat in the presence of oxygen, which is why at rest, your body burns primarily fat.  While it is true that a higher proportion of calories burned from fat during low-intensity exercise (about 60 percent as opposed to approximately 35 percent from high-intensity programs), high-intensity resistance exercise still burns more total calories in the final analysis. You build more muscle during high intensity exercise and more muscle results in a higher metabolic rate for fat burning. So for all the dieters who want to lose weight, doing low cardio exercise is not going to enhance weight loss. Low intensity cardio is not going to build muscle.  When exercising, a person should be more concerned about total calories burned than the fat burning zone. A dieter will lose more body fat by doing high intensity interval training.

Another misconception about the “fat burning zone” myth is that dieters believe that is that metabolism is elevated after long duration aerobic exercise.  This is a myth; metabolism is not elevated after aerobic exercise.  The most significant evidence of this “elevated metabolism” after training comes from a study using indirect calorimetry in a respiration chamber. This means hanging out in a metabolic chamber where researchers continuously measure your metabolic rate.  At the end of the study, researchers found no difference in 24-hour fat utilization between sedentary and exercise conditions.  This means that there was no increase in metabolism after aerobic exercise. A recent review of all the scientific studies on exercise intensity and fat loss has concluded that low-intensity exercise training is less effective in reducing body fat than moderate to high intensity exercise training. So what’s the best way to lose fat? It’s not using the treadmill; it’s hitting the weights!!

The Fat Burning Zone Myth

If you want to measure your chances of future heart disease, don’t look at the scale, look at your abdominals.  Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among adults than standing on the scale. Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass. The notches on your belt tell the tale: If your waistline has gained girth, you’ve got too much belly fat, and that’s a serious health issue. The reason for health risks associated with excess abdominal fat is that abdominal fat is thought to break down easily into fatty acids, which flow directly into the liver and into muscle. When these excess fatty acids drain into the liver, they trigger a chain reaction of changes — increasing the production of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides. During this time insulin can also become less effective in controlling blood sugar, so insulin resistance sets in.

Blood sugars start to get out of balance. Fats and clots get into the bloodstream, and that sets the stage for diabetes, heart disease, and more. And research shows that abdominal fat triggers a change in angiotensin, a hormone that controls blood vessel constriction — increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. One way to get the belly fat off is to incorporate more resistance exercise according to new research. Healthy men who did twenty minutes of daily weight training had less of an increase in age-related abdominal fat compared with men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities, according to a new published in the journal of Obesity. Aerobic exercise by itself was associated with less weight gain compared with weight training. Combining weight training and aerobic activity led to the most optimal results.

six meals a day, infinite_labsWeights Beats Cardio for Reducing Belly Fat

Anaerobic high-intensity intermittent training produces greater abdominal fat reduction than continuous aerobic training at similar amounts of energy expenditure.  Many studies have demonstrated that interval training such as circuit weight training can substantially lower abdominal body fat.  For example, one study demonstrated an exercise training-induced reduction in visceral fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat, and total abdominal fat.  What that means is there was a relationship between the exercise intensity and the amount of fat lost in the study.  In fact, according to new research, a short few minutes a few times a week of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, should be enough to help you burn off that last belly fat bit. As reported in the Journal of Obesity, HIIT is more effective than traditional aerobic exercise for belly fat reduction.  According to the researchers, the reasons may have to do with increased fat metabolism during and after exercise, a better balance of blood sugar, better sensitizing the body’s insulin response and even decreased appetite post-exercise.

Here are two studies to consider that show the positive impact of exercise intensity on weight loss:

Researchers took 27 middle-aged obese women with metabolic syndrome and subjected them to one of three exercise programs.

Group 1 was the no-exercise control group;
Group 2 was a low intensity (aerobic) exercise group;
Group 3 was the high intensity (HIIT) exercise group

Groups 2 & 3 performed five workouts per week @ 400 calories per workout.

After 16 weeks, the HIIT group had significantly reduced total abdominal fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat, and most importantly abdominal visceral fat. Sadly, Groups 1 & 2 saw no significant changes in fat loss.

In study #2, researchers took 45 average women and subjected them to a 15 week HIIT exercise program.

As in the first study, the women were divided into three groups.

Group 1 was the no-exercise control group;
Group 2 was a low intensity (aerobic) exercise group;
Group 3 was the high intensity (HIIT) exercise group

After 15 weeks, both exercise groups demonstrated a significant improvement in cardiovascular fitness. However, only the HIIT group had a significant reduction in: total body mass, fat mass, abdominal fat, and fasting plasma insulin levels.

Researchers studied the physical activity, waist circumference (in centimeters (cm), and body weight of 10,500 healthy U.S. men aged 40 and over participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study between 1996 and 2008. Their analysis included a comparison of changes in participants’ activity levels over the 12-year period to see which activities had the most effect on the men’s waistlines. Those who increased the amount of time spent in weight training by 20 minutes a day had less gain in their waistline (-0.67 cm) compared with men who similarly increased the amount of time they spent on moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise (-0.33 cm), and yard work or stair climbing (-0.16 cm). They also found that those who performed resistance exercise, consumed less trans-fat and more fiber, had a higher glycemic load diet and a better diet quality as measured by the higher alternative healthy eating index.

100 reps, infinite_labs3 Days a Week, Whole Body Workouts Reduce Belly Fat Without Dieting

Researchers wanted to examine the effects of a whole body, 3 day a week training program for 12-weeks.  The resistance training program was low-volume weight training program on
body composition. 15 men and women performed 9 exercises (45º leg press, bench press, trunk curl, stiff-leg deadlift, front pull-downs, adduction machine, lateral raises, triceps extensions, and bicep curls) of 3 sets of 8 reps at 85%(1RM) with 40-seconds rest between sets and exercises. At the end of the 12 week training program, a significant decrease of 10.31% in abdominal skinfolds, which was directly associated with the significant decrease in waist circumference here was a significant increase of 3.36% in lean mass between the pre-intervention and the post -intervention values. While body weight, BMI, and body fat percentage did not present changes after the intervention period.
Key Points: If your looking to reduce belly fat, doing a circuit weight training routine is going to be much more effective than doing cardio.  Weight training increases lean muscle mass, which increases metabolic rate and leads to greater abdominal fat loss.For optimal health benefits, a combination of cardio and weight training results in optimal health benefits.
Mekary RA, Grøntved A, Despres JP, De Moura LP, Asgarzadeh M, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Giovannucci E, Hu FB. Weight training, aerobic physical activities, and long-term waist circumference change in men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Feb;23(2):461-7.
A Low-Volume Weight Training Protocol Reduces Abdominal Fat and Increases Muscle Strength in 12 Weeks , by Martins, Ceschini, Battazza, Rodriguez, João, Bocalini1, Charro, & Figueira Junior, in Journal of Exercise Physiology Online (2016)
Ismail, I., Keating, S. E., Baker, M. K., & Johnson, N. A. (2012). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of aerobic vs. resistance exercise training on visceral fat. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 13(1), 68.
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